It’s a Facebook-fed fear – about a favorite household pet. People across Western New York took to social media in recent weeks to report what they said were dog poisonings.
“I honestly think there’s somebody with a mental condition who’s targeting these dogs,” one pet owner told The Buffalo News.
But experts in animal care – including those who treat canines – had a different diagnosis.
They said people can be misreading signs of other serious illness in their pets.
And, what was believed to be poisoning can actually be a nasty dog virus that turn fatal – called parvovirus.
Make no mistake: Poisonings of local dogs can happen, and actually have, one local veterinary worker said.
But they are so rare as to be wholly unlikely.
“What you’re talking about is someone intentionally poisoning someone else’s dog – that’s very unusual,” said Stacy Barr at the Orchard Park Veterinary Medical Center.
“That just doesn’t happen.”
The phenomenon appears to have started back in mid-July, when an allegation surfaced on Facebook about a pitbull in the Willow Ridge area in Amherst being poisoned.
In the wake of that claim, other people chimed in on social media to say that their dogs had been poisoned, too.
Some even went so far as to say the dogs that were dying were Rottweilers located in Lovejoy.
One woman who lives in Lovejoy is convinced of what happened to her.
Lisa Marie Jordan said she believes poison is what killed her Rottweiler, Kalli, just a few days ago.
On a summer morning, Jordan’s son let the dog out, and upon returning, Kalli was lethargic, uneating and eventually retching. The vomit turned to bile, and eventually the bile to blood.
“It just totally came on and ravaged him,” she said.
By the time the Jordans were able to bring Kalli to the vet, it was too late. Kalli was put down Saturday morning.
The owner said neither she, nor her son, saw anyone or any evidence of the poison, but they’re convinced it was an intentional murder.
But dogs are more likely dying from the parvovirus – “parvo” – than by poison, according to the SPCA Serving Erie County.
Some dog breeds like Rottweilers and pit bulls are more susceptible to this illness than others, SPCA officials said.
Lovejoy is one of the neighborhoods with the highest rates of parvo infection in the area, according to the SPCA.
“If you have an unvaccinated dog or a puppy, my first thing would lead to parvo,” said Debby Williams, veterinary services manager at the SPCA. “Automatically people think it’s poison, ‘cause they don’t know.”
Consider the symptoms of parvo and poison.
Parvovirus is a highly contagious disease that is incurable and fatal. It attacks the dog’s immune and digestive systems – causing lethargy, vomiting, loss of appetite and bloody diarrhea in the animal.
Many of these symptoms are similar to those of poison.
The virus is transmitted by anything that comes in contact with an infected dog’s feces. It can live in extreme temperatures and survive for long periods of time – up to a year.
In the Buffalo region, places that have higher amounts of parvo include Lovejoy, Kenmore, Black Rock and the East Side, said the SPCA manager.
Vaccination remains a way to prevent the disease.
“If we vaccinate one animal, we’re possibly stopping other dogs from getting it,” said Williams, at the SPCA.
Pet owners looking to vaccinate their dogs against parvovirus are invited to free parvo vaccination sessions that will be offered over the next few months.
The sessions are open to dogs on leashes eight weeks old and older.
The SPCA clinics will be held 1 to 3 p.m. Aug. 13, Sept. 10 and Oct. 1 from at the West Side Community Center, 161 Vermont St.