Lesley Patek, with the Livingston County Humane Society, is warning area pet owners that several outbreaks of canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV2, or "Parvo") have been detected among local dogs within the last few autumn months.

"[We've probably seen] more [cases] this fall than in the summer," said Patek, who noted that the number of local Parvo cases brought to her or called in to her has reached the teens over the last few months. She said that the virus is commonly more prevalent in the summertime, but indicated that the mild 2012 fall seems to be a contributing factor in the increase in outbreaks.

"[The cause] is basically ignorance on people's behalf," Patek said. "It's these free things. People are getting these free puppies, and they're [being told] that they've had all of their puppy shots when they haven't."

Parvo is a contagious virus which mainly affects canines. It is spread from dog to dog by direct or indirect contact with their feces, infected soil, or fomites that carry the virus. It is usually most severe in puppies that are unprotected by maternal antibodies or vaccinations, and comes in both cardiac and intestinal forms. It can cause respiratory or cardiac failure.

Common signs of Parvo include severe vomiting, lethargy, fever, and dysentery in pets. Patek also notes that puppies will often become anemic in appearance, with sunken eyes, and will emit a foul odor if they have contracted the virus. Due to fluid loss, dehydration becomes prevalent very quickly.

Treatment often involves veterinary hospitalization. The dogs will first be rehydrated with fluids, then put on antibiotics and Parvo medications. Patek says that also, contrary to popular belief, putting pets outside when they have Parvo is the wrong route to take.

"You've got to keep them warm — you've got to keep their temperatures up," she said.

Vaccines can prevent the infection, and the CPV2 strain is not infectious to humans or cats.

In untreated cases, canine mortality can reach 91 percent. That rate, however, can be dropped to between five and 20 percent via aggressive therapy methods.

If a pet death occurs due to Parvo, Patek suggests that owners wait between 45 and 60 days before bring a new dog into the family, as the virus can still be spread anywhere within that timeframe. Household items need to be bleached following the death, as well, to prevent the virus from spreading. When burying a deceased Parvo-stricken animal, she warned that deep burial plots would need to be dug, to prevent the disease from spreading through the soil.

"If they were going to bury [their pet], it would be better to contact us [at the animal shelter] to dispose of the body," said Patek.

Patek asks dog owners to have their canine pets checked for Parvo by their local veterinarians, and to make sure that said animals are up to date on their vaccinations, as a preventative measure. She suggests that a good time to do so would be at their turn-of-the-year checkups, along with rabies vaccinations and heartworm screenings (Heartworms have been at an all-time this year as well, she said.).

"These people need to get their pups in the door to the vet's," she said. "It's not an over-the-night type of deal, [but] it is treatable. We can't save the world, but it's so contagious. In a lot of cases, you can save these pups."