KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Kansas City area animal shelters say they are seeing an increase in a highly contagious virus that can be deadly to pets if left untreated.
Recently, KC Pet Project in Kansas City, Missouri, said it has seen an influx of animals with parvovirus, a viral illness that can cause sickness in animals, including dogs.
"Oftentimes it is a heartbreaking experience,” said Tori Fugate, chief communications officer at KC Pet Project. “If we don't catch it ahead of time where they're very sick, oftentimes these animals don't make it.”
KC Pet Project treats the infected animals at its acclaimed parvovirus ward, Fugate said.
"We're actually starting to see more animals coming in from other organizations that we're treating for parvo now, that maybe don't have the resources or the facility to treat them," Fugate said.
So far this year, 48 pets have been treated at the shelter’s parvovirus ward, compared with 34 pets during the same time period last year.
"We start to see more of them coming in during these summer months whenever the weather is warmer,” Fugate said. “People are out walking their pets more, going to the dog park, and this can really affect a lot of unvaccinated dogs and puppies.”
Dr. Wayne Hunthausen at the Westwood Animal Hospital in Westwood, Kansas, said he has observed how quickly the virus can attack a dog's system.
"I've had families that left in the morning and the pet was off just a little bit, and then they come back home eight, 10 hours later and the pet is vomiting, diarrhea, can't even move," Hunthausen told 41 Action News.
Moisture from the recent rainfall also helps the virus thrive, he said.
“(The) time of the year like this, (the virus is) going to last longer than during an arid time or during a very cold time of the year, like during the winter,” Hunthausen said.
Hunthausen said that means it’s critical that pet owners make sure their animals are up-to-date on vaccinations.
A parvo vaccination costs between $35 and $50 — much cheaper than the cost of treating the virus, which can begin at $600 and go up to several thousand dollars.
"Even if they're apartment puppies, (get them) vaccinated because it's a very hardy virus and people can track that virus into their apartments or into their condo,” Hunthausen said.
Initial symptoms of parvo include dehydration, lethargy and loss of appetite.
Most cases of parvovirus can be prevented with a series of vaccines every month until a puppy is four months old. Dogs should be vaccinated again a year later and can get a booster shot every three years.