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An illness sickening dogs in northern Michigan is parvo after all, MDARD says

Close up of two black and tan dogs' faces as they lie on a cushion.
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The agency made the announcement in a statement Wednesday.

Update: Researchers say they have identified the cause of the deadly outbreak that has killed dozens of dogs in northern Michigan.

Michigan’s Department of Agriculture and rural Development released a statementWednesday confirming the dogs were infected by the canine parvovirus.

Although the disease is common and is not required to be reported to the state veterinarian’s office, MDARD officials encourage veterinarians to send any samples to the Michigan State University's Veterinarian Diagnostic Laboratory if tests results are negative for Parvo, yet they are exhibiting some of the symptoms.

The announcement came the same day that the City of Kalamazoo indefinitely postponedthe "Bark in the Park" event planned for Fairmount Dog Park Friday, due to the outbreak.

WMUK's original story is below.

Researchers want to find out what's causing a parvovirus-like outbreak that’s killed dozens of dogs in the northern Lower Peninsula. No cases have been reported in southwest Michigan but Otsego County animal officials say about 30 dogs have died over the last two months.

Kim Dodd, the director of Michigan State University's Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, said her department is working with Michigan’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to help identify the cause of the illness.

Dodd said the illnesses have puzzled veterinarians. At first vets in Northern Michigan thought the dogs had canine parvovirus, but tests came back negative. However, more thorough tests through the diagnostic lab at MSU did come back positive for the virus. Dodd said the sick dogs may have had a new strain of parvovirus that went undetected. But she added, it's too soon to know for sure.

In the meantime, dog owners should make sure their dogs' vaccinations are up-to-date.

Symptoms of parvovirus include severe vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy or very low energy. It's a very serious illness that is often fatal, but it's also preventable. "It’s really important to ensure that your dogs are fully vaccinated," said Dodd. "If you're taking them out and about and there are animals who appear to be ill, obviously, keep your animals separated from those animals as well.”

Dodd also said that parvovirus is highly contagious between dogs and can come on very quickly, sometimes as little as three days. It’s important to get treatment as soon as possible. 

Still, Dodd added that there are many reasons why dogs vomit or have diarrhea that are not related to parvovirus.

“In many cases, it's self-resolving," she said.

But "if the dog is continuing to vomit and have diarrhea, or doesn't feel well, is really tired, and has very reduced activity, at that point, you should absolutely reach out to your veterinarian for their input," said Dodd.

She said if your dog is not acting like his or her normal self, that's a good indicator that it's time to call the vet.