Vigilance, safety protocols and a call to dog owners to watch out for symptoms has kept a fast-spreading animal disease at bay in the Alberni Valley.
The canine parvovirus is a contagious disease affecting dogs and puppies. It causes severe vomiting, diarrhea and immuno-suppression, and it can result in death if the dog is not treated, Port Alberni SPCA Branch Manager Irene Towell said.
In 2012, the Port Alberni SPCA took in more than 600 dogs that were stray, abandoned, unwanted and sick, Towell said. The SPCA also ships out more than 300 animals per yer to other facilities, she added.
There have been few cases of parvovirus locally in the last five years. The last one in the region was late last year from a dog brought here from the West Coast, Towell said. “We used to see more stray dogs brought in suffering from parvovirus but not anymore.”
The virus is spread through contaminated body fluids, mainly feces, Towell said. A dog doesn’t have to come into contact with an infected dog to become infected. An owner can touch an infected dog or track in some infected fecal matter then expose their dog, Towell said.
Symptoms of the disease include listlessness and displaying a depressive mood before the more severe symptoms appear.
Dogs brought into the SPCA facility with parvovirus are quarantined and a veterinarian starts them on a regime of hydration, intravenous drip and antibiotics.
Even with treatment the disease is quick and can be fatal. “There’s about a 50 per cent success rate,” Towell said.
Treatment for the virus can run $150 per day and can last anywhere up to 10 days, Towell said. Dogs can be brought in and vaccinated for $75.
“That’s a good investment in prevention,” she added.
Five years ago the SPCA partnered with Manzini Animal Hospital to administer a parvovirus vaccination program for low income pet owners, Towell said.
Pet owners can pre-register for the program and pay $25 to have their pet vaccinated against parvo. For $5 extra it can be vaccinated for rabies and checked for ear mites, Towell said.