The Occupy Wall Street (OWS) demonstration has been front and center in the news over the past six weeks. Until now, the news has been about humans, but recently the dogs of OWS have hit the newswire due to a parvovirus outbreak at the San Francisco encampment.
Parvovirus in Dogs
Parvovirus is a contagious gastrointestinal disease affecting dogs.
Infection can be fatal at worst and cause serious illness at best. Parvovirus is not a subtle disease: it is associated with the most severe cases of diarrhea and vomiting we veterinarians recognize in canine patients. Because the virus attacks rapidly growing cells, the bone marrow cells producing white blood cells are depleted, decreasing the white blood cell count and putting dogs at risk of contracting a serious infection on top of the severe diarrhea and vomiting.
Panleukopenia is the Feline Parvovirus
The dogs of OWS are not the only ones at risk for contracting parvovirus infection. Any dog coming in contact with the feces of a parvovirus infected dog is at risk, unless they are protected by vaccination. Cats have their own version of parvovirus – the panleukopenia virus. Infection by the panleukopenia virus results in similar clinical signs in infected cats as parvovirus infection causes in dogs. Fortunately, panleukopenia rarely occurs in my practice, but the few cases I have seen could not be saved. Vaccination protects against this frequently fatal feline viral infection. Veterinarians consider vaccinations against parvovirus and panleukopenia virus “core” vaccines, meaning these are vaccines nearly all pets should receive.
Close quarters with limited sanitation like OWS are the perfect place for an outbreak of a contagious disease and it would not surprise me to see an outbreak of canine influenza, kennel cough or intestinal parasites at an OWS camp.
Pet Owner Precautions
Pet owners taking their dog or cat to a location where it will come in contact with many other animals should first check with their veterinarian to confirm their pet has been adequately vaccinated. Cats boarding at a kennel for the holidays, dogs attending obedience classes or doggie day care, or any pet demonstrating as part of OWS have an increased risk of contracting an infectious disease simply due to increased exposure to other animals. Pet owners should keep their healthy pets away from other animals with signs of illness such as coughing, sneezing, vomiting or diarrhea to help protect them against contracting a life-threatening illness.
This may also be found in the “Tales from the Pet Clinic” blog on WebMD.com.
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