The mystery behind a rash of dog deaths in central and northern Michigan has been solved

The illness has predominantly killed puppies and elderly dogs

click to enlarge Dozens of dogs have died of parvovirus in central and northern Michigan in the past month. - Shutterstock
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Dozens of dogs have died of parvovirus in central and northern Michigan in the past month.

State authorities have identified the mysterious illness that has killed dozens of dogs in central and northern Michigan.

The dogs were infected with parvovirus, a highly contagious, life-threatening viral disease that commonly causes gastrointestinal illness in puppies, according to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The illness baffled veterinarians because tests on infected dogs were coming back negative for parvovirus.

“This situation is complex because although the dogs displayed clinical signs suggestive of parvovirus, they consistently test negative by point-of-care tests performed in clinics and shelters,” Kim Dodd, director of the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory, said in a statement Wednesday. “Screening tests for parvo are done to help guide immediate isolation, disinfection, and treatment protocols. While those tests are valuable in the clinical setting, they are not as sensitive as the diagnostic tests we can perform here in the laboratory. We continue to further characterize the virus in hopes of better understanding why those animals were testing negative on screening tests.”

The illness was first detected in Ostego and Clare counties, where more than 50 dogs had died as of Monday. Most of the fatalities were puppies and elderly dogs.

Symptoms for parvovirus are vomiting, bloody diarrhea, lethargy, and loss of appetite. It can quickly become fatal.

State Veterinarian Nora Wineland encouraged pet owners to get their dogs vaccinated and properly boosted.

“Canine parvovirus is a severe and highly contagious disease in dogs and veterinary professionals have extensive experience with this virus," Wineland said. “We have a highly effective vaccine available to help protect dogs from the virus. Dogs that are not fully vaccinated against this virus are the most at risk. Dog owners across Michigan must work closely with their veterinarians to ensure their dogs are appropriately vaccinated and given timely boosters to keep their pets safe and healthy. Protecting Michigan’s dogs is a team effort.”

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About The Author

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling is an award-winning investigative journalist who operated Motor City Muckraker, an online news site devoted to exposing abuses of power and holding public officials accountable. Neavling also hosted Muckraker Report on 910AM from September 2017 to July 2018. Before launching Motor City Muckraker,...
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