PITTSFIELD -- The city's animal shelter is temporarily off limits to the public to keep at bay a potentially deadly disease in dogs.
The Eleanor Sonsini Animal Shelter enacted the two-week closure until Oct. 13 after a very sick, stray dog arrived at the facility on Saturday, later diagnosed with the canine parvovirus, according to shelter officials.
During the shutdown, the shelter will continue to accept dogs, but only those brought in by the Pittsfield Animal Control officer.
Shelter Director Laurie Vilord says the boxer mix is responding well to treatment and is recovering under quarantine at the shelter.
"We named him Noah because he's made a biblical comeback," she said.
PHOTO GALLERY | Sonsini Animal Shelter temporarily closed to public
Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious illness to dogs -- not humans -- spread through direct or indirect contact with canine feces. No other cases have been reported in Pittsfield.
"The disease is problematic if a dog is found in or near a park where other dogs have been," Vilord said.
Vilord said the boxer mix was brought to the shelter by a citizen who found the 18-month-old dog in Springside Park. She says the animal never came in contact with other dogs at the shelter because it was immediately taken to Animal ER of the Berkshires. There, the dog tested positive for the canine parvovirus and given antibiotics to fight the disease.
The dog was returned to the shelter Monday afternoon because it operates as Pittsfield's municipal animal shelter.
Local veterinarians say symptoms of canine parvovirus include vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, bloody feces and dehydration.
"The big problem is it hits the gastrointestinal tract really hard," said Dr. Andrew Breslin of South Street Veterinary Service. "It also affects the white cell count and the dog's ability to fight off illness."
Breslin noted the disease is most prevalent in dogs up to two years of age, but it is easily prevented through regular vaccination from the puppy stage through adulthood.
The discovery of canine parvovirus in Pittsfield is the second time this year the disease has been detected in the Berkshires.
In June, state officials warned of an outbreak in North County, as well as Worcester County, which involved dozens of dogs, several of which had to be euthanized, according to the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources' Division of Animal Health.
At the Berkshire Humane Society shelter, the canine parvovirus currently isn't a problem as all dogs arriving or leaving the Barker Road facility must be vaccinated.
"We're always monitoring the parvovirus and our building was designed 10 years ago to help prevent the spread of disease among the animals," said Executive Director John Perrault.
During the Sonsini shelter shutdown, Perrault said, the Berkshire Humane Society is prepared to help out those city dog owners who need to surrender their pet provided they call ahead.
About the disease ...
The discovery of canine parvovirus in Pittsfield has prompted local animal shelters and veterinarians to offer the following information about the potentially deadly disease:
• The highly contagious virus is spread among dogs through direct or indirect contact with canine feces; it isn't an airborne illness and doesn't affect humans.
• Vomiting, diarrhea, dehydration, fever and weakness are among the symptoms; dogs exhibiting signs of virus should be immediately treated at a veterinary service or hospital.
• If properly vaccinated starting at six weeks of age, dogs build up immunity to the illness minimizing the risk of contracting the virus.
• A dog being treated for the virus should be quarantined until it has fully recovered.
To reach Dick Lindsay:
or (413) 496-6233