This is the message from the Harrisburg Humane Society, which says an increasing number of veterinarians across Central Pennsylvania are dealing with a highly contagious and potentially lethal canine virus called Parvo.
The disease is found mainly in dogs with low immune systems, such as young puppies or older dogs with cancer. It can only be transmitted through dog feces. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy, according to a Humane Society release.
"Parvovirus, when contracted by a dog, can be fatal. It can be treated, but the mortality rate is quite high," the Human Society wrote.
Why is there a rise in the Harrisburg area?
Humane Society offices were closed Wednesday. However, veterinarians at the Harrisburg Area Animal Hospital believe Parvo isn't specific to Central Pennsylvania, but any metropolitan area with a high dog population in the spring and summer months.
Warmer climates means more dogs outside, which means more dog feces, which leads to a great risk of infection.
"Avoid things like dog parks where there are a lot of dogs that could be potentially infectious," suggests Dr. Dana Walck.
Dog parks are particularly dangerous for puppies who have not been vaccinated, since Parvo can only be contracted one way.
"Poop," Dr. Walck says. "And then they lick their paws. They get their nose in it. Maybe eat grass."
How, then, do you prevent your dog from getting Parvo?
"Vaccinate. Vaccinate. Vaccinate your puppies," the Humane Society wrote in their release, adding the vaccination process should begin when a puppy is six weeks old, and booster shots should be administered every two to four weeks until the dog is 16 weeks old.
Dr. Walck suggests using the distemper vaccine, as it contains strands of parvovirus. She compares it to what a human goes through when contracting the flu.