Vets worry about Parvovirus

Humane Society vaccinates dogs at Rainbow Gathering

— Officials with the Routt County Humane Society spent Friday vaccinating dogs for the Parvovirus at the Rainbow Gathering in hopes of halting an outbreak.

Maggie Smith, president of the Humane Society, said Rainbow Family members on Tuesday brought several puppies that had contracted the virus and that were ill to Steamboat Springs veterinarians.

Health officials immediately began looking at ways to thwart any potential spread of the virus in the community, Smith said.

Steamboat Veterinary Hospital veterinarian Michael Gotchey said Parvovirus is spread through feces and attacks the lining of a dog's intestines, making it difficult for the dog to absorb nutrients. The virus causes dehydration, diarrhea and vomiting.

The virus is fatal in more than 70 percent of non-vaccinated dogs, Gotchey said.

If the symptoms of the virus are caught early, there are steps that can be taken to treat it, he said.

Gotchey said he recommends all dog owners vaccinate their dogs against the virus every year, especially puppies, because they are more susceptible to the virus.

"Dogs that are vaccinated are pretty well-covered. Usually we see the dogs after their already down and out, and it's hard to bring a puppy back after that point," he said.

Gotchey said Parvovirus can stay active in soil for months or years, which is why it is important to vaccinate dogs.

Smith said the virus' life span is one of the Humane Society's biggest concerns.

"It can be sitting up there are Big Red Park for months, which means any visitor with a dog that is there after the (gathering) ends may contract it," she said.

Officials were vaccinating the dogs on Friday in hopes of sparing some lives and preventing Rainbow Family pet owners from bringing sick dogs to Steamboat for treatment.

"We're trying to protect our community," she said.

Smith said she discourages pet owners from taking their dogs, especially if they aren't vaccinated, to Big Red Park to prevent the spread of the virus.

Gotchey agreed.

"My advice is to keep your puppy or dog away from people and other dogs you don't know," he said. "If you run into a Rainbow person with a puppy, there's a good shot it hasn't been vaccinated and has been near animals that have been exposed."

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