OSU Researching Deadly Canine Virus

Wednesday, March 18th 2009, 10:25 pm
By: News On 6

By Ashli Sims, The News On 6

STILLWATER, OK -- Oklahoma State University's research into that deadly puppy virus is leading the nation.

Canine parvovirus is worrying pet owners after Oprah Winfrey's new cocker spaniel died over the weekend from the disease.

Oprah Winfrey showed off her new puppy, Sadie, shortly after she was adopted from a Chicago shelter. The pooch is seriously ill with canine parvovirus. Sadie's littermate, Ivan, who Oprah also adopted, has already died from the disease.

"It is the No. 1 significant virus of dogs," said Dr. Sanjay Kapil, professor of clinical biology.

Kapil, who works for OSU's Oklahoma Animal Disease Diagnostic Lab, says canine parvovirus usually affects puppies and is spread from dog to dog through contact with their feces. It causes severe vomiting and bloody diarrhea.

OSU has been researching parvo since 2006.

"And what we noticed is that we were receiving samples of dead puppies in large numbers," Kapil said.

Kapil says his research began with an adult dog that had been vaccinated against parvo but still died from the disease.

He says his team has looked at 180 cases and was among the first researchers to document the presence of a new strain of the virus in the U.S.

News of a new, possibly vaccine-resistant form of parvo caused quite a stir among pet owners, and now Oprah's loss is sure to reignite the debate over the disease.

Kapil says more research needs to be done, but he insists vaccinations are the best way to protect puppies like Sadie.

"All dogs need to receive the vaccine for canine parvovirus," he said.

Get updates to Ashli's latest stories through Twitter. Click here to follow her.