In the end, the mysterious illness killing dogs in rural northern Michigan turned out to be not so mysterious at all: It's parvovirus, a vaccine for which is routinely given to well-cared-for dogs who sleep on beds with their names stitched across the front and have their own Instagram accounts (where they're influencers!).
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.”
About 30 dogs died in Otsego County, and the Free Press reported earlier this week that "dozens" had been stricken there and in Clare County.
We're going to pause here and say that at this moment in time, in the third year of a human pandemic in which vaccination is often the difference between getting a mild case of the disease and dying from it, we need to bang our heads against the desk for a moment.
Because that's how you keep your dog from contracting parvo, the symptoms of which are "vomiting, bloody diarrhea, lethargy, and loss of appetite," according to the MT. Vaccination.
Now we know vet care isn't cheap, and much of northern Michigan is a low-income area. Perhaps working dogs that live in barns or kennels don't always get the same care as one living in a house where the Orvis dog catalog is delivered. Rural shelters may not have the resources to run low- or no-cost vaccination days. Still. This is a vaccine-preventable illness; if you have a dog and appreciate everything it brings to your life, scrape up the money and get it, or them, protected. As state veterinarian Nora Wineland said:
“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.”
That is all. Pet your dog for us.