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Mysterious illness afflicting some dogs in Jonesboro area

By Aisha I. Jefferson

Jonesboro resident Anthony Adams didn't know what to think when his 14-week-old Akita, Yogi, began vomiting last week.

Adams said he became more alarmed when he noticed Yogi was not eating, had diarrhea and was lethargic in incoherent.

"His stool had blood in it, and that's when we took him to the vet," said Adams, who took Yogi to the Atlanta Humane Society's veterinary clinic, where the dog stayed for three days. He said Yogi's initially showed symptoms over a three-day period.

Adams said he also learned that other dogs Yogi had contact with began to show similar symptoms. Adams' neighbor's 6-month-old pitbull was one of those dogs, he said. It died three days after first getting sick.

"I know it isn't poison," Adams said confidently. "I live here in (an apartment complex); if it were poison, it wouldn't be spreading like this."

Adams said the veterinarian gave Yogi antibiotics and tested him for the parvovirus, which turned out to be negative.

"He was a whole lot better (after his veterinary visit)," Adams said.

But Adams said he still does not know what caused his dog to go to the veterinarian in the first place.

Gloria Dorsey, the veterinarian who saw Yogi, cited medical record confidentiality as a reason why she could not comment on the case, but did say, "many times diseases that have diarrhea are similar to parvo."

Canine parvovirus is a contagious viral disease that attacks the lining of the digestive system and causes infected dogs not to be able to absorb nutrients or liquids. The virus affects puppies more frequently than adult dogs and can be terminal.

While Yogi tested negative for parvovirus, Darin Alston, a veterinarian with AVS Animal Hospital in Jonesboro, said parvovirus should not be ruled out.

"We are seeing a new strain of parvo," Alston said, explaining the parvovirus, like any other virus, can mutate.

Whether or not a parvovirus test will pick up on a particular strain of the disease depends on its manufacturer, he said.

"In most cases, the test is going to test one or two of the popular parvo strains that are out," Alston said, admitting, "Clayton County does seem to have a pretty high level of parvovirus."

Alston said dogs normally receive their first parvovirus vaccination between 6 and 8 weeks of age.

A number of veterinarians in Clayton and Henry counties who were contacted said they have not seen cases like Yogi's.

"We haven't seen any (dogs) with those symptoms that didn't actually have parvo," said veterinarian Krista Whitlock with Henry County Animal/Veterinary Hospital in McDonough.

Alston also pointed to the coronavirus, which is similar to parvovirus, as another possible culprit.