Dog owners worried, angry

EVERETT — An outbreak of canine parvovirus in the Puget Sound region has some local dog owners nervous and angry.

Parvovirus is highly contagious, can be deadly for young dogs and can live in unsanitized areas for a long time. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration and lethargy. There have been unconfirmed reports of dogs becoming ill after visiting an Everett dog park, city spokeswoman Kate Reardon said.

After the cities of Everett and Mukilteo closed municipal off-leash dog parks this week, Cheryl Campbell of Mukilteo immediately called her veterinarian, Thomas Koenig, in Everett, for more information.

Campbell’s beagles are up-to-date in all of their vaccines, she was assured.

“My vet said the virus can stay in dirt for very long time, so I am keeping my dogs out of the off-leash parks as long as I can,” Campbell said. “I am so angry with people who bring sick dogs to public places. If you choose not to vaccinate, you not only are putting your dog at risk, but also hundreds of other dogs.”

Koenig said he was not aware of an outbreak of parvovirus in Snohomish County. In Seattle, however, there has been a spike in the number of reported cases.

“Dog stool in this rainy weather can be contagious for six months,” Koenig said. “Dogs without vaccinations could be the problem. Get your dog vaccinated if you aren’t sure if it’s been done.”

At the Washington State Veterinary Medicine Association office in Pullman, people are keeping an eye on the King County outbreak.

“It’s important to note that parvovirus is in the environment all the time and that outbreaks occur sporadically,” association spokesman Charlie Powell said. “Unvaccinated dogs are at risk, but some dogs who have the vaccine may not even be able to fight it. There is no way to avoid the risk of catching parvo, but you can keep your dog out of kennels and boarding facilities where parvovirus has been present.”

Powell was unwilling to criticize cities such as Everett for closing its three off-leash dog parks.

“However, there is no way to tell whether the virus is at the park two weeks from now. It’s like saying we can control the common cold,” Powell said. “You can vaccinate, sanitize water dishes and living areas and quarantine sick animals, but that’s about it.”

Everett officials are keeping dog parks closed until further notice, while information on the parvo outbreak is gathered, Reardon said.

At the off-leash dog park along the beach in Edmonds on Friday, Jim and Anna Drake let their dogs Bix and Lennie run in the rain and wind.

“It was scary to hear about the outbreak,” said Jim Drake, of Edmonds. “But we verified that our dogs are vaccinated. That’s about all you can do. We were willing to come out to the park today because we knew that not a lot of dogs would be here.”

Colt Mace, also of Edmonds, said he is not worried about his dog, Alpha.

“He’s vaccinated and he is old,” Mace said. “Where I come from in Eastern Oregon, parvo is just part of nature. You take your dog home and nurse him back to health.”

Powell, of the veterinary association, said dogs can survive parvovirus, “but it’s really hard on them.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

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