Deadly Parvo virus threatens Cayman dogs

Parvo virus cases are on the rise
in Cayman. The gastrointestinal virus is severe and can often prove fatal to
dogs and puppies.

According to Island Veterinary
Services, 56 cases have been diagnosed so far this year, with numbers
increasing weekly.

The rainy season seems to heighten
the spread of Parvo and all pet owners are encouraged to keep the living
quarters of their pets clean and sanitary at all times and routinely clean the
surrounding areas where their pet defecates to avoid the spread of Parvo and
other diseases.

Warning signs that a dog or puppy
may be suffering from the virus are lethargy and a complete loss of appetite,
followed by vomiting and bloody diarrhoea. The infection is highly contagious
and is spreading rapidly across Grand Cayman. If a dog or puppy shows any of
these symptoms, take the animal to the veterinarian immediately. If the virus
is caught in time, the chances of survival are greater.

Dogs and puppies can be vaccinated
against the disease, but it takes three vaccinations, administered three weeks
apart, to protect animals against the disease. Animals are not protected until
all three vaccinations have been received, and even then yearly follow-up
vaccinations are required.

Dogs or puppies not yet vaccinated
should be vaccinated as soon as possible, veterinarians urge. Until all three
vaccinations have been received, the animals should be isolated from all other
unvaccinated dogs and puppies and should not be taken to public areas like
parks or the beach that may be frequented by other dogs.

Once the disease is contracted, the
virus makes the dog so ill that medication cannot be given by mouth. Treatment
consists of supportive care and IV fluids, antibiotics, anti-emetic and
gastro-protectants. The dog has to be isolated from the general hospital
population and can only be attended to when wearing isolation gowns, shoe
covers and gloves. All of this makes the treatment costly, with bills typically
ranging from $500 to $1,000. However, even with treatment, not all dogs
survive. The strain of virus now on Island is so deadly that treatments thus
far have been very challenging, veterinarians say.

Anyone considering a new puppy
should check on its medical history to find out whether it has received all
three vaccinations. It is also advisable to take the vaccine history to a veterinarian
to make sure the animal will be protected. 
The Cayman Islands Humane Society also sponsors a free Parvo clinic annually,
usually early in the year, before the start of the rainy season. However, the
vaccines are relatively inexpensive with long-term benefits.

All dogs and puppies at Humane
Society shelter on North Sound Road are vaccinated against Parvo.