Parvo outbreak puts dogs at risk, leads to cancelation of Cedar Rapids Halloween dog costume contest

CEDAR RAPIDS ? A recent outbreak of parvovirus among dogs in Cedar Rapids temporarily shut down an animal shelter this month and led to the cancellation of a Halloween dog costume contest.

Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious virus that affects dogs? gastrointestinal tracts and is spread through direct contact. Symptoms start with runny or bloody stools, lethargy and decreased appetite.

Last week, the Cedar Valley Humane Society received two litters of puppies that tested positive for parvo. After closing for a week, the shelter reopened Monday, shelter director Preston Moore said.

Moore said the sick pups were treated at Edgewood Animal Hospital, Cedar Rapids Animal Hospital and other veterinary clinics, with bills totaling about $35,000 for the week.

?Even though we had the dogs with parvo dumped here, we were able to isolate them and treat them without any additional infections occurring here,? Moore said. ?Of course, the treatment for the sick dogs comes with a price tag. There still is definitely a concern, but not here in our building ? more on a community level.?

Sarah Hickey, a veterinarian at Edgewood Animal Hospital, said the clinic has seen an uptick in parvo cases in the last month, with at least five dogs treated for the virus.

It?s the largest outbreak she?s seen in the past two or three years, she said.

Also, she said, this strain of parvo seems more aggressive.

?One day they just have a little bit of diarrhea and in a couple days it?s fatal,? Hickey said. ?It usually takes longer than that.?

Dogs are supposed to have an annual vaccine for parvo. The vaccine works, but the virus is showing up in puppies and unvaccinated dogs, she said.

Puppies are supposed to get a series of vaccines at about 8, 12 and 16 weeks, Hickey said. Puppies are born with some of their mother?s antibodies, and they don?t start to strengthen their own immune system until after about 8 weeks, so a vaccine before then may not be as worthwhile.

?What we?re telling our clients is, if you have a puppy under six months of age, keep them home,? she said. ?Don?t take them to the dog park or someone else?s home? or to pet stores.

?Parvo is very resilient, and it?s very contagious.?

The city?s animal shelter in southwest Cedar Rapids on Friday said it has not had any parvo problems.

The parvo outbreak, though, convinced the Cedar Rapids Theisen?s stores to cancel their annual Dog-O-Ween costume contest, scheduled for Oct. 29.

The contest?s entry fee was to have been donated to the Cedar Valley shelter, but ?we decided it would be a good idea to support them in another way,? said Jim Lincoln, manager of the Theisen?s in southwest Cedar Rapids.

The stores instead will donate $500 and a pallet of dog food, along with a portion of sales, to the shelter. They also are appealing for donations to help cover the big vet bills the humane society faces for the parvo puppies.

In addition, the Cedar Rapids stores are looking into hosting a dog costume contest on Facebook, with owners posting pictures of their pets.

Theisen?s plans to go ahead with its Dog-O-Ween events at stores in Coralville, Davenport, Dubuque and Marshalltown.

The costume contest at the Coralville store, 100 Westcor Dr., begins at 3 p.m. Oct. 29; pet owners need to bring vaccination papers to enter their dogs. Registration ? $10 per dog ? begins at 1:30 p.m., with proceeds going to an animal care organization.