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Floodwater spreading disease to pets

By: Melissa Gundersen
EL PASO, Texas -- Veterinarians are warning all pet owners that floodwaters may be spreading diseases to their four-legged friends.

Veterinarians said they're seeing a spike in the parvovirus. The owner of Mesa Veterinarian Clinic, Amy Starr, said it affects a dog similar to how the flu affects a human. Parvo attacks a dog's intestines and wipes out its immune system, making it very sick.

Starr said the virus is common in the Borderland because many people don't vaccinate their pets correctly.

The virus is passed by feces.  By walking pets where other animals are going to the bathroom, they're in high risk of catching and then spreading the virus.

After last week's intense rainstorms and this week's flooding, doctors said it's even worse now.

"Basically, the parvo is in the soil. It's a virus that lives in the soil because of contamination, and so with the moisture, it literally just spreads it around," said Starr.

Parvo affects dogs of all ages. In most cases, however, it's a problem for puppies between 6 and 20 weeks old, when a pet isn't fully immunized.

Starr said when it comes to vaccinating a pet, don't take the cheap way out, because it may cost more in the end.

"Maybe theyre wanting to save a couple of dollars, so they go to the local stores and just buy the vaccine and give it to them themselves. The problem is, here in El Paso, we have a certain strain of the parvo that not every vaccine covers," said Starr.

Anyone whose dog has been exposed to an infected animal or is exhibiting signs of parvo is urged to take the dog to the vet immediately.

Symptoms include vomiting and diarrhea, and some dogs will develop a fever.


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