Oprah's Puppy Dies, Brings Awareness to Virus

Wednesday, March 18th 2009, 8:31 pm
By: News 9

By Jon Jordan, NEWS 9

STILLWATER, Oklahoma -- Over the weekend one of Oprah Winfrey's new puppies died, and another is sick after contracting a rare form of the canine Parvo Virus.

Researchers at Oklahoma State University were the first to discover the rare strain as it first hit the United States.

While the mutated form appears to be very similar to the original, those in the animal community have concerns with the new strain. In some instances, doctors said vaccines are defenseless.

When Oprah Winfrey introduced her new puppy Sadie to the world, no one thought two weeks later Sadie would become sick and another one would die.

Oprah's got her puppies from an animal shelter. They had contracted the Parvo Virus, a contagious and serious disease most common in puppies.

It causes vomiting, bloody stool and in some cases death.

"It is the number one significant virus of dogs," Dr. Sanjay Kapil said.

Dr. Sanjay Kapil was on the job only a few weeks at Oklahoma's Animals Disease Diagnostic Laboratory at OSU, when he and his researchers discovered the mutated virus in the United States.

At the time, the virus was only seen in Italy.

This time the virus killed an adult dog and not a puppy.

"Parvo Virus is usually seen in puppies less than a three months and this dog was two and half years old, since then we've had about a dozen dogs over one year of age," Dr. Kapil said.

Despite his team's discovery, many in his field were skeptical until more and more cases surfaced. Since then, their discovery of the virus in the U.S. has only been the beginning.

"Not only were we right about the new geno type we had described, there are increasing mutations and we know those mutations are increasing with the evolution of canine Parvo Virus," Dr. Kapil said.

Even though vaccines have proven not to work in all cases of the new strain, Dr. Kapil said the best way to protect a dog is to get it vaccinated. 

Since Doctor Kapil's research team discovered the new strain in 2006, they have already seen another version of the virus.