MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — A veterinarian at a low-cost clinic believes a spike in rare illnesses seriously affecting dogs is connected to a recently opened downtown dog park.
“We have seen a tremendous increase in hookworm and whipworm,” said Pay It Forward Outreach vet Sandra Strandberg.
She said they have been seeing a trend the last few weeks and it didn’t just involve the rare worms. Strandberg said there’s also been a startling spike in dogs contracting parvovirus, something they sometimes don’t see any cases of during the summer months.
“Summer, when the temperature is 90, we don’t really see a lot of parvo,” Strandberg., said. “Last week here we saw 14 parvo cases. The week before it was 10. The week before it was eight.”
She began sending some clients down the street to Glenpark Animal Hospital due to volume.
“We can’t handle 14 cases a week here and we have been sending parvo cases down to them,” she explained.
The issues, which Strandberg said aren’t easily treated, seemed connected.
“We started asking clients, ‘were you in a public area? Were you at Petco (or) PetSmart? Were you at the dog beach (or) dog park,’” Strandberg said. “In almost every case, they identified the dog park.”
The Downtown Muskegon Petsafe Bark Park was the common denominator, according to the longtime vet. When 24 Hour News 8 called Downtown Muskegon Now, the agency that runs the dog park, they hadn’t been aware of the issue.
Strandberg said the increase in volume at her clinic made it hard to file a complaint.
Dave Alexander, the executive director of Downtown Muskegon Now, said over the phone that he is now looking into the issue. He does point out that the first notice listed at the dog park informs owners that use of the park is at their own risk.
Sarah Cloud took that risk.
Strandberg told her Tuesday that her dogs Nala and Rayne both have whipworms. She and her mother, Bonnie Cloud, knew something wasn’t right when they got to the vet.
“When the technician came in and said that the stool had whipworm in it her expression was kind of baffled like, ‘whipworm?’ And, she had explained that she had seen a lot of it and it was unusual,” Sarah Cloud said.
Cloud said she visits the park about three times per week.
The mother and daughter became concerned when they saw the dogs dragging their back sides on the carpet as well as suffering from diarrhea.
Sarah Cloud said Tuesday they took stool samples to their routine checkups, but they didn’t expect the more than $200 bill when they left.
“That kind of sets you back as a pet owner. You kind of expect these things to happen sometimes, but you don’t ever feel that bringing your dog to a public place like a dog park is going to be dangerous to your dog,” Cloud said.
Downtown Muskegon Now rents the land for the park from the county.
Alexander said he’s contacting several agencies about the concerns now that they have been made aware of the potential issue at the park.