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State and feds investigating mystery virus killing dogs in Michigan

State and federal agencies are investigating the mystery virus that has claimed the lives of at least 30 dogs in Michigan.

The Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Michigan State University’s veterinary laboratory, US Department of Agriculture and other partners are working to determine the cause of the illness that has been affecting canines in the state for the past two months, MDARD said Monday.

The unidentified virus causes acute gastrointestinal problems and generally kills young dogs within three to five days. Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, vomiting and lethargy.

One key note about this virus is that the symptoms are similar to parvovirus.
One key note about this virus is that the symptoms are similar to parvovirus.
Xinhua News Agency/Getty Images

Symptoms of the sickness are similar to parvovirus, which causes similar symptoms and is spread via dog-to-dog contact and contaminated feces. Puppies and older dogs are more vulnerable to the virus, and most of those killed were under the age of 2.

Melissa FitzGerald, the animal control director for Otsego County where the virus was first reported, told the Detroit Free Press that the dogs who died tested negative for parvo.

“It’s scary,” FitzGerald said. “There are many things that it could be.”

FitzGerald said it does not appear that the infected dogs have had contact with each other.

A state veterinarian said some samples did test positive for parvo, however.

“We are still in the early stages of this investigation, but some of the first samples submitted to the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory were positive for canine parvovirus. However, there are more results pending and more to be learned,” State Veterinarian Nora Wineland, DVM said in a statement.

Northern Michigan dog owner Adrianna Potrafkey told WXMI-TV that four of her dogs woke up with bloody diarrhea and upset stomachs in early July. She didn’t work for two weeks out of fear of leaving the dogs alone after her veterinarian admitted she was mystified by what was the cause of the sickness.

“It impacted me a lot. I couldn’t leave them in case something happened,” Potrafkey said.

Her dogs, which were all vaccinated against parvo as puppies, later recovered.

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