Moab Vet Clinic: Parvo on the rise

By Rose Egelhoff • The Times-Independent

There is a particularly nasty strain of canine parvovirus going around, threatening all unvaccinated dogs, according to Moab Veterinary Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Len Sorenson. Puppies and old dogs are particularly vulnerable, but any dog can catch it. The disease attacks fast-growing cells, said Dr. Alexis Johnson, another veterinarian at Moab Veterinary Clinic, such as those in the digestive tract. A primary symptom of the disease is bloody diarrhea. Sorenson also said that the virus attacks the canine immune system. The combination of dehydration and a compromised immune system can be lethal.

The veterinarians said they have seen a couple of recent cases at the Moab Veterinary Clinic. They also had a group of puppies in Blanding who caught the disease.

“Prevention is a lot more important because … once they get it, other strains we can pull about 75 percent of them through. This strain, we’re not having that luck. We lost seven out of eight puppies,” Sorenson said of the Blanding pups.

Mill Creek Animal Hospital has also seen one to two cases a month, according to employees. That is on par with the norm for this time of year.

“In the fall and the spring when the weather starts changing is when we see some big fluctuations. Some years are worse than others,” said Johnson. “It’s called an endemic disease, meaning it lives in the area no matter what and it goes through fluctuations where you’ll have times when there’s nothing then a spike, then it goes back to nothing, then you have another spike. It does that twice a year and it also seems to do it over a period of time, like after a few years you’ll have a spike where you have a whole bunch in a single year compared to other years.”

Though Carbon County has recently seen an outbreak of parvovirus, claiming the lives of a dozen dogs at the end of August according to KSL News, in Moab the rates of the virus have been normal this year. Rather, it seems the strain of the virus is particularly lethal, from the Moab Veterinary Clinic’s experience.

The veterinarians emphasized that prevention is key: “If they protect [dogs] with vaccinations, they don’t have to worry about it. The vaccine is good, and it’s not that expensive compared to the treatment. The treatment is very, very expensive because they’re on IV fluids for days. Weeks sometimes,” said Sorenson.

Sorenson and Johnson recommend a yearly booster shot that can prevent a variety of diseases including parvovirus. The vaccine also protects against distemper, a virus that attacks dogs’ brains, said Sorenson. “That’s another one that’s just heartbreaking to watch a dog go through,” he said.

Vaccinations are especially important in a tourist town like Moab. Heartworm, for example, is not endemic to Moab but can be spread by visiting dogs, Sorenson said. “Our problem here is we’re a tourist town and we have dogs from all over come. It just takes one mosquito to bite that dog then fly over and bite your dog and it can spread heartworm,” Sorenson said.