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Posted on: March 26, 2021

Health Officials Urge Pet Owners to Keep Animals Vaccinated, Pick Up Pet Waste

woman placing bagged dog waste in trash

With the arrival of spring, City-County health officials remind pet owners to pick up dog waste and make sure their pets are vaccinated against rabies, parvovirus and other diseases that can harm animals and people.

It is essential to vaccinate pets to protect them, other dogs and people from infectious disease. Unvaccinated dogs should not enter dog parks or other public places where dogs frequent, as they are susceptible to parvovirus, which is ubiquitous in the urban environment and transmitted via contact with an infected dog or dog feces. Parvovirus causes an infectious gastrointestinal illness in dogs, and without treatment, it is potentially deadly. An infected dog can begin shedding the virus four to five days after exposure, often before the dog starts exhibiting any clinical signs of infection.

"If a dog has not completed its full vaccination schedule, is under four months of age or is ill, it should not enter a dog park or any place where dogs congregate," said Animal Control Director Jeff Darrah. "Dog park users can help prevent the spread of many infectious diseases by vaccinating their pets and picking up their pet's waste."

Symptoms of canine parvovirus infection can include severe vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and loss of appetite. Dogs who exhibit these symptoms should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

"Parvo can be deadly to puppies and unvaccinated adult dogs,” Darrah said. “Dogs should complete the vaccine series before entering public spaces, and for most puppies, that should be at 16 weeks. The American Veterinary Medical Association advises against taking a young, unvaccinated dog into any public situation."

To further protect against parvovirus, "Do not let your puppy or adult dog come into contact with the fecal waste of other dogs while walking or playing outdoors. Prompt and proper disposal of waste material is always advisable as a way to limit the spread of canine parvovirus infection as well as other diseases that can infect humans and animals," the American Veterinary Medical Association website states.

The Missoula City-County Health Department also urges pet owners to pick up their dog waste to not only help protect animals but also protect Missoula’s water quality. Pet waste is one of the many contributors to stormwater pollution that can degrade water quality. During rainfall, dog waste and the pathogens it contains (nutrients, bacteria, parasites and viruses) end up flowing directly into local rivers and streams, where they can harm human health and the environment. Experts estimate that a single gram of dog waste can contain 23 million fecal coliform bacteria, which can cause cramps, diarrhea, intestinal illness and serious kidney disorders in humans.

Picking up after pets is a simple way to help keep bacteria out of the local waterways and will maintain cleanliness in Missoula’s neighborhoods and backyards. Stormwater and water quality information are available online on the Missoula Valley Water Quality District’s stormwater informational page.

It is required by law that all pets in Missoula County are licensed. Citations for not having a dog licensed carry a fine of up to $95. Licensing dogs is a helpful tool for pet owners and the Missoula community. If pets go missing the license helps get them home, and licenses also ensure pets are vaccinated for rabies, which helps protect humans and animals. Missoula City-County Animal Control’s website is a great resource for pet owners on how to protect their pets.

Low-cost satellite vaccination clinics will be available Wednesday, May 5, in Seeley Lake at the county satellite office, Wednesday, June 2, in Frenchtown and Wednesday, Sept. 1, in Clinton. Clinic locations have yet to be determined for Frenchtown and Clinton. Rabies vaccination is $13 (a dog license is required, if the dog is altered a license is $20). For additional information about the satellite clinics, contact Missoula City-County Animal Control at 406-541-7387 or aminalcontrol@missoulacounty.us.

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