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Parvovirus Is Making Dozens of Dogs Sick in Michigan — Here’s What We Know So Far

The biggest thing to keep in mind: vaccines.

by Hilary Weaver
August 23, 2022
A sad looking golden doodle dog laying on the grass outside
Danil Nevsky / Stocksy

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UPDATE, Aug. 25, 2022: A Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDAPD)press release stated that testing done at Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (MSU VDL) found this illness to be Parvovirus.

Canine parvovirus is a severe and highly contagious disease in dogs, but MDARD and veterinary professionals have extensive experience with this virus,” said State Veterinarian Nora Wineland, DVM. “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.” 

The original story continues below.


Dogs in Michigan are being infected by an illness that experts have been comparing to canine parvovirus (CPV), a common gastrointestinal virus that often affects puppies. Often referred to as “parvo,” the illness causes dogs to vomit and have bloody stools. Parvo is transmitted through contact with the mucus membranes and spreads in the lymphatic system and bloodstream.

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that some samples tested at the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory came back positive for parvovirus. But data on what exactly is spreading has been inconclusive. Per a press release from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDAPD), a dog that exhibited parvo symptoms tested negative for the virus.

As reported in The New York Times Monday, most of the dogs infected have been under the age of 2, Ostego County Animal Shelter wrote in a Facebook post on August 19 that more than 20 dogs in the county have died of the illness.

The shelter wrote, in part:

“This illness presents with parvo-like symptoms (bloody diarrhea, vomiting, lethargic, loss of appetite), however when taken to a veterinarian the parvo test comes back negative. Because there is numerous diseases that are similar the vet may treat differently. The dog ends up dying within a few days.

This does NOT affect certain breeds more than others. There has not been one specific place in Otsego County where the dogs have been. This is not just Otsego County. We have heard of many counties around northern and central Michigan that are affected. Normally it is dogs/puppies under two and the elderly dogs. We have not seen any dogs that die that are PROPERLY vaccinated. If you do not know if your dog is PROPPERLY [sic] vaccinated or what PROPERLY vaccinated is contact a/your VETERINARIAN.”

The state’s veterinarian, Dr. Nora Wineland, told The New York Times that the state’s laboratory only had four specimen to test, only some of which came back positive for parvo.

“We’re really in the early states of trying to understand what is going on,” Dr. Wineland told the Times. “It could be that the test was unable to detect the parvovirus, or it was too early in the infection perhaps, or it could be it’s a different strain. These are some of the things we’re thinking about.”

Dr. Wineland continued, saying that the state is not required pet parents to report parvovirus; the numbers right now are based on informal reports.

As The Wildest has reported in the past, the best way to keep your dog safe from parvo is to make sure they are up-to-date on their vaccinations.

“If a dog is vaccinated, they will be in a much better place and less likely to get severe disease and need supportive treatment to keep them alive,” Dr. Wineland said.

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Hilary Weaver

Hilary Weaver is the senior editor at The Wildest. She has previously been an editor at The Spruce Pets, ELLE, and The Cut. She was a staff writer at Vanity Fair, and her work has been featured in Esquire, Refinery 29, BuzzFeed, Parade, and more. She and her cattle dog mix, Georgie, live in New England.