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Gulf & Main Magazine

Hurricane Irma Continues to Affect Animals in Souhwest Florida

Jun 05, 2018 12:41PM ● By Kevin
As Southwest Florida enters the 2018 hurricane season, Hurricane Irma still looms over the area with a residual effect on the puppy population. According to a recent press release by the Gulf Coast Humane Society, the highly contagious and deadly Parvovirus has been more prevalent than normal in Southwest Florida and it’s turning into a hefty challenge for local shelters and veterinarian hospitals.

Parvovirus, the release explains, is an illness which effects dogs, primarily infecting the intestinal tract. Puppies are the most susceptible to infection by parvovirus, between the ages of four weeks and six months old, mostly because of their immature immune systems. Symptoms of the deadly illness include bloody diarrhea, lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting, high fever and severe weight loss.

Six months after Hurricane Irma, cases of parvovirus started to show up in the area.

"Raccoons are one reason for the spread of Parvovirus," the release says. "With Hurricane Irma displacing many raccoon communities closer to developed area because of damaged habitat, the carriers are closer to the domesticated dogs. Raccoons have a communal latrine where high levels of feces are deposited, thus elevating the chances of spreading the virus to curious dogs walking through the area."

Those areas of highly concentrated raccoon feces turns into a minefield for Parvovirus, the release said. These areas are where dogs, or even cats, can track it into a home and odds of spreading the virus rise considerably.

“While parvovirus is prevalent in our area year round, this spring has seen an increase in number and severity of cases,” Dr. Megan Davis of the Viscaya Prado Veterinary Hospital said in the release. “It is important that dog owners familiarize themselves with the disease as the sooner the pet receives veterinary attention, the better the chance of a positive outcome.”

According to, Parvovirus is spread either by direct contact with an infected dog, or indirectly, by the ingesting fecal matter of an infected dog. Heavy concentrations of the virus are found in an infected dog’s stool, thus spreading of Parvovirus also happens when the bottom of shoes comes into contact with the feces. Parvovirus is very resilient and doesn’t die easily, which makes the spreading of it more prevalent, especially on contaminated surfaces.

“The virus is very resistant and can live in the environment for more than 6 months,” Davis continued. “Thus, if a family has had a pet with parvovirus, they should avoid bringing any new dogs into their home during that time period. If you think your dog has symptoms consistent with parvovirus, please seek veterinary care immediately.”

Davis lays out the groundwork of keeping your puppy safe from parvovirus in the release.

“Puppies should get their first vaccine around eight weeks old, then boosters every three weeks until at least 16 weeks of age. Adult dogs are not immune and should be kept up to date on vaccines at the frequency recommended by their veterinarian (every one to three years based on exposure risk). Puppies are not adequately protected until two weeks after their last booster and should not be taken to dog parks or other public places until then, this includes the floor or shopping cart of your local pet store. A dog who has survived parvovirus, can remain contagious for at least three weeks after they stop showing signs.”

Parvovirus is very highly contagious to dogs which have not been vaccinated, so it is vital to keep up on your pets’ vaccinations. It is the best preventative measure to keep your pet Parvovirus-free.

“Many animals which enter the shelter are not up to date on their appropriate vaccinations, which make them susceptible to Parvovirus, as well,” said Gulf Coast Humane Society Executive Director Jennifer Galloway in the release.

For these reasons, the number of cases of Parvovirus is on the uptick, both in shelters and in private homes.

“We are on our ninth parvo puppy case in two weeks,” as was stated in a Our HOPE Center Inc. Facebook post. “Please folks, beware (and) keep your puppy safe until all three sets of vaccines have been given.”

If Parvovirus symptoms are noticed in your dog, the biggest key for treatment is time.

“If you think your dog has symptoms consistent with parvovirus, please seek veterinary care immediately,” Dr. Davis said. “Survival depends on aggressive supportive care which typically consists of hospitalization for I.V. fluids, nausea medications, diarrhea medication, antibiotics to prevent sepsis and occasionally tube feedings.”  

“With the number of Parvovirus cases in the area on the rise, there are many places where a puppy can contract the virus,” Galloway added.

Galloway adds a test on a puppy or dog won’t be positive for Parvovirus until the virus is shedding in the feces and the puppy is symptomatic from the illness. It is a four to 10-day incubation period before symptoms show.

Other ways to help decrease the chances of your dog of contracting Parvovirus include cleaning your home, picking up feces immediately, bathing the puppy and avoiding unfamiliar places. Parvovirus can be killed by using diluted bleach, Accel/Rescue, Trifectant or steamcleaning.

“An animal shelter is a snapshot of what is happening in the community,” Galloway said. “If you even suspect your pet is having symptoms of Parvovirus, get them into your vet immediately and for sure, get your animal’s vaccinations up to date. Everyone can do their part in combating the spread of Parvovirus.”