Veterinarians warn dog owners of deadly virus

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (CBS) Debbie Riggs goes to a South Bend, Indiana, dog park with her three fur children twice a day. The oldest is 16-year-old Cammy. Riggs says she has a secret to keeping her dogs healthy.

"Regular vaccinations and the older one gets an older dog checkup, and they check the liver and kidneys and all that," Riggs said.

Veterinarians say that's the way to do it, but not everyone is getting the message. Dr. Rick Nelson says his office has seen an increase in cases of parvovirus and it can be hard on the staff.

"Can you imagine that puppy and how sad that is looking into that puppy's eyes and knowing that puppy may not go home?" Nelson said.

Parvo is highly contagious. Staff members even clean their shoes to prevent spreading the disease. The virus can be spread by almost any object, meaning keeping your dogs at home doesn't protect them.

"A lot of people take that strategy that they're just not going to let their dog be exposed and that'll avoid the problem. Unfortunately, it doesn't because the virus will find them," Nelson said.

But the good news is that it is preventable. A vaccine is available. So playing with other dogs at the dog park is safe, as long as vaccinations are up to date. Riggs says that is why she will keep bringing her children back.

"My dogs get exercise," she said. "They go right home, and they go to sleep."