Parvovirus shuts Humane Society shelter

The Cayman Islands Humane Society shelter in Grand Cayman has been temporarily closed due to an outbreak of the deadly canine parvovirus disease.

Fifteen per cent of dogs at the shelter have died from the outbreak, but there have been no casualties this week or last week.

The shelter was closed on Tuesday 15 March and will be re-opened under strict guidance of local veterinarians at a date to be arranged, said Humane Society Director Clare Hasart.

In explaining the deadliness of the disease she said that without intense treatment 80 per cent of puppies who contract the disease will die.

She explained, ‘Parvo is a canine disease; it does not affect other pets such as cats, or humans. It affects puppies more so than adult dogs.

‘It is difficult to successfully vaccinate a puppy for parvo because the antibody protection the puppy acquires from his mother can interfere with the vaccination.’

Ms Hasart said there is no possible way for the society to trace how the virus got into the shelter.

‘The ease at which it can be transferred means that it could have either come in from an infected dog or from something as simple as on the bottom of someone’s shoes. The virus itself is capable of surviving outside of the carrier dog for anywhere up to nine months.’

Currently there are no dogs with parvovirus at the shelter, one shelter dog is going through treatment for the disease at a vet and once fully recovered he will join his new adopted family.

‘Because parvo was detected at the Shelter we had to close. The shelter and will be disinfected and decontaminated on a daily basis until we are certain that there is no possible trace of the virus that has survived, we will then be able to open to the public, under guidance from local veterinarians,’ she said.

‘Because of our strict routines of accepting new animals (not allowing them to interact with other shelter animals until they have been examined by a veterinarian) we are fortunate enough to keep outbreaks of this deadly disease to a minimum. The last case of parvo in the Shelter was some three years ago.’

The Humane Society is urging anyone with a cat or dog they need to bring to the shelter to keep them for as long as possible before surrendering them to the shelter.

‘Within the next week we will have an isolated area set aside to receive animals without putting them at risk of contracting the disease. Or contact the Dept. of Agriculture in Lower Valley which has recently opened a new animal facility.’

Ms Hasart explained that there are vaccinations for puppies and dogs against parvovirus. Puppies must be vaccinated as soon as possible, then for all puppies and dogs this vaccination will be included in their yearly immunizations.

‘It is therefore paramount for every dog and puppy owner to take their dog for yearly check-ups at the vets, to prevent contraction and spread of this deadly virus.

‘CIHS cannot express the importance of immunizations and spay and neuter strongly enough to the Cayman community to help combat unnecessary deaths. The CIHS is willing to help and advise any companion animal owner within the community.’

The virus attacks the lining of the digestive system, causing the dog/puppy to not be able to absorb nutrients or liquids. Once contracted dogs and pups often have diarrhoea, vomiting, and lethargy.

‘Parvo is highly contagious to unprotected dogs, and the virus can remain infectious in ground contaminated with faecal matter for as long as nine months. Most disinfectants cannot kill the virus; however chlorine bleach is the most effective agent that works.

‘Parvo virus can be spread in to your home on shoes, hands and even car tyres. It is not airborne, even dogs that never leave their yards are susceptible to the disease, brought to them by humans, dogs or even birds that have come into contact with the virus.

Without intense treatment the victims of parvo can die of dehydration. Treatment generally consists of IV fluids and antibiotics.’

Prevent Parvo by adhering to the recommended vaccination schedule, which begins at age 6-8 weeks. Immunization for parvo is usually included in your dog’s annual vaccinations, said Ms. Hasart.

If your dog becomes infected, consult a vet as soon as possible, she warned. ‘Please prevent further spread by keeping the dog isolated from all other dogs for at least one month after full recovery. Clean up all your dog’s stools. Use a 1:3 ratio of chlorine bleach and water to clean water and food bowls. Wash any bedding the dog has been in contact with in this same solution and hot water. Disinfect all areas your dog has been.’

Call 949-1461, or the Humane Society’s 24-hour emergency number 326-1461 for help and advice.

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