FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) — This year’s strain of parvovirus (parvo) is being called “particularly deadly” by Lauderdale County officials.

Cheryl Jones, Director of Florence-Lauderdale Animal Services told News 19 that there are always numerous strains of the virus that spread, much like the flu, each year.

There is one group of animals that tends to be more at risk than others, according to Jones.

“Normally the most vulnerable population is puppies because they have immature immune systems and in this area because too many owners don’t vaccinate their puppies against it.”

Parvo, known in medical terminology as canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV), is highly contagious and spreads easily. It attacks the gastrointestinal tract as well as the immune system of puppies and dogs, especially those under four months old.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AMVA), parvo is spread by “direct dog-to-dog contact and contact with contaminated feces (stool), environments, or people.”

Experts say the particles can “remain infectious outside of the body for approximately five months,” depending on a number of factors, and is “resistant to heat, cold, humidity, and drying.”

Some of the signs to watch for include lethargy and being more tired than usual, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and bloating, fever or low body temperature, vomiting and severe diarrhea that’s often bloody.

If your pet is showing any of those signs, the AMVA urges you to contact your vet immediately.

Jones said the unfortunate fact of the matter is that owners often wait too long to get their young dogs treated.

“This can be because they don’t realize how quickly it can kill and how deadly it is [if left] untreated,” Jones said, adding that a weekend stay at an emergency vet can run upwards of $1,000.

Most deaths from parvo happen between 48 to 72 hours after symptoms start.

Experts say simple hygiene and regular vaccinations are critical to prevent the virus from affecting your pets.

You can learn more about parvo, its symptoms, how to get a diagnosis as well as treatment plans here.

For pet owners in the Shoals area, you can contact Florence-Lauderdale Animal Services by visiting their website here, their Facebook page here, or by giving them a call at (256) 760-6676.