Dog owners in Berks County are being advised to check their pet's medical records.
The Animal Rescue League reported Monday that it has seen an increase in the number of dogs entering its shelter in Cumru Township with parvovirus, which is a highly contagious and sometimes fatal disease that affects a dog's gastrointestinal tract.
Since mid-June, the ARL said it has seen eight dogs and puppies -- all from Reading -- with the parvovirus. All but two have survived, officials said, following intense medical care and quarantine from the shelter's other animals.
Young puppies are most at risk for the disease because they may not be fully vaccinated and their immune systems have not matured, according to ARL officials, who cautioned that any unvaccinated dog can contract parvo, including adults.
A vaccine for parvo is contained within a DHPP/DHLPP vaccine, commonly referred to as distemper, which typically lasts anywhere between one and three years. The vaccine, officials said, needs a series of immunizations to build full immunity.
"One vaccine will not protect a dog against parvo," said Ryonne Tresler, the ARL's lead shelter medical technician.
The ARL is encouraging dog owners, particularly those in Reading, to ensure that their dog is fully vaccinated against the disease by checking their medical records or calling their veterinarians.
The ARL will host vaccine clinics this Wednesday and again on Wednesday, September 11, with respective follow-up booster clinics on September 11 and October 2. All clinic hours are from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m.
The cost of the initial vaccine and booster is $16 per dog. Dog owners interested in registering for a set of clinics can do so on the ARL's website.
The symptoms of parvo typically include loss of appetite; lethargy; vomiting; and severe diarrhea, which can sometimes be bloody, officials said. Dogs can also experience fever or low body temperature as well as abdominal pain and bloating. Death can occur within 48 hours after onset as dogs become dehydrated due to severe and persistent vomiting and diarrhea.
Any dog that experiences such symptoms should be seen by a veterinarian right away.
While there is no cure for parvo, officials said dogs can be treated with fluids, rest and medication to help stop nausea and diarrhea.