LEWISTON — An outbreak of parvovirus in the community has convinced the Greater Androscoggin Humane Society to close its Strawberry Avenue dog park for at least a week.

Local veterinarians contacted the society and reported that the canine stomach virus has been reported in several dogs, according to Zachary Black, operations manager.

Black said the virus had not been noted in the dogs at the society’s Strawberry Avenue shelter. Shelter dogs are not allowed to use the dog park, he said.

“It really comes down to the safety of the community,” Black said. “We are assuming that this is a place where dogs can get it. Numerous dogs have broken out with parvovirus, and if they go to the dog park, there is a chance that others can pick it up.”

Parvovirus is an abdominal infection that leads to diarrhea, bloody stool, vomiting and abdominal pain. Treatment involves a lengthy stay in an animal hospital.

“The big thing is if people are seeing symptoms in their dogs, they should get their dog checked,” Black said. “We don’t want to panic people, and most people are on top of it. But there are many out there who have dogs that are not up to date on their vaccinations. We urge them to check with their vet about their vaccinations and get the dog in if they see symptoms. It can be life-threatening.”

The disease is spread through contact with infected feces. Dog owners can spread the disease to their pets by accidentally stepping in dog doo and tracking it into their houses.

Black said the dog park will remain closed while it is disinfected.

“We want to sanitize the gazebo, sanitize what’s in the park and give people a break from that area so we can see if any more dogs are going to break out with parvovirus,” Black said.

Michele Walsh, Maine state veterinarian, said she was not aware of an outbreak of the disease in the state. She said her department had not received reports of an outbreak in Lewiston-Auburn or Androscoggin County.

Dr. Stephen Kinney of the Auburn Animal Center said he had seen 15 dogs in the past month that have been infected with the virus. Most infected dogs were younger than 20 weeks and had not had their full vaccinations. It’s led to some tragic choices for owners faced with having to euthanize their new puppies or pay $1,000 veterinarian bills to treat them.

“We now have more places where dogs can congregate,” Kinney said. “People take unvaccinated dogs into places like a dog park and they can easily pick up parvo. Most of the cases we see involve younger people who have pets and they are just not familiar with the vaccines and what needs to happen.”

[email protected]

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.