PALM DESERT, Calif. -- -

Animal experts say it is peak season for Parvovirus, a deadly and contagious virus mainly affecting dogs.

Pet owners Zach Jansma and fiancee Katie Anderson were surprised when their typically rambunctious puppy Leia, name inspired by the Star Wars Trilogy, was acting lethargic.

"She wasn't eating, she was sleeping all day, she was vomiting clear," Anderson explained.

Zach said they did research and got her to a vet within 24 hours. "It's not necessarily the Parvo that's the problem," he says, "it's the dehydration that gets them in the process."

Veterinarians told the couple they had two options: 24-hour care at the pet hospital with a 90% chance of survival, or a less expensive at-home care regimen with IV drips at a 50% survival rate.

"That's hard when you're two, twenty-something year olds and you can't afford to leave your dog at the hospital," said Anderson, "So we opted for the at-home treatment and prayed that she survived."

She did. Other dogs aren't so lucky.

Parvo is easily contracted through saliva or pet waste, with a 91% mortality rate.

Tom Snyder with Animal Samaritans says it's common for dogs to get the virus this time of year.

"Right now in April and May, it seems to be peak season for the virus," Snyder explains, "As the temperatures are warming up from the winter, the cooler nights... the dormant virus, if it's been dormant in the ground, it can remains dormant for years in the right conditions, it's becoming activated."

Pet owners, be careful where you step. You don't want to drag the virus into your home. Dogs can also get it through sniffing waste or grabbing shared tennis balls, for example.

Perhaps most important, keep track of your pet's vaccinations.

"It's a three-shot series," says Snyder. "You get the first at 8-10 weeks, then four weeks later a second, then another four weeks after that a third. You need all three shots to be effective against the Parvovirus."

"We were unaware so we were taking her to the dog park, coffee shop, on long walks, around other dogs," says Anderson, "so we have no idea how she got it or anything like that."
     
For more information on the Parvovirus, contact Animal Samaritans at 760-601-3918, or visit animalsamaritans.org.

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