FORT SILL, Okla. Aug. 27, 2015 -- Some new residents in the Lawton-Fort Sill community are expressing concerns about a supposed increase in the Parvo (Parvovirus) in puppies.

However, according to Capt. Auvian Williams, Fort Sill Veterinary Branch officer in charge, the post does not have a Parvo epidemic.

"Vaccination is the key to helping stop Parvo," Williams said.

A highly contagious viral disease, Parvo can produce life-threatening illness in unvaccinated dogs. Parvo-infected puppies suffer severe vomiting, loss of appetite and severe diarrhea that can lead to dehydration and death.

Williams said only the rabies vaccination is required by law.

"We can't make owners get the Parvo or other vaccines, besides rabies, for their pets," she said. "But, they make the conscious decision to become a pet owner. If your puppy does come down with Parvo or another disease such as distemper, it will cost you more. Be a responsible pet owner."

Dr. Brannon Jackson, a Lawton veterinarian with 15 years experience, said he has not noticed an increase in Parvo cases in his practice, but he said the Lawton community has a higher Parvo average in general.

"It goes in cycles," Jackson said. "We had five puppies with the virus at one time, then we won't see any for a few weeks, then we'll have a couple of more. I began at a large practice in Dallas, and we would see three cases a year."

Jackson suggests a community like Lawton that has a heavy transient population with military families moving in and out might push the Parvo average up.

"When families move into rent houses, apartments or post housing, they don't know what was there before," he said. "The Parvo virus can live in the soil for 10 years. It's vitally important to get that puppy vaccinated as soon as possible."

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Parvo virus can also live on hands, instruments, clothing, food and water dishes, toys and bedding. Outdoor areas frequented by dogs are Parvo hotspots. Both doctors emphasized that picking up after your dog is another very important prevention method.

Williams agrees starting the vaccinations and booster shots at the 8-week mark is the key.

"We advise pet owners to start at eight weeks and then get two booster shots every three weeks after that, up to sixteen weeks" she said. "The key is to build up the puppy's immunity to the virus. Then, they will need a booster as the dog turns 1 year-old and then it's every one to three years."

Williams related a case of a family that lost two puppies in quick succession.

"One puppy died of Parvo and they quickly went out and got another puppy for their daughter," Williams recalled. "That puppy died soon after being brought into the home. It was sad because both deaths could have been prevented with the vaccination."

The veterinarians agreed that a vaccinated puppy is almost guaranteed not to get Parvo.

"In my experience, I know of about two cases of dogs that have died from Parvo after having only the first vaccination," said Jackson. "For dogs that have had the first three vaccinations, there are no numbers for that because there haven't been any recorded Parvo deaths that I know of."

Williams said she knows of one confirmed Parvo death during her time at Fort Sill.

"That was an unvaccinated puppy. We have other cases of puppies showing Parvo-like symptoms and those were also unvaccinated," she said.

The Fort Sill Veterinarian Branch offers the Parvo vaccination for $35 for the first exam, plus $15 for the vaccination. The next two visits are $15 for the exam and $15 for the boosters. Active-duty personnel, retirees and their immediate families are eligible to use the facility.

For more information or to make an appointment, call the Fort Sill Veterinarian Branch at 580-442-3416.