Veterinarians in New York City are sounding the alarm as cases of a lethal canine virus continue to rise. The Animal Care Centers of NYC are urging dog owners to get their pets vaccinated against parvovirus, a highly contagious illness that primarily affects the gastrointestinal tract of dogs.
According to data provided by the ACC, there have been 25 reported cases of parvovirus in NYC this year, a significant increase from the five cases reported last year and the 10 cases in 2021. The numbers are particularly concerning considering that only three cases were recorded in 2020 and 2019.
Dr. Robin Brennen, the senior vice president for animal health and welfare at ACC, expressed her concerns, stating, "We normally see a limited number of parvo cases in any given year. But in 2023, we have already seen so many cases, and that number continues to rise."
While any dog can contract the virus, unvaccinated dogs and puppies under four months old are at higher risk. The lack of vaccination among backyard breeders and dogs without access to veterinary care also contributes to the spread of the disease.
Parvovirus, commonly known as "parvo," is transmitted through contact with an infected dog or its feces. Symptoms typically manifest five to seven days after exposure and include lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, and diarrhea. Any dog suspected of having parvovirus should be isolated to prevent further spread.
Confirmed cases of parvovirus often require hospitalization and round-the-clock care. Dogs receive antibiotics and electrolyte therapy to combat the virus. If left untreated, parvovirus has a staggering 90% mortality rate, according to ACC.
Dr. Hannah Lau, a veterinarian at Bond Vet, emphasized the importance of timely vaccination, stating, "Timely and appropriate vaccination is the best way to protect your dog from parvovirus. Prevention of disease is the best medicine. Schedule a wellness exam for your new puppy as soon as possible to discuss vaccination with your veterinarian."
The increase in parvovirus cases is not limited to New York City alone. Veterinary hospitals across the country are reporting a rise in the number of dogs affected by the virus. In Kansas City, for example, the Pet Resource Center sees multiple parvovirus cases daily, sometimes as many as five or six.
Treating infected dogs with parvovirus is both time-consuming and costly. Pet owners can expect to spend at least $2,000 on treatment for an unvaccinated dog with parvo, with many infected canines requiring 14 to 18 days of intensive care.
However, there may be hope on the horizon. Elanco Animal Health has announced that they are manufacturing a novel monoclonal antibody treatment that can prevent the virus from entering gastrointestinal cells and causing damage. The US Department of Agriculture has granted conditional approval for the intravenous drug, which reportedly shortens the recovery time for infected dogs.
Dr. Kristin Zersen, an assistant professor at Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital, expressed her enthusiasm about the treatment, saying, "It's life-changing and industry-defining to be able to offer a proven solution to canine parvovirus that limits the need for hospitalization, reducing the impact this disease has on hundreds of thousands of dogs each year."
As the number of parvovirus cases continues to rise, it is crucial for dog owners to prioritize vaccination and take preventive measures to protect their beloved pets from this devastating illness.