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watch out for parvovirus

Over the past few months, near a hundred dogs have died in central New Jersey due to lax vaccinations and an outbreak in the highly contagious parvovirus in the area. Local animal rescue organizations and animal shelters in the area watch with tied hands as dogs succumb to disease with little they can do.

The parvovirus attacks the dogs' intestinal tract and white blood cells leading to severe damage to the digestive tract as well as the heart. The virus is transmitted through people, animals and objects that have come in contact with infected dog feces, surviving for months on objects like clothing, carpet and floors. For many dogs, it is contract simply from walking through the grass.

Symptoms of parvovirus include lethargy, severe vomiting, bloody diarrhea and loss of appetite. The symptoms have a quick onset time with many dogs being fine one day then violently ill the next. Puppies and poorly vaccinated dogs are the most susceptible to the disease but breeds like Rottweilers, Doberman pinschers, Labrador retrievers, American Staffordshire terriers and German shepards have a heightened risk of contracting the disease.

Parvovirus is easily vaccinated against in dogs of all stages of life and included in the 5-in-1 vaccine commonly given to dogs. However, puppies that do not finish the several rounds of vaccinations needed in the first year of life and dogs that are not current with their vaccinations all run the risk of contracting the disease; such is the case in central New Jersey.

Parvovirus is treatable, but once it is contracted, treatment is extremely expensive leading many dog owners to opt for euthanasia. The animal shelters of the area vaccinate against the virus, but several dogs have shown up positive with parvovirus and their limited budgets cannot afford to treat the suffering pups either. This outbreak is a sad reminder the dog owners need to keep their pet's up-to-date in their vaccinations.

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