Dr. Brenda Bush is warning pet owners to be extra vigilant with their dogs and pups in the midst of a serious outbreak of a particular nasty strain of the deadly canine parvovirus.
Although there is usually an outbreak each year, this year has been particularly bad, explained the vet from Island Veterinary Services. Some months this year she has seen as many as 14 dogs die from the disease.
‘Since the beginning of the year we’re seeing a lot more cases of parvo than we’ve normally seen in the last several years,’ said Dr. Bush.
This year’s particular strain of parvo is deadly, causing pups to die or be euthanized because they are so sick.
If you have a puppy or dog and you have not taken it to the vet for immunisations you are urged to do so as soon as possible.
In fact, because of the large number of dogs and pups being affected by parvo, the Cayman Islands Humane Society, in conjunction with Island Veterinary Services, is having a clinic on Friday, 28 July, from 10am to 5pm when there will be free parvo vaccines available along with free de-worming treatments. The clinic will be held at Islands Veterinary Services, Eden Centre, Walkers Road.
The parvovirus lives in the ground and is extremely resistant to environmental extremes.
Dr. Bush explained that if a dog carrying the virus vomits on the ground or passes waste there, then it can live in the ground for up to a year. This can then be passed on to your pup or dog as he or she is on a walk or sniffing around the area.
All it takes to prevent this deadly virus from affecting your pet is to get your puppy the standard immunisation and then to top up each year with the standard booster shots.
These are some of the routine immunisations given when you visit your veterinarian with a new pup.
Immunisation starts at the age of six to eight weeks in a puppy, with a series of three booster shots, each two to four weeks apart.
This also protects against other major viral diseases such as distemper and canine hepatitis, amongst others.
The fact that so many cases are occurring means that there are a lot of unprotected and unvaccinated dogs and pups around, noted the veterinarian.
In a lot of the cases Dr. Bush has seen, the dogs or pups are also suffering from worms in the gastrointestinal tract and have fleas and ticks on their skin, along with being poorly nourished.
These factors break down their defences to the disease even more.
Dr. Bush said that there does seem to be a misconception among some pet owners about what a pup needs and the routine health safeguards that should be put in place.
‘If you take on the responsibility of getting a puppy then you should be prepared to get the preventive healthcare measures that your pet needs,’ she stated.
All it takes initially is three $18 booster shots to immunise a pup against parvo, she noted, whereas the virus, if contracted by your pet, is very pricey to treat. This is because much supportive care is needed throughout the illness. As the virus attacks the cells of the G.I. tract, not only does this mean that the dog cannot absorb essential liquids and nutrients, but bacteria can leak into the blood stream, giving the animal a very high fever and making it extremely ill.
The dog needs to be treated intravenously with drugs, antibiotics, and liquids.
Signs the may indicate parvovirus contraction include loss of appetite, vomiting and bloody diarrhoea along with severe lethargy.
Dr. Bush urges that if you suspect parvo in your pet, the sooner the animal can be brought to the vet the better its chance of survival in fighting the virus.
Even some owners who were being responsible and in the process of getting the initial immunisation shots for their pup have had their animal come down with the virus in the middle of the course of action.
For pups that are in the middle of their vaccines, she urges owners to keep them as isolated as practical until they have had all three shots, which are needed for prevention.
‘If they don’t get all three they can be very open to infection,’ said Dr. Bush.
One area that seems to be very affected by the disease this year is West Bay, but parvo is by no means limited to that area, she said.
The virus usually outbreaks at the beginning of rainy season, but this year it started even earlier, towards the beginning of the year.