LEWISTON, Maine — Local veterinarians are watching a sudden rise in cases of canine parvo, a potentially deadly dog virus.
In recent months, at least 15 dogs have been treated at the Animal Emergency Clinic of Mid-Maine, said Dr. Robert Clark, a member of the Lewiston clinic’s board.
Typically, the clinic sees about one parvo case each month, he said.
“The problem is it’s easy to prevent,” Clark said. Vaccines are readily available. They’re a routine part of veterinary care that costs less than $100. “Probably 90 percent of the clients [the clinic] is seeing don’t have a regular veterinarian.”
Besides helping at the clinic, Clark runs the Lisbon Road Animal Hospital in Lewiston. There, he has had two or three cases.
Most of the cases are coming from downtown Lewiston, he said. Many have been pit bulls.
“A lot of dogs are put to sleep, and we shouldn’t have to,” he said. “I do wonder if the economy is part of it. Instead of going out and taking care of their dogs, people are spending money on something else.”
The virus is passed on when a dog has oral contact with feces from an infected dog. In places where there is a large pet population, like downtown Lewiston, it can spread rapidly.
“It’s so contagious,” Clark said. “It can last in the environment for up to two years.”
And it takes only one sick dog to infect many.
Technically, one ounce of infected feces carries enough of the virus to infect 35,000 dogs, said Dr. Jeff Mayerson of the Lewiston Veterinary Hospital on the Stetson Road. The hospital has seen four cases this year, about four times the usual number, he said.
The illness’s effects on a dog can be catastrophic.
They often start with weakness and poor appetite. Vomiting and diarrhea follow as the virus attacks the digestive organs. Its effects seem to be particularly severe on puppies and certain breeds, including Rottweilers, Dobermans and German shepherds.
Treatments for dogs diagnosed with parvo focus on keeping them strong to outlast the virus.
The weaker ones die.
“It’s a crying shame,” Clark said.
Some of the sick dogs have wound up at the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society shelter in Lewiston. Three or four have arrived in recent weeks, said Executive Director Steve Dostie.
All were severely ill when they arrived. All died.
“It is very sad,” Dostie said. “What gets you going is that it is very preventable. It drives you crazy.”
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