KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Local pet experts are warning pet owners about a Parvovirus outbreak across both sides of the state line. At KC Pet Project, Jackson County's animal shelter, they've already seen seven cases of Parvo this winter, and they're expecting a bigger spike once the weather warms up.
The Parvovirus is extremely contagious. It is often found in the feces of infected dogs and can live outside for up to one year. That means if you take your dog to the park and he steps in contaminated feces, you could be looking at a $1,000 vet bill.
The Parvovirus attacks rapidly dividing cells in a dog’s body, and can most severely affect your pet's intestinal tract. Parvovirus also attacks the white blood cells, and when young animals are infected, the virus can damage the heart muscle and cause lifelong cardiac problems.
Your dog might have Parvovirus if they seem lethargic, have severe vomiting, a loss of appetite and/or bloody diarrhea. If your dog has these symptoms, it's best to take them to the veterinarian right away for treatment.
Parvovirus can be transmitted by people, other animals or objects that come in contact with an infected dog's feces. Highly resistant, the virus can survive for up to a year on objects such as food bowls, grass, shoes, clothes, sidewalks, carpet and floors.
Inside KC Pet Project, a puppy named Bruno just graduated from the Parvo Program. Bruno will be put up for adoption from the shelter Thursday. He spent the last three weeks in isolation receiving treatment.
Since the treatment for the Parvo virus is so costly and the disease so contagious, most shelters won't treat dogs with Parvo and many infected dogs die.
At KC Pet Project, they treat all dogs and cats that come into the shelter with the virus. The shelter staff has been able to save 80 percent of the pets with Parvo.
But Tori Fugate with KC Pet Project admits it is extremely costly for them to take in sick animals. Not to mention, draining.
"It's really hard to see these little puppies suffering so much from this very preventable disease, so we work daily with them," Fugate explained. "Often these vets come in at 6 a.m. to make sure these puppies are doing good."
The key to prevention is obtaining vaccinations for your pets.
Veterinarian clinics in Overland Park, Lee's Summit and Parkville also told 41 Action News they're seeing an uptick in Parvo cases.
Fugate added that it's rare to see this many cases in the winter months, when typically dogs are outside less and are less likely to come in contact with the Parvovirus.
The KC Pet Project staff log shows the majority of pets coming into the shelter with Parvo were dropped off by owners who surrendered them over to the shelter because they either didn’t have the funds to provide treatment for their dog or they didn’t want to deal with a sick puppy.
In 2013, the KC Pet Project shelter took in more than 100 puppies with Parvo and dozens of kittens with Panleukopenia, the feline equivalent of the virus.