SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A national chain of pet hospitals said theyobserved an “alarming” increase in the number of parvovirus cases andhospitalizations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Analysis of data from BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Hospital’s more than90 facilities across the U.S. showed a 70% increase in the number of cases in2020 as compared to the previous five years.

“Parvo” is a highly contagious, potentially fatal disease that attacks thegastrointestinal tracts of infected dogs. Puppies are most at risk but anyunvaccinated or partially vaccinated dog can also contract the disease.

Parvo deaths occur within 48 to 72 hours if left untreated but survival rateswith proper treatment are nearly 90%.

“We are in the very early stages of analyzing this data; looking for possiblecauses of the increase and determining what the implications are for this andother preventable companion animal diseases,” remarked James Barr, DVM,DACVECC, Chief Medical Officer, BluePearl Pet Hospital. “Parvo outbreaks posea serious threat to our canine friends but skipping routine vaccinations couldalso put human health at risk through the possibility of rabies exposure. Asinvaluable sources of emotional support as well as sentinels and potentialvectors of infectious disease, it is vital pets receive all preventative carevaccines, and owners adhere to the timing requirements of those vaccines.”

During the COVID-19 outbreak, a lot of individuals turned to animals forcompanionship, resulting in increased fostering and adoption of shelteranimals.

BluePearl said some of these shelter animals may have been released withoutthe completion of their vaccines and more people were spending time outdoors,possibly increasing environmental exposure such as going to dog parks.

Other possible causes for the increase include disruptions in puppiesreceiving full vaccines and financial hardships delaying owners from obtainingtimely vaccinations.

“If the U.S. continues to see COVID-19 cases increase or a second wave, thismay exacerbate these trends and further harm our pets,” explained LenoreBacek, DVM, MS, DACVECC, Clinical Programs Manager, BluePearl Pet Hospital.“To prevent further increase, and to ensure this does not happen again,veterinary hospitals and related businesses must continue to be recognized asessential services. Owners must also be vigilant not to bring their dogs orpuppies to dog parks or other high traffic areas until fully vaccinated. As wedelve deeper into this data, we hope to better understand the complexities ofthis parvovirus outbreak, as well as shine light on the value veterinarymedicine brings to public health.”

Dogs and puppies can start showing signs of the disease between three to 10days after exposure, but they are often contagious before symptoms arise. Ifyou suspect your pet has parvovirus, immediately isolate your pet and contactyour primary care veterinarian.


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