LOWELL - City officials are warning residents to keep a close eye on their dogs and to check their vaccinations since the city is experiencing an outbreak of highly-contagious parvovirus that has already claimed the lives of at least 15 dogs in the last two weeks.

In a press release distributed by the police department, Animal Control Officer Darlene Wood said there have been 15 confirmed cases of the virus over the past two weeks in Lowell, and that officials fear more cases of the highly-contageous disease could arise.

Wood said all 15 dogs known to have been effected by the disease have died.

"It's a very painful death for a dog to go through," Wood said. "And, unfortunately, I think there are probably more cases out there that we're not aware of. I don't want people to panic, but I want to alert people to it so we can contain it as much as possible."

Parvovirus can cause intense defecation and vomiting, and Wood said the disease is transmitted when healthy dogs come into contact with the feces or vomit of an infected dog.

"Unvaccinated dogs or those that have not had a recent vaccine are particularly at risk since this disease is highly contagious," Wood said. "The disease can survive for several months in the environment, and is also resistant to many disinfectants."

Wood said the virus can survive for months on dog bowls or even on rocks, which makes it extra difficult to contain.


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She recommends anyone using a public dark park bring their own bowl for their dog, and strongly encourages all dog owners to make sure their dog has recently received the parvovirus vaccine that is available from veterinarians.

"Be very careful about where you're taking your dogs for the time being," she said.

Wood said she is working with local veterinarians and the Department of Agricultural Resources Division of Animal Health to contain the spread of the virus, and hopes to find a way to help those who can't afford it to get vaccines or veterinary care.

Wood asks all dog owners to keep a close eye on their pets, since an infected dog needs quick medical attention. She also asks dog owners not to exercise infected dogs in public areas, and to clean up after their dogs.

Wood said breeds that are particularly vulnerable to the disease are American Staffordshire Terriers, Rottweilers, Doberman Pinschers, Labrador Retrievers, and German Shepherds.

For more information, owners can contact Wood at 978-674-4277, or visit http://vetmedicine.about.com/cs/dognz/a/parvodog.htm

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