Parvovirus Outbreak and COVID-19, What’s the Link?
The biggest threat to pets’ health in the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020, does not come from the coronavirus itself. To date, there have been only a handful of reported cases in pets, all owned by people who had the virus. Of these cases, clinical signs among the pets were minimal, and there have been no reported deaths.
However, there has been an alarming surge in illness among dogs during the pandemic in the form of parvovirus infections. Parvovirus is a highly contagious disease of dogs. It causes severe enteritis, often requiring hospitalization, and can result in death due to dehydration and secondary infections.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a recognized 70% increase in parvovirus cases presenting to a national veterinary medical group. This observation has an eye-opener for us in the veterinary community.
What’s Causing the Parvovirus Outbreak?
There are many proposed causes for this surge in cases.
- Veterinary hospitals prioritize appointments for emergency care over wellness and routine care appointments, stemming from a desire to limit exposure and conserve supplies.
- Resultant disruptions or delays in the timing of puppies receiving prophylactic vaccination series, resulting in incomplete immunity.
- Release of dogs/puppies from shelters/rescues before completion of needed vaccine series.
- Increased exposure of dogs/puppies at dog parks, etc. as owners sought outdoor activity.
- The financial hardship of owners brought on by job loss, pay cuts, etc.; thereby, preventing or delaying owners from seeking routine care for pets.
Parvovirus Outbreak Serves as Sentinel for Other Diseases
This surge in parvovirus infections amongst dogs likely serves as the sentinel for other diseases such as Heartworm infection, Lyme disease, to name a few, that could also be on the rise among our furry friends. These other diseases may not yet be recognized as being on the rise, as they have a longer clinical course, but they are no less deadly for our canine friends.
This parvovirus outbreak among dogs, which seems to stem from a lack of vaccination, poses a grave threat to our canine friends and may also put human health at risk; through increased exposure to specific zoonotic disease, rabies infection being the most significant risk. There are, however, numerous infectious diseases that pets can carry that affect people. The veterinary profession as a whole serves a vital role in public health by preventing zoonotic diseases through vaccination and surveillance to detect possible outbreaks.
If the U.S. continues to see rises in COVID-19 cases, this may exacerbate these trends and further harm pets and people. To prevent further harm, veterinary hospitals, shelters/rescues, etc. need to continue operating as essential businesses.
The old adage, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”, certainly holds true when it comes to pet health. The cost of prevention is often a fraction of the cost of treating a disease or problem once it has become more advanced, and early diagnosis and treatment of developing problems or diseases can increase the likelihood of successful outcomes.
We here at Brook-Falls Veterinary Hospital & Exotic Care, have remained open during the pandemic to serve the pets in our area. We have closed our doors to humans, but are serving them curbside while allowing their pets into the hospital. However, for extreme cases and end of life services, we will permit humans into the hospital if masks are worn.
If you have put off having your pet come to the hospital for fear of exposure or you have underlying health risks that could put you at higher risk, please call the hospital and speak with one of our staff to see how we can best accommodate you, so your pet can receive the care it needs.