According to media reports from local animal shelters, dozens of dogs have died from the unidentified illness, with many of the symptoms including vomiting and bloody stool.
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said it was still in the early stages of its investigation, but some of the first samples that had been sent for testing came back positive for canine parvovirus.
The illness spreads primarily through fecal matter and is highly infectious to pets, primarily affecting elderly dogs and those under the age of 2. Symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, and diarrhea.
"When MDARD first learned of these cases in northern Michigan, we immediately reached out to the veterinarians and animal shelters involved and began our response efforts," said state veterinarian Dora Wineland. "Protecting animal and public health is one of the department’s key pillars, but it is a team effort. Dog owners need to ensure their pet is up to date on routine vaccinations as it’s the first step in keeping your pet healthy."
Parvovirus isn't contagious to people or other animals and isn't typically a reportable disease to the state vet's office. MDARD is now asking vets to inform the state if they see any unusual conditions in animals.
The Otsego County Animal posted on Facebook of a mysterious sickness that had been affecting many of its pets. "Most of these dogs have passed within 3 days. These dogs are mostly under the age of 2, Some of the dogs were vaccinated," went the Aug. 9 post.
The shelter also said it had been in contact with vets around northern Michigan, as well as the state. "No one has an answer. The best ‘guess’ is that this is a strain of parvo."
MDARD has a few steps that pet owners can follow to keep their dog safe:
- Keep up with routine vaccinations (especially for those living in or traveling with pets to the northern Lower Peninsula) by ensuring dogs/puppies are vaccinated against canine parvovirus, rabies, canine distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, and leptospirosis.
- Have dogs/puppies fully vaccinated before interacting with other animals will help to keep them healthy and safe.
- Keep dogs/puppies at home and away from other dogs if they are exhibiting any signs of illness and contact your veterinarian.
- Be sure to clean up after your pet when you’re walking them out in public.