- Associated Press - Monday, September 1, 2014

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (AP) - As Abigail E. Rigby, a 1-year-old pug, had her yearly checkup and vaccinations on Aug. 12 at Bortell Animal Hospital in Bloomington, she was standing up to two infectious diseases that have sickened an untold number of dogs this summer in in Central Illinois.

Parvovirus, a highly contagious disease, has killed some puppies after being almost nonexistent in the area for several years, veterinarians said.

Kennel cough, also contagious but less severe, has affected many dogs as well, vets said.

Reasons for the outbreaks are unknown. The good news is there are steps that dog owners can take to reduce risks to their dogs and treatments can help if they begin quickly.

“Parvovirus can kill,” said Dr. Kirsten Pieper of the Animal Emergency Clinic of McLean County in Bloomington. “It’s very scary.”

“It’s a hard virus,” added Dr. David Bortell.

Canine parvovirus can’t be spread to other animals and humans. “But it is very contagious among dogs,” Pieper said.

The virus is spread through contact with dog feces. It may be carried on dog’s hair and feet, shoes, crates and other objects and can live in the environment for six months, Pieper said.

Parvo attacks the gastrointestinal tract so dogs who get it suddenly have bloody diarrhea and vomiting. Because they don’t want to eat or drink, they become dehydrated.

Parvo also attacks the immune system, making dogs susceptible to infection, fever and pneumonia, and it attacks the heart muscle.

Most cases occur in puppies before they complete their three-shot parvo vaccination series, vets said.

“At the Animal Emergency Clinic, I’d seen maybe one case a month for the past eight years,” Pieper said. “This year, beginning in early spring, we’re seeing several cases a week.”

While treatment is available, some puppies who weren’t treated quickly enough have died, vets said.

Pieper advises that dogs are up to date with their shots. Dogs that aren’t should be kept away from other dogs and out of parks until they are fully protected.

If your dog suddenly has bloody stool and is vomiting, call your veterinarian.

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