Deadly dog virus circulating in northeastern Ontario

Dog owners have been protecting their pups from the deadly canine parvovirus for decades, but local experts say there has been a spike in the virus in recent weeks.

Veterinarians around the northeast and the province have been warning people about dogs contracting parvo, and the Timmins and District Human Society told CTV the number of infected dogs it has seen in the last four months is the most it's seen in years.

"This season, we've seen our 10th parvo case," said the shelter's executive director, Alicia Santamaria.

"It started as (one) stray but then we started seeing them brought in as surrenders."

Parvo destroys a dog's gut lining, leading to severe fatigue, poor appetite, vomiting and diarrhea.

It is transferred through a dog's feces and is most dangerous for pups who are not vaccinated against the virus. Santamaria said that is what's behind most of the recent cases.

Owners who surrendered their dogs to her shelter either could not afford to get their dog treatment, or could not find an available veterinarian, she said.

The humane society has an in-house parvo isolation centre for infected dogs, where staff attempted to treat them and, hopefully, bring them back to full health.

Of the dogs the shelter has treated, three died but the rest recovered.

When dog owner Josee Dupee got word of the spike in cases, she went straight to her vet to make sure her pup Toby would be safe.

"I bring my dog to the dog park and to different walking trails in town," Dupee said. "I found out he was vaccinated and he would be OK ... (I'm not concerned) as long as I watch him, make sure he's not getting into anything."

Get your pup pricked

Some vets in Timmins have been offering vaccination clinics and encouraging dog owners to get their pets the necessary shots.

Expert advice includes making sure dogs are updated with the proper shots, avoid letting them roam unleashed or letting them sniff or eat feces.

Though canines can still get infected with parvo, experts said being vaccinated is the best protection to reduce their risk of severe symptoms. Pups should get the shots as young as six weeks old.

For dogs that are unvaxxed, especially young pups, Santamaria said owners need to be extra vigilant.

"If a puppy is not vaccinated, then stay away from other dogs," she said, "avoiding places like dog parks and really highly-frequented places where there may be other dogs."