Urgent warning for dog owners: Parvo-like illness spreading in Michigan, killing dogs


Recently, a dog was admitted to a veterinary hospital in northern Michigan with symptoms that looked just like those of canine parvovirus type 2 (also known as CPV, CPV2, or just “parvo”) – vomiting, profuse and bloody diarrhea, and lack of appetite – but the dog tested negative for CPV. Soon, other veterinarians in the area began reporting an uptick in the number of cases of suspected CPV – but some dogs tested positive for parvo and some did not, and most of the young dogs with the parvo-like symptoms died.

These cases were reported to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD), which also received reports from animal control agencies in northern Michigan regarding dogs with the same symptoms. Today, MDARD is working in partnership with local animal control agencies, the Michigan Association of Animal Control Officers, local veterinarians, the Michigan State University Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (MSU VDL), and U.S. Department of Agriculture to share information about these cases, which have affected dogs who are fully vaccinated against CPV and dogs with incomplete immunization alike.

Officials at one shelter, the Otsego County Animal Shelter, have been quoted as saying they have seen deaths in only those dogs who were not “properly vaccinated.” They have urged all dog owners in the state to contact their veterinarians to make sure their dogs are current on their vaccinations.

As officials learn more, MDARD is encouraging animal shelters, boarding and daycare kennels, and veterinary staff to follow their strictest intake and vaccination protocols when bringing in new dogs/puppies and continue to follow required isolation protocols and recommended cleaning/disinfection procedures for surfaces and equipment.

For dog owners, especially those living in or traveling with pets to Michigan, MDARD strongly recommends keeping up with routine vaccinations by ensuring dogs/puppies are vaccinated against parvovirus, rabies, canine distemper, adenovirus, parainfluenza, and leptospirosis. And if dogs or puppies are exhibiting signs of illness, keep them at home and away from other dogs and contact your veterinarian.

Fear of viral mutation

CPV first emerged among dogs in Europe around 1976. By 1978 the virus had spread unchecked, causing a worldwide epidemic of myocarditis (inflammation of the heart) and gastroenteritis (inflammation in the intestines).

CPV is closely related to feline panleukopenia virus (FPV), a virus that has been known since the 1920s to infect cats, mink, and other animals. CPV probably arose as the result of two or three genetic mutations in FPV that allowed it to expand its host range to infect dogs. FPV in cats is highly contagious and has a high mortality rate.

The Baker Institute for Animal Health at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine first isolated the virus in 1978, and by 1979 had developed the first vaccine for parvo. By 1981, Baker Institute scientists had created an improved attenuated vaccine for the disease. Today, Dr. Colin Parrish of the Baker Institute continues to study the virus and its evolution in order to determine whether existing vaccines provide adequate protection from modern strains of CPV.

The original CPV2 has disappeared in the dog population and has been replaced by new antigenic variants, designated CPV2a and CPV2b, which became widespread during 1979 to 1980 and 1984, respectively.

Until DNA sequencing can identify the virus that has affected and killed dogs in Michigan, and researchers learn what vaccination protocol can best protect dogs, owners are encouraged to check their dogs’ vaccination status.

Until more is known about this illness, extraordinary caution might include avoiding walking dogs (and especially puppies) in public places in Michigan, and keeping your dogs away from other dogs. Most importantly, if you live in or have traveled through Michigan, or your dog has been exposed to dogs who live in or have been taken through Michigan recently, and your dog or puppy shows any signs of being ill with vomiting, diarrhea, lack of appetite, or lethargy, contact your veterinarian right away.


    • Unless there are multiple severe illnesses effecting dogs in the NH area, at this point in time, the illness in NH is a respiratory infection, causing breathing issues and pneumonia – not at all the same as the Parvo outbreak in MI, which primarily causes GI symptoms.

  1. I wonder when dog owners will look at Mega C Plus as a big big help in prevention. Dr. Belfield did remarkable work with this supplement to strengthen immune systems and help fight off virus.
    With more shots, it does more damage to their overall health.
    First sign of a dog or puppy not feeling good, get Vit C by IV!!!!!!

  2. Thanks for getting the word out. Very scary — we cancelled our 10th annual fun Dog Dog celebration set for Labor Day weekend. Lots of disappointed people, but they’d be a lot more disappointed should their dog come down with the virus!

  3. Wish there could be a caveat from WDJ which recently posted an article about which vaccinations are actually necessary, that it’s important to speak with your vet about a parvo titer and perhaps a booster for THAT particular illness, rather than promoting a host of vaccinations which we know negatively impacts a dog’s immune system. I can see a lot of scared dog owners getting their dogs vaccinated with 6-7 different vaccinations in a combo shot as a result of this article. The vaccination frenzy is now being inflicted upon our animals.

  4. So, the veterinarians are recommending Parvo vaccine for this new illness even though they know they don’t have Parvo (the type that is detected in the test and not a type that is covered by the vaccine). On the contrary, if your dog has already has his puppy series and so is immune to the common Parvo, Certainly Do Not boost him with Parvo vaccine. The reason is because the worst thing you can do when there is a new disease going around is to focus his immune system on something else– The immune system is not limitless. Is Dr. Phawl Chi the one suggesting this unscientific stuff. Unbelievable.

  5. I live in Michigan and the most recent update confirms that it is indeed a Parvo outbreak. The dogs who died were either not vaccinated or not fully vaccinated. You may draw your own conclusions, but I choose to have my dogs fully vaccinated.

  6. What concerns me about vaccines are two things: 1. You can’t get just one vaccine for a certain disease, you must get the combination, except the rabies vaccine. 2. The vaccine dose is the same for a tiny dog as it is for a Great Dane. Same with people. The vaccine I get for 95 lbs is the same dose that someone weighing 250 gets. That doesn’t seem right to me.

    • Here in California you can get a single vaccine for parvo, distemper and the others. You may need to search for a vet who is willing to buy them that way and that will adjust the dose for the size and weight. I never do more than the parvo and distemper, done singly, spaced out by 3 weeks when they are pups. Then they get titers at age 4 and 8. All of my dogs (except the rescues which I had no control over when they were overvaxxed) have shown more than enough protection through the rest of their lives. I have had 5 dogs raised from pups that never got another parvo or distemper after their 2nd pup vaccine. The rabies is required if you license your dog here, but I wait until my dogs are a year old so they can be spaced out 3 years after that. Then detox detox detox after every vaccination.