LANSING, Mich. — State and federal agencies are investigating an unknown illness that’s sickened dogs in northern Michigan and killed at least 30 canines in one county after they exhibited signs of a parvo-like illness.
The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development said it’s working with local animal control shelters, veterinarians, the Michigan State University’s veterinary laboratory, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other partners on testing to determine the illness’ cause.
The state agency said “several dogs” have fallen ill with the same symptoms in the state’s northern Lower Peninsula with an illness similar to canine parvovirus, which affects a dog’s gastrointestinal tracts and is spread by dog-to-dog contact and contact with contaminated feces and environments.
MDARD officials were told by a veterinarian that he treated a dog who was experiencing vomiting and diarrhea. These are both common signs of canine parvovirus. However, this canine was tested negative by the agency for the parvovirus at the veterinary clinic.
It said that it had received reports from agencies of animal control in northern Michigan about dogs experiencing the same symptoms. However, they were not able to determine the cause.
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State Veterinarian Nora Wineland said in a statement that “investigating the details of unusual or reportable animal disease detections” is a key part of MDARD’s mission.
In Otsego County, about 30 privately-owned and mostly unvaccinated dogs have died, said Melissa FitzGerald, the director of the county’s animal control department. It does not seem that any dogs were in contact with one another, she said.
“It’s scary,” FitzGerald told the Detroit Free Press. “There are many things that it could be.”
Adrianna Potrafkey lives in Michigan and said her four dogs were sick with bloody diarrhea in the early days of July. Potrafkey attributes their recovery to vaccines that they were given as puppies.
She said she didn’t work for two straight weeks because she was worried about leaving her dogs alone, saying her veterinarian was mystified by what was making her dogs ill.
“It impacted me a lot. I couldn’t leave them in case something happened,” she told WXMI-TV.
MDARD stated that it strongly encourages dog owners and their veterinarians to make sure their dogs are up-to-date on their routine vaccines. According to the agency, dogs are protected from parvovirus through a very effective vaccine.
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