INDIANAPOLIS — Animal shelters, rescue groups and veterinary clinics are spending time and resources battling a deadly virus outbreak impacting thousands of dogs in Central Indiana.
Parvo, a highly contagious virus, is typically transmitted through infected fecal matter, which can happen when a dog sniffs or licks a contaminated surface or an infected dog.
The virus typically spreads in warm weather, so spring is prime time for parvo.
The West Michigan Street Veterinary Clinic has seen about 80 dogs test positive so far this year, and the symptoms are not pretty.
"These beautiful creatures come in emaciated, sick, they can't lift their head up, their eyes sunken, they've got blood coming out of their mouth, and they're defecating blood,” clinic manager Pascale Hollings said. “It's horrific and it's so sad, because it's totally preventable."
The vaccine to prevent parvo costs $10 at the West Michigan Street Veterinary Clinic.
“All you have to do is vaccinate your puppy at 6-8 weeks of age for the first one, and it’s important to booster up through 16 weeks,” Hollings said.
You can also vaccinate older dogs if you’re unsure if they’ve received a parvo vaccination.
“There's no harm in getting them vaccinated again, and the great thing is most shelters you're adopting from are going to vaccinate the dog upon intake," Hollings said.
The clinic has several warning signs posted at the entrance to keep unvaccinated dogs and puppies off the floor, which can contain fecal matter and spread the virus.
"We don't want people putting their puppies on the ground at all," Hollings said. "We make them keep their puppies on their lap. We don’t want them on the ground or where sick dogs are going to be. That's kind of common sense. You wouldn't put your newborn on the ground."
Many pet owners also don’t realize parvo can live in their house for years.
"If you have a dog that dies from parvo, do not get another puppy in that house," Hollings said. “It’s important to know just how resilient this virus is. We’ve seen contamination last in homes for 3 to 4 years.”
The West Michigan Street Veterinary Clinic can treat parvo outpatient for $125 to $200, however, some animals are so sick they must go into intensive care.
Pippa, a three-month-old pit bull is recovering from parvo at Noah’s Westside Animal Hospital.
“Pippa was at animal control and tested positive for parvo, and it’s not a location where it’s very easy to treat and she was sick enough she really needed to be in a hospital,” Tara Harris, director of Every Dog Counts Rescue said. “It can be very expensive to treat parvo virus, but when you’ve got a puppy whose whole life is ahead of them, it’s worth it.”
It can cost $1,000 to $5,000 to treat a dog in intensive care.
“When your option is a vaccination that costs $10 to $15, that is so worth it to prevent getting so sick that you need $5,000 in care to survive,” Harris said. “Vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate.”
Pippa, a parvo survivor, will be available for adoption next week. You can view more information on the adoption here.
Rescue groups, shelters and veterinary clinics are encouraging all pet owners to get their animals treated at the first sign of symptoms, which greatly increases their chance of survival.
Left untreated, parvo has a 5-10 percent survival rate.
“I really wish people would take on that responsibility and be the loving pet owners I know they can be,” Hollings said.
There is a feline version of parvo, however, it’s not nearly as common as the canine version, Hollis said.
“Humans also have their own version of parvo, but you can’t get it from dogs,” Hollings said.