The Animal Rescue League of Berks County is encouraging dog owners to check their records to see if their dogs are current with their DHPP/DHLPP (commonly referred to as distemper) vaccinations after the shelter has seen an uptick in the number of dogs entering the shelter with parvovirus, which is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. Since mid June, officials at the ARL have seen eight dogs and puppies with parvovirus. All but two have survived following medical quarantine from the other animals at the shelter and intense medical care. All of the affected dogs have come from within the City of Reading.

Canine parvovirus, or “parvo” as it is commonly referred to, is a sometimes deadly virus that affects the gastrointestinal tract of dogs. Young puppies are most at risk since they may not be fully vaccinated, and because their immune systems have not matured, but any unvaccinated dog can contract parvo, including adults. A vaccine for parvo is contained within a DHPP/DHLPP vaccine, which typically lasts anywhere between one and three years, and needs a series of immunizations to build full immunity. “One vaccine will not protect a dog against parvo,” says Ryonne Tresler, ARL’s lead shelter medical technician.

The symptoms of parvo typically include loss of appetite; lethargy; vomiting; and severe diarrhea, which can sometimes be bloody. Dogs can also experience fever or low body temperature as well as abdominal pain and bloating. Death can occur within 48 hours after onset as dogs become dehydrated due to severe and persistent vomiting and diarrhea. Any dog who experiences these symptoms should be seen by their veterinarian immediately. Although there is no cure for parvo, dogs can be treated with fluids, rest and medication to help stop nausea and diarrhea.

Parvo is highly contagious and can be spread from contact with an infected dog, or by any dog coming into contact with a surface that an infected dog has been on. The virus can live for up to a year—and through weather changes—and can survive on a multitude of surfaces, including soil. Common household disinfectants will not work against parvovirus; solutions that specifically kill parvovirus are the only ones that can help stop the spread of the disease on surfaces.

Dog owners—particularly those in the City of Reading—are encouraged to check that their dog is fully vaccinated against the disease by calling their veterinarians and checking their medical records to ensure their dog has received the full vaccination series. To help dog owners, the ARL will host a vaccine clinic on Wednesday, August 21 with a follow-up booster clinic set for Wednesday, September 11; or on Wednesday, September 11 with a follow-up booster clinic set for Wednesday, October 2. All clinic hours are from 5-7PM. The cost of the initial vaccine and booster is $16 per dog. To register for this clinic, please visit www.berksarl.org/events/dhpp. Vaccines can be administered to dogs as young as 6-8 weeks old. Puppies under 16 weeks old at the time of the first inoculation will need to receive a third immunization for full immunity, which will be an additional $8 and can be scheduled separately by request.

The Animal Rescue League of Berks County serves more than 5,000 animals per year and is the county’s only provider of animal cruelty and humane investigation. The organization’s full-service adoption center works to find responsible and loving homes for thousands of kittens, puppies, cats and dogs, as well as working/barn cats and other farm animals each year.