A terrible disease is attacking Cayman’s dogs.
Each year we face the possibility of parvovirus attacking dogs in the Cayman Islands.
This year there is a particularly nasty strain of the disease being spread among the animals.
If you’ve ever watched a puppy or young dog suffering from parvo, you know the toll it takes on their young bodies and the agony their owners go through watching them as they try to get well or worse, watching them die.
Combine that agony with the heartbreak of a child who is losing a dear companion and you have a recipe for an overwhelming sense of loss.
Parvovirus is a viral disease of dogs, which affects puppies more frequently than adult dogs.
The virus likes to grow in rapidly dividing cells and the intestinal lining has the biggest concentration of rapidly dividing cells in a puppy’s body.
The virus attacks and kills these cells, causing diarrhoea (often bloody), depression and suppression of white blood cells, which come from another group of rapidly dividing cells. In very young puppies it can infect the heart muscle and lead to sudden death.
Symptoms usually begin with a high fever, lethargy, depression, and loss of appetite.
Parvo is highly contagious to unprotected dogs, and the virus can remain infectious in ground contaminated with faecal material for five months or more if conditions are favourable, and in the Cayman Islands, conditions are almost always favourable.
Unvaccinated dogs are the most susceptible to parvo, so it is most important that puppies be inoculated.
If a dog is diagnosed with parvo, it must receive intense treatment. Without it, the dog will die of dehydration. Treatment generally consists of intra-veineous or sub-coetaneous fluids and antibiotics.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for parvo. Veterinarians can only treat the symptoms and try to keep the dog alive by preventing dehydration and loss of proteins.
If your pet becomes infected, there are things you can do to prevent the spread of the disease.
Keep the infected dog isolated from all other dogs for at least one month after full recovery.
Clean up all the dog’s stools in your yard.
Use a 1:30 ratio of chlorine bleach and water to clean food and water bowls (4 oz. in 1 gallon of water). Wash any bedding the dog has been in contact with in this same bleach solution and hot water.
Be sure to feed your dog a bland diet until he is fully recovered.
The Cayman Islands Humane Society in conjunction with Island Veterinary Services will offer free parvo vaccines 28 July at Island Veterinarian Services on Walkers Road.
If you’ve got a dog that hasn’t been vaccinated do your pet and yourself a favour; go.