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Local outbreak of canine parvovirus prompts help for some pet owners

September 30, 2011

In response to a local outbreak of canine parvovirus, the Humane Society of Washington County will help some pet owners pay to vaccinate their dogs against the deadly disease.

Under the Animal Health Voucher program, vouchers for up to $50 will be issued to qualifying applicants to go toward the cost of a veterinarian visit for the vaccination that includes the parvovirus inoculation, according to a news release from the shelter.

The program will begin Wednesday, but further details were not yet available, the release said.

Canine parvovirus, commonly knows as parvo, is an extremely contagious and potentially fatal canine disease that is transmitted by direct exposure to feces containing the virus or through contact with an infected animal.

A dog that has contracted the disease will usually exhibit extreme diarrhea that is frequently bloody and very foul smelling, vomiting, lethargy and will become dehydrated.  If untreated, the disease can be fatal.

At least five cases were identified at the shelter this week, the humane society said.

Paul Miller, executive director of the humane society, said the shelter fears that people are not vaccinating their dogs due to the expense, the release said.

"We are initiating this program to help economically challenged residents of Washington County vaccinate their dogs against parvo and hopefully stop the spread of this very contagious and often deadly disease," Miller said in the release.

Money for the program came from a grant through an anonymous foundation, the release said.

To date, 10 dogs have been euthanized at the shelter as a result of the virus, the release said.

All of the dogs had been recently brought to the shelter by the public. None of the affected dogs was in the adoption area, spokeswoman Katherine Cooker said previously.

The first case was believed to have originated in a group of puppies from the 4000 block of Mills Road in Sharpsburg, Md.

Until the disease is eliminated at the shelter, it will not be accepting owned dogs, Cooker said previously. The humane society is asking those who find a dog to hold onto it and contact the shelter, she said.

Anyone interested in applying for a voucher can contact the humane society at 301-733-2060 and ask for Kelly.

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— Kate S. Alexander

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