In northern Michigan, a virus has killed more than 30 dogs and made many more sick. The first cases were seen in a shelter in Otsego county. The symptoms observed were vomiting and diarrhea, which are pretty common signs of parvovirus in dogs.
Veterinarians first performed a test for parvovirus due to its highly contagious nature. In a shelter setting, parvo can wipe out the entire shelter population. The dogs tested negative for parvo.
After the dogs tested negative in point of care tests for parvo at the shelter and clinic, the state veterinarian and Michigan Veterinary School were contacted. They performed PCR testing—which most people are now familiar with—to isolate the virus, and interestingly, they isolated a parvovirus.
So then the question is: Why did these dogs all test negative in the first place? That is currently being looked into by Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory.
There are some reasons that this can take so long to figure out, and whether a disease is reportable or not is one of them. Parvo is not a reportable disease. Reportable diseases need to be sent to the state veterinarian—examples are leptospirosis and other zoonotic diseases.
In the meantime, many pet parents are asking what they can do to protect their dog from this illness. The current recommendation by the state veterinarian of Michigan is to keep your dog fully vaccinated for parvovirus. If your dog is showing signs of vomiting or diarrhea, keep them home. Keep unvaccinated dogs home until they are fully vaccinated.
Even for healthy, vaccinated dogs, make sure you clean up after your dog when on a walk or out at a park. The dogs that have died were not vaccinated or had been just vaccinated upon entering the shelter. At this time, no known cases have been diagnosed outside of two counties in Michigan, Otsego County and Alpena County.
Veterinarians in Michigan, where I am from, are being encouraged to not just take a negative parvo test as, "It’s not parvo." It could be this new strain that we're seeing, so we're being encouraged to do further testing, like blood counts and continued monitoring, if we suspect anything.
Should you worry that this is going to become something that will spread? At this time, no. This is a very isolated incident and outside of a small area in Michigan, it has not been seen.