THE Animal Anti Cruelty League (AACL) has issued a warning to all pet owners after a huge increase in the number of cases of the contagious and potentially fatal canine virus, parvo.
Although the outbreak has been rife in the northern areas, AACL general manager Michelle Boonzaier said all pet owners should be vigilant.
She said the centre based in Cleary Park has seen about 70 cases since the end of September.
Boonzaier warns that with this virus “time is not on your side”.
“It is heartbreaking to see these sick animals. People often wait for days before they take their animal in to see a vet,” she said.
If you suspect your animal could have parvo, take it to a vet immediately.”
The virus most commonly causes gastroenteritis or inflammation of the stomach and intestines. It can survive for about 12 months in the environment and is also resistant to most disinfectants, said Boonzaier.
Symptoms of the virus vary but include some or all of the following: bloody or foul-smelling diarrhoea, vomiting, loss of appetite, high fever, extreme lethargy, depression or dehydration.
Boonzaier said it is caught through direct or indirect contact with the animal and its stool.
“Your animal may not leave your property but you do and it is transmissible via your shoes, hands and even car tyres. Environmental contamination is more important than contact with an infected dog. The parvovirus is specific to dogs alone and cannot be transmitted to humans or other pets of a different species.”
The virus affects unvaccinated puppies and young dogs and one vaccination is not sufficient to protect your animal, she said.
Dogs need three initial vaccinations and can start from six weeks and then continue for two more months. Boonzaier stresses owners should keep the vaccinations updated yearly.
“Too often we see people only bringing their animal in for one or two and then they stop. Do not take your unprotected animals to public areas like parks, beaches, shops or for walks down the street.”
She said treatment can be expensive as the animal usually needs to remain under veterinary care.
“It is far cheaper to keep your animal’s vaccinations up-to-date than to end up having your animal admitted to a clinic or worse, euthanased.”
Dr Dean Sim of Bayview Animal Clinic said there is no season for parvo as it is an ongoing problem, but there has been a 100% increase recently in the number of normal treatments .
“The pet population goes through a scare and owners get their dogs vaccinated, but then they become lax.”
He said dogs that are in intensive care have only a 50% chance of survival.
“It is a vicious disease and dogs have to be treated or they will die.”