Officials Warn Virus Could Sicken, Kill Dogs

Canine parvovirus symptoms can include fever, lethargy or vomiting

— -- Health officials are warning dog owners to be on the lookout for a deadly canine virus that could sicken or kill their pets.

Dozens of dogs have been killed by the canine parvovirus in New Jersey, according to ABC News affiliate WPVI-TV in Philadelphia.

The American Veterinary Medical Association says the virus is highly contagious and can affect all dogs, although puppies and unvaccinated pets are most at risk.

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The virus affects a dog's gastrointestinal tract and symptoms can include lethargy, loss of appetite, fever, vomiting and bloody diarrhea.

The virus is spread though dog-to-dog contact or from contaminated surfaces or items.

Trenton Health Officer Jim Brownlee told WPVI-TV that the virus can spread extremely easily in puppies.

"It's not easy to clean up, it's not easy to pick up and so you're stepping in it, animals are stepping in it and that is exactly the way it's transmitted," Brownlee told WPVI-TV.

In worst-case scnearios some dogs have been so sick, that owners have reportedly asked that the animals be euthanized.

"They end up signing their dog over to us as a release and because the dog is very sick we end up having to euthanize the animal," Elaine Thaxton, manager of the Trenton Animal Shelter, told WPVI-TV.

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