Veterinarians concerned about possible increase in parvovirus due to Rainbow Gathering |

Veterinarians concerned about possible increase in parvovirus due to Rainbow Gathering

A sign welcoming members of the Rainbow Family of Living Life hangs off of a forest service road marking near Adams Park Friday June 17, 2022.
John F. Russell /Steamboat Pilot & Today

Local veterinarians are cautioning area dog owners who might plan to visit the Rainbow Gathering in northern Routt County to leave a puppy, immune-compromised dog or canine not up-to-date on vaccinations safely at home.

Veterinarian Susan Colfer at Pet Kare Clinic in Steamboat Springs said based on the previous local Rainbow Gathering in 2006, spread of canine parvovirus is a concern due to the increased amount of potentially unvaccinated dogs visiting the Yampa Valley through the busy Fourth of July holidays. Parvovirus is extremely contagious and can be deadly for dogs that do not receive extensive supportive care such as IV fluids.

“We definitely did see dogs with parvo from the Rainbow Gathering” in 2006, Colfer said. “People brought their dogs to the Rainbow Gathering, and the dogs were unvaccinated. If the dog is not vaccinated, they are at extreme risk for getting parvo.”

Parvo is an environmental pathogen transferred by a fecal-oral cycle that is so infectious that even after parvo-infected dog poop is washed away by rain or snow, the virus can remain in the soil, local veterinarians explained. Then dogs may sniff the smell on the soil, lick their nose and transfer the virus to themselves. Colfer added that the normal butt-sniffing canine greeting routine may also pass the virus from an infected dog.

“I am definitely concerned because parvo can be very expensive to treat. If it’s not treated, it’s fatal most of the time. Puppies die from dehydration,” Colfer said.

Both Colfer and veterinarian Fane Cross at the Wellness Clinic of the Routt County Humane Society advised pet owners to always keep compromised dogs away from other dogs with an unknown vaccination status.

“Unless your dog is fully vaccinated, I would avoid having your dog interact with another dog whose vaccine status you don’t know,” Colfer said.

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After the Rainbow Gathering in 2006, Pet Kare Clinic treated five puppies with parvo after the dogs had been to the gathering. A staff vet also spent three 20-hour days during the July Fourth holiday in 2006 treating a significant increase in sick or injured dogs. Issues included dog bites to other dogs, lacerations, porcupine quillings, and diarrhea and vomiting from dietary indiscretions, Colfer said.

The 50th anniversary Rainbow Gathering in Adams Park is predicted to attract 10,000 campers from across the country. U.S. Forest Service officials estimate attendance as of Thursday, June 30, was 4,`100 campers, which could translate to hundreds of canine companions. Although many dogs were on leash with Rainbow owners during a visit to the site on June 17, the Forest Service does not require dogs to be on leash in the National Forest except in developed areas such as official campgrounds.

Elaine Hicks, Routt County Humane Society executive director, said local animal control officers needed to confiscate three or four dogs following the 2006 Rainbow Gathering because the owners were arrested.

The vaccination routine for canine parvo is a two-course combination vaccination by age five months, followed by a booster in one year, and a booster three years after that, Colfer said. Adult dogs that are healthy and up-to-date on vaccinations should be well-protected via the very effective parvo inoculation, the longtime veterinarian explained.

“I would definitely recommend that everybody keep their pets up-to-date on their vaccines. Puppies especially need to be protected from other dogs that we do know their vaccination status and protect them from eating and being exposed to soils that could be contaminated,” Colfer advised.

The humane society leadership in both Routt and Moffat counties say they have canine quarantine spaces at the ready just in case.

“Hopefully we are all overprepared for everything,” said veterinarian Kelly Hepworth at Bear Creek Animal Hospital in Craig.

The next monthly low-cost vaccination clinic hosted by the Routt County Humane Society will be noon-2 p.m., July 9. The Humane Society of Moffat County has limited funding for discounted vaccinations upon request.

For more information on canine parvovirus, Pet Kare Clinic has extensive information available through the Online Medical Database on the clinic’s webpage at

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