Spike in parvovirus cases may be related to COVID-19

August 11, 2020
dvm360 Staff
dvm360, dvm360 August 2020, Volume 51, Issue 8

BluePearl is investigating the reasons behind a 70% increase in parvovirus cases seen in its hospitals in recent months.

Data from the 90+ BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital network has revealed an alarming 70% spike in parvovirus cases in recent months. The hospital compared data collected from earlier this year with data from the same time period over the past five years (2015 to 2019).

Parvovirus, a highly contagious disease that attacks the canine gastrointestinal tract, is spread through dog-to-dog contact as well as contact with contaminated stool, environments, or people. The disease typically affects puppies and partially vaccinated/unvaccinated dogs. Left untreated, it can be fatal with 48 to 72 hours, but survival among treated dogs reaches about 90%.

It is unclear exactly why cases are spiking, but there are multiple possibilities related to COVID-19. With high demand for pet fostering and adoption during lockdowns, some shelters may have released pets that had not yet completed their vaccination series. Likewise, stay-at-home orders resulted in more people taking their pets outside, potentially increasing exposure risk, and some. Finally, routine vaccination schedules may have been disrupted or delayed due to restrictions on “non-essential” services or financial difficulties among owners due to unemployment. 

“We are in the very early stages of analyzing this data; looking for possible causes of the increase and determining what the implications are for this and other preventable companion animal diseases,” said James Barr, DVM, DACVECC, BluePearl’s chief medical officer, in a press release. "Parvo outbreaks pose a serious threat to our canine friends, but skipping routine vaccinations could also put human health at risk through the possibility of rabies exposure."

Dogs can begin showing signs of parvovirus within 3 to 10 days after exposure, but they are contagious immediately.

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