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Parvovirus outbreak in dogs causes concern at Kalamazoo homeless encampments

Dog at Kalamazoo Homeless Encampment
Posted at 6:25 PM, Aug 25, 2021

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — A parvovirus outbreak is causing an uproar between the unhoused population and animal rescue officials in Kalamazoo.

"There is definitely a parvo outbreak within the homeless community within the encampment within Kalamazoo," said Sarah Gerstner, a volunteer with the nonprofit organization Animal's Best Friend Fund.

That outbreak is believed to have originally started a little over a week ago.

Three dogs have passed away after testing positive for the virus, and around 25 to 30 dogs may be affected.

"This is not something that one organization alone can handle. Nobody has the resources to handle this on their own. All of these dogs would technically need to be isolated and treated for parvo," said Gerstner.

Parvovirus is an extremely contagious illness that mainly affects puppies and dogs who are unvaccinated. It's spread by feces from infected puppies.

"Those virus particles are picked up by others dogs or puppies through contact with the ground, and then they either lick their feet or eat off the ground. It is what we call fecal oral route. It is picked up through ingestion," said 8th Street Veterinary Care Dr. Bruce Withers.

Dr. Withers said symptoms include dogs being overly tired and quiet, not eating or drinking as well as vomiting and/or bloody feces or diarrhea.

Puppies can start showing symptoms in three to six days, and the illness requires hospitalization.

"The only supportive care that we can really provide to be helpful would be IV fluids, medications to stop vomiting, sometimes even plasma transfusions in some more advanced cases like that. There is very little, though, that can be done at home," said Dr. Withers.

The issue with the outbreak at the encampments is many of the people there with dogs do not want to give them up.

"It is incredibly hard on the animal welfare side to have someone refuse help, but I also understand because we are dealing with mental illness. We are dealing with drug addiction. Like I said, this is their only one physical possession that nobody can take away," said Gerstner.

Dr. Withers said the best preventative measure is getting your puppies fully vaccinated, and then continuing with vaccination efforts as needed.

Gerstner said she is hoping they will do a mass vaccination clinic to help prevent this going forward.

"Nobody can go in and save them all. We just need to come up with some sort of emergency plan to try to do what we can do," said Gerstner.

For a list of resources and more information on the virus, click here.

FOX 17 did reach out to Kalamazoo County Animal Control Services multiple times for a statement but did not hear back.

RELATED: Rise in canine parvovirus cases could be indirectly caused by pandemic

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