Michigan dog owners relieved ‘mystery canine virus’ has been identified

At the end of a stressful week for dog owners, many were relieved that the mystery canine illness identified in northern Michigan was confirmed to be parvovirus, a serious illness for which there is a vaccine.

Kari Beer, an emergency and critical care specialist with Oakland Veterinary Referral Services in Bloomfield Hills, said as long as a dog is up to date on routine care and vaccinations, they likely will be fine.

“The distemper combination vaccines, which is the one that pets typically get several boosters of when they’re a puppy, and then it’s usually repeated every year to three years depending on the dog’s age, does include the parvovirus vaccine,” Beer said.

Khusheu Mistry adopted her dog, Zar, during the COVID-19 pandemic and said even though it was a lengthy process to get an appointment during and after the shutdown, he is fully vaccinated, so she feels OK about the parvovirus outbreak now.

“I heard about it on Monday and everybody was kind of freaking out,” said Mistry, 27, of Detroit. “I think everyone was avoiding the dog park — I know I was. I still used it but only if nobody was in there just because they didn’t know what it was.”

Before the illness was identified as parvovirus, dog owners worried it was the start of a pandemic for dogs, which caused panic, Mistry said.

Detroit resident Kellen Collison's 2-year-old border collie Brody at the Capital Park dog park on Saturday, Aug.  27. Brody is up to date on his vaccines so Collison, 30, is not worried about the recent parvovirus outbreak in northern Michigan.

Kellen Collison similarly avoided taking his 2-year-old border collie Brody to the dog park, but wasn’t really surprised when the illness was identified as parvovirus.

“Looking at the symptoms, they kind of matched up with parvo,” the 30-year-old Detroit resident said.

Parvoviruses are spread through fecal oral contamination, so when unvaccinated or partially vaccinated dogs are outside and in contact with other canines or contaminated stool, there is a risk for spread, Beer said. This makes areas where dogs congregate, such as parks and boarding facilities, particularly high risk.

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