If you've followed the news this summer, RVers especially need to know how to protect their dog from Parvo during the current outbreak responsible for dozens of tragic pet deaths across the country.
That is the main topic of the week on this week's Episode 411 of the RV Podcast, along with RV news and your questions about the RV Lifestyle.
You can watch the Video Version of the Podcast on our RV Lifestyle YouTube Channel by clicking the player below:
If you prefer an audio-only version, it's available on all the major Podcast Apps or by clicking the player below:
What is Parvo and what is this current epidemic all about?
It's hard to imagine a more deadly disease that Canine Parvovirus, known as CPV or just Parvo. It is a highly contagious virus and spread from dog to dog by direct or indirect contact with their feces. Vaccines can prevent this infection, but mortality can reach 91% in untreated cases.
Parvo rapidly kills by attacking the gastrointestinal tract of puppies and dogs. A canine parvovirus infection causes severe dehydration, bloody vomiting, and diarrhea. Parvo in dogs also attacks the immune system, weakening the dog’s ability to fend off bacterial infections. Dogs infected with parvo often die from secondary pneumonia or other bacterial infections.
The current epidemic began, as best as can be determined, early in 2022. There are reports of a Parvo-like disease killing dogs in Europe going back to January.
The current outbreak got nationwide attention in the summer of 2022 from cases first reported in Northern Michigan. But similar cases have been reported in Texas, North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Florida, as well as other locations.
This outbreak has baffled many because early tests come back negative for Parvo.
Interview: How to Protect your Dog from Parvo
Our guest this week is Melissa Fitzgerald, the animal control officer for Otsego County, Michigan. Northern Michigan is the epicenter of the outbreak, where dozens of dogs have died under mysterious circumstances that, after much confusion, have now been liked to Parvo.
It was Melissa who first sounded the alarm about this epidemic, which has now been reported across the country and in Europe.
She is our special guest in this episode of the RV Podcast:
Well, Melissa Fitzgerald joins us now. Melissa, thank you so much for making some time for this really important story I think that people need to know. Let's start with what you have found up there in God's country, Northern Michigan, Otsego County. When did this start? How many animals are affected? And then let's take it from there and see how widespread this is.
So we received a couple of phone calls toward the end of June that their dogs were dying of parvo. When they would take them to a vet, they would test negative for Parvo. So the vet would treat them as they saw fit. And then, three to five days, the dog died. So we were able to get a couple of necropsies down to the MSU lab, and they were coming back as a positive for Parvo.
Even though they initially tested negative?
Negative. Correct. So we alerted the department of agriculture that we were seeing more and more cases. We received… Well, between us getting phone calls and the veterinarian's offices, there's been probably close to 30 plus cases in Otsego County.
Of dogs dying from this?
Of dogs dying from this. Testing negative yet, probably it was the Parvo virus. So the State of Michigan vet, the department of agriculture stepped in and started doing testing on the material that they had. They issued a press release yesterday that it is Parvo. And they're still looking to get more material, whether it's a fecal matter or whatever, from those that have tested negative and see what more they can figure out about it.
The first mystery is why these ill dogs are testing negative for Parvo and then when it comes back, it turns out it was. Were these dogs vaccinated or unvaccinated?
No. Not properly. And that's what they determined as well is not proper vaccination. A lot of people think they're recent for Parvo vaccination, it's a four or five way vaccination but some people believe that you can do as an individual that it's a one and done shot, and it's not. It's a series of vaccines normally given to puppies. And this is where we were seeing the under two year old dogs that were being affected by this.
What I think is so disturbing is how fast this seems to be spreading and that it's not just your area. What other areas? We've seen reports around the country like this.
We have. We've gotten calls since putting things out on Facebook and into the news. Wisconsin, South Carolina, Florida, Texas. So I mean, it is widespread. And I think that the key is proper vaccination.
Should you avoid dog parks?
Now what precautions should people make besides that? Because it is so incredibly easy to spread. We've seen some reports in a neighboring county to you where they said they wouldn't even let their dogs go outside. I don't know if that's a little over the top, but what advice would you give folks about this?
I would say, first of all, if you're traveling with your dog and you need to take a potty break, go off the beaten path a little bit. Not where hundreds of other dogs have been before you. Pick up after your dog. Clean up after your dog. Fecal matter is a huge spread of this. And dogs, of course, sniff it as they sniff everything. So pick up after your dogs. Make sure that they're on a leash and you can see what they're sniffing and where they're at and go off the beaten path a little bit for potty breaks.
For dog parks, what… And this is a tough question because so many people, — even we use dog parks all over the country for our dog. But I'm frankly not going to let him go to a dog park for a while. And he's been vaccinated. But still, I don't want to take the chance.
That's a fair statement because it can stay… Parvo stays in the soil and in the area for so long. I mean six months to eight years, I think. It takes a long time to clean up. So I was part of getting the dog park here up and running. And I hate to say that I won't probably take my dog to any dog park at this point.
Why is this Parvo epidemic so virulent?
Any idea why this is so widespread across the country? We've also heard reports here. Nashville, Tennessee, and Florida, everywhere. It seems to be known. Even in Europe, there are similar things. Any idea why this outbreak is so widespread and so virulent?
My opinion is what you're seeing now is a shortage of veterinarians. So it's hard to get into a veterinarian. And people are taking advantage that this vaccination can be given by themselves. However, they don't know how to properly handle it. So you go to a farm store, you pick up their vaccination. And it is meant to be kept at a certain temperature. And most people don't know that.
So they pick it up from the farm store. They take it. They put it in their car. Now we have warm environment in the car. They may stop at grandma's house. They may stop at a place to eat. Something like that. Now it's gotten warm. It's been over an hour. And basically you have a vial of liquid that is not going to be effective.
Proper Parvo vaccination is critical
So that's why some of the early reports, people thought their animals were vaccinated. But as you say, they weren't properly vaccinated. That's good to know. So somehow this has just gotten so out of control. And we're learning about the mystery part of this is that they tested weird. See other places where people have mistaken this for dog influenza and they first diagnosed it and treated animals that way.
There are probably hundreds of conditions that this could have been. So when it tests negative, the vet goes, “Well, okay. So it could be X, Y, and Z.” And so they treat as they see fit at that point, whether it's stress or HEG or… So it's… That's where the mystery had come in. And so we were seeing a whole lot of dogs.
So if I could just bottom line this, whatever it is, it's very widespread right now.
We're going to call it Parvo because the state says it is.
Vigilance and special Parvo precautions are needed
But because it is so widespread, so many animals have been affected. We would urge people to avoid dog parks, places where other animals have gone. Watch over your dogs. Keep them from that. Make sure they're vaccinated. And for those who travel, do some checking in the areas where you're going to know if it's prevalent.
Well, we all love our dogs and we love people like you who care for them. So thanks for getting the word out on this for so many people.
Well, I appreciate that. And thank you. It's that word of mouth and media tends to get stuck on one thing and take it and blow it up. And basically, what it comes down to is getting your dogs vaccinated properly.
Symptoms of Parvo
And it's not just Michigan that this has happening. I think that's the other point. Melissa Fitzgerald, you've been a great… I should ask one thing. If somebody's dog becomes ill, what are the symptoms that they should look for and know that they need to get immediate-
Right. At the very first sign of diarrhea, bloody stool, vomiting, or lethargy, get them to a vet. The earlier you get them there, the more success that could possibly be had.
All right. Well, I'm going to watch over my dog, Bo. And I'm sure others will be doing the same.
Melissa Fitzgerald, thank you. And we'll check back again.
Yes, please do. Please do.
Are you in planning mode now?
Mike and Jennifer's Favorite Places in Florida – all 3 ebooks!
We RVers may wander far and wide but it’s true for most of us that we end up with some favorite “Go-To” places – places that draw us back again and again.
Florida is one of those places for us. And we know it is for many RVers looking to get away and explore during the winter.
That's why we've created three guides, covering Florida's Atlantic Coast, the Gulf Coast, and the Keys.
Each of these guides is a seven-day guided exploration of one of the coasts. And each stop is a curated view of the best things that we’ve enjoyed on this trip and want you to experience.
Altogether these guides are over 300 pages of content!
FAQ's about Florida Gulf Coast beaches of interest to RVers
What is the weather like along Florida's Gulf Coast?
The weather along Florida's Gulf Coast can vary depending on the time of year and the specific location. In general, the area experiences hot, humid summers and mild, pleasant winters.
The Panhandle region can be quite cool in January. It is seldom below freezing, but daytime highs are typically in the 50s. It warms up about 10 degrees each month.
You can also generally add about 10 degrees for every 150 miles you travel south down the Florida peninsula.
By the time you hit Naples, daytime highs in January are in the comfortable 70s.
Are there any websites that can help me get a reservation for a Florida beach campground?
One of the best resources we can recommend is called Campnab. This service monitors parks for cancelations and sends you an alert when an opening matches your criteria. That said, it isn’t magic. The app doesn’t create availabilities.
The service works – but it is not free.
Campnab offers two ways to use the service. The first is individual pay-per-use scans. These watch for vacancies at a specific park for a specific date. These work well if you know exactly when and where you intend to camp. Pay-per-use scans cost $10 – $20, depending on how frequently you want them to check availability.
The second way to use the service is through a membership. These typically run monthly and are tailored to those who camp more frequently or are looking to maximize their chance of finding a site. Membership allows you to scan multiple parks and/or dates simultaneously. With memberships, you pay a monthly recurring fee ($10, $20, $30, or $50), depending on your needs.
Are there places in Florida where you can literally camp on the beach for free?
Not many. And they are very pricey. If you want to sleep directly on the sand in an RV, you'll have to stay at a developed commercial campground like Camp Gulf on the Emerald Coast or an RV resort like Big Pine Key Resort in the keys. Some state parks like the Gamble Rogers State Memorial Recreation Area in the Atlantic Coast or Bahia Honda State Park in the keys or Fort Desto State Park near St. Petersburg have beachside sites, too.
But are there free, unrestricted RV beach camping spots in Florida?
Sorry, none that I know of that would work for RVs.
There is unrestricted camping on wild beaches on a couple of islands, but you need a boat to get there, and it is for tent camping only. If you want to sleep directly on the sand, there is Anclote Key offshore Tarpon Springs, and Shell Key in Pinellas County. Another favorite is Keewaydin Island between Naples and Marco Island but that area remains pretty devasted from Hurricane Ian.
Did Hurricane Ian destroy many beach campgrounds on the Gulf Coast?
While it severely damaged almost two dozen RV parks and campgrounds, about 8-10 campgrounds in the Naples-Ft. Myers area were completely destroyed. Most of the damaged campgrounds have been repaired and reopened.
Check with the Florida Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds if you have questions or concerns.
Explore Arizona with our RV Adventure Guide
We start our Arizona adventure guide at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, then move west in a slow semi-circle to hit all of the highlights, including Sedona, Lake Havasu, Quartzsite, Kofa National Wildlife Refuge, Apache Junction, and Saguaro National Forest.
Throughout this guide, we explore incredible rocky vistas, historical and mystical sites, inspiring scenic byways, charming Southwest towns, national and state parks galore with wonderful wildlife. No matter what your interests are, you are sure to find something to awe and inspire you in Arizona.