Several East Tennessee veterinary hospitals and clinics are reporting a spike in canine Parvovirus.
The virus infects dogs' gastrointestinal system and, if left untreated, can be deadly.
“Ordinarily, we would see one or two a month. And we've seen ten a month now," said veterinary medical technician Mary Hatfield, who works at the Union County Animal Hospital.
Parvo is particularly resilient, withstanding both hot and warm temperatures. The virus can live in the environment for seven years.
Usually Parvo is more common during summer months, but experts say pets have been more social in the unusually warm weather East Tennessee experienced this fall.
"The weather is warmer, so people are taking their dogs out, they're playing outside more, they're going to dog parks,” said Jen Armstrong, director of shelter medicine at Young-Williams Animal Center. “They're just coming in contact with the virus more than they would in colder months.”
10News called five different veterinarian hospitals and clinics throughout East Tennessee, from Scott County to Union County and Knoxville. Four of those five confirmed seeing a spike in Parvo cases.
The Highland Vet Hospital in Oneida is seeing 30 percent more Parvo cases than usual this fall. Two other clinics in Knoxville have seen a hike too, but the increase only seems to be occurring in pockets: UT's Veterinary Medical Center has not noticed an increase at all.
Young-Williams Animal Center has not seen a hike in Parvo cases so far. The shelter vaccinates every animal at the door.
But populated shelters are especially vulnerable. In May of last year, the Campbell County Animal Shelter voted to close its doors for two weeks after enduring 10 rounds of Parvo outbreaks.
"Shutting down for the while is not the worst case scenario. We've had to shut our doors before also, just because we want to halt the movement (of the virus),” Armstrong said.
Doctors are urging owners to regularly vaccinate. Though vaccinations are not 100 percent effective, veterinary technicians maintain they are the best preventative method available.
"It’s very frustrating for us in the veterinary field when we know there's a way to keep them from getting it," Hatfield said.
Parvo is incurable and highly contagious, but it is treatable.
Doctors say treatment after an infection is usually successful, but it can cost up to $500. Vaccinating early, on the other hand, can cost between $35 to $50.
(© 2016 WBIR)