An unidentified virus has been sickening and killing dozens of dogs in northern Michigan over the past month.
Similar to canine parvovirus in symptoms, the illness first appeared in Otsego County in Northern Michigan but has spread even further north, animal experts in the state say.
Parvo is a highly contagious viral disease of dogs that causes acute gastrointestinal illness in puppies, according to the Baker Institute for Animal Health. The disease, often fatal, most often strikes in pups between six and 20 weeks old, but older animals are sometimes also affected.
“The state is in a panic right now,” Clare County Animal Control Director Rudi Hicks told the Clare County Cleaver.
The new unidentified virus is suspected to have come from Louisiana and kills infected dogs within days of having symptoms, Hicks told the outlet.
How many dogs died? What symptoms did they have?
More than 30 dogs had died of the disease just in Clare County as of Thursday, she said, and it is unknown how the virus spreads.
“It is a virus much like parvo, possibly a different strain” said Melissa FitzGerald, director of Otsego County Animal Shelter in Gaylord, Michigan, about 50 miles south of Mackinaw City.
Symptoms, she said, include bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and lethargy.
What dogs are affected by the virus?
The virus affects puppies and older dogs and when the animals are tested by veterinarians, the initial test for Parvo is negative, FitzGerald told USA TODAY.
Usually the dogs die within three to five days.
As of Monday, FitzGerald said, no dogs at Otsego County shelter, some 70 miles north of Clare County, had contracted the virus.
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Most of the dogs who have contracted the illness have been under the age of 2, the Otsego County Animal Shelter posted on Facebook, and some of the dogs were vaccinated.
FitzGerald said some of the dogs have been sent to The Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory for a necropsy.
“The necropsy does show parvo,” she said. “The State vets office is hoping to learn more and come up with a defense as we get more specimens (either necropsies or fecal matter).”
The shelter has been in close contact with veterinarians in Gaylord, Traverse City, Grayling, Mancelona and Indian River trying to find a solution, but there is currently no vaccine or cure.
How to keep your dog safe from a parvo-like virus
In an effort to avoid the virus, FitzGerald said pet owners should get their pets vaccinated.
“If you don’t know if your dog is properly vaccinated or you don’t know what properly vaccinated is contact a veterinarian,” Fitzgerald said.
She also recommended keeping pets away from other dogs or areas where a lot of dogs have been or are including dog parks.
Contributing: Layla McMurtrie, Detroit Free Press.
Natalie Neysa Alund covers trending news for USA TODAY. Reach her de ella at [email protected] and follow her de ella on Twitter @nataliealund.