Animal Health Officials Report Outbreak Of Deadly Dog Virus In Western And Central Massachusetts

Massachusetts animal health officials say an inquiry is underway into outbreaks of a highly contagious and deadly virus affecting dogs in two areas of the state. Dozens of dogs in the Dalton-Lanesboro area of Berkshire County and the Fitchburg area in Worcester County have come down with the Canine Parvovirus type 2 — also known as CPV2 or simply Parvo. Several have died or have had to be euthanized. Spread through oral contact with infected feces, the virus attacks rapidly dividing cells in a dog’s body, most severely affecting the intestinal tract. It can also can damage the heart muscle and cause lifelong cardiac problems in young dogs. Michael Cahill, who directs the state’s Division of Animal Health, says infected dogs usually exhibit symptoms like lethargy, loss of appetite, vomiting and diarrhea.
“Anyone that recognize(s) those signs in their dog needs to have the animal seen by a veterinarian immediately. And when I say immediately, you don’t wait until the next morning. You should find the closest emergency veterinarian.”
If left untreated, Cahill says, the dog will die. The parvovirus can remain active in the environment for several months, but is usually preventable through vaccination. Cahill says it appears the outbreak in Berkshire County was caused when an animal rescue group illegally brought in infected dogs from out-of-state that had not been vaccinated. He says investigators are also trying to determine if the two outbreaks are connected. But he notes the Fitchburg area has had previous episodes of the virus during the past several years.