Kalamazoo teams work to limit spread of parvovirus

Kalamazoo County

KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — An outbreak of canine parvovirus is causing concerns and led to the cancellation of an event in Kalamazoo.

The Kalamazoo Humane Society says three dogs contracted the virus — two cases were confirmed by testing while the third was presumed. The Humane Society and SPCA of Southwest Michigan are working to vaccinate animals at a homeless encampment believed to be at the center of the outbreak.

Officials also assured people living at the encampment they did not intend to confiscate any dogs.

The SPCA canceled its Bark in the Park event, which was scheduled to be held at Fairmount Dog Park on Thursday, because of the outbreak.

“After speaking with animal control and getting information on the outbreak, we cannot guarantee the safety of our dogs and the communities pets. We can’t with good conscience have an event that puts our loved ones at risk,” the SPCA wrote in a Wednesday Facebook post.

Parvovirus infections attack dogs’ intestinal tracts. The virus can cause abdominal pain, vomiting and diarrhea, and in severe cases can devolve into septic shock and cause death, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. If your dog is experiencing those symptoms, you should call your vet.

It can be spread between dogs or through contact with things that have been contaminated including feces, kennels and food bowls, or by people who have been in contact with contamination.

Julie Barber with the Kalamazoo Humane Society says dog owners do not need to panic but should be aware of the risk.

“Once you have a symptomatic dog. The death usually occurs within two to three days and it is a very hard and sad thing to watch happen,” Barber said.

Sarah Gerstner with the Animals Best Friend Fund wants to remind people the virus is preventable with a vaccine that can be provided for free. She and others are working to reach dog owners in the encampment and has spoken with the owners of the dogs that recently died.

“These are completely unvaccinated dogs. These are puppies. They are all under the age of a year. The two that were the first ones to pass were actually under the age of four months,” Gerstner said.

It takes a series of shots to be considered fully vaccinated.

Local animal nonprofits will be holding a vaccination clinic for free outside the homeless encampment on Sherwood Avenue near the Kalamazoo River Friday afternoon. They’ll return to provide booster shots for first-time vaccinations.

For more information regarding parvovirus, contact a veterinarian or the Kalamazoo County Animal Services and Enforcement’s website.

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