Veterinarians are warning of a life-threatening epidemic that could mean the deaths of many dogs as four recent cases of distemper have been reported in the last 48 hours in the Nelson Mandela Bay area.
Many are concerned the virus could easily spread through the Western Cape and a number of vets and animal care associations are bracing themselves for a possible spike in arrivals.
Allan Perrins from the Animal Welfare Society says, “Cases of distemper are usually related to the weather and although we have not noticed a spike in the number of distemper cases at this point, we are bracing ourselves for an increase in cases because of the weather.”
Last year distemper made its way into Cape Town in June and reports of infected dogs were on the rise in late winter as well. These recent reports follow two other cases of distemper as well as several cases of parvovirus reported roughly two weeks ago.
“Currently we receive roughly five cases a week where dogs are displaying signs of distemper, often owners do not have the funds to afford a test for the virus and in this case we treat the animal with the appropriate antibiotics but this is all one can do. Otherwise we suggest humane euthanasia as there is no cure for distemper,” says Perrins.
Both viruses in question are highly contagious and rural areas are the most severely affected. This year alone hundreds of dogs in rural areas have already died from these dreaded afflictions.
These viruses do not only affect dogs, but are able to transfer to humans as well.
Dogs which have not been vaccinated and come into contact with other infected animals are at a high risk of contracting the disease. Locals are urged to ensure their dog is vaccinated and be cautious of allowing them to mingle with other unknown dogs.
Pet owners who cannot afford to pay for the vaccination may get them done for free.
Distemper attacks all organ systems, including the respiratory system, and ends up in the brain, while parvovirus causes acute vomiting and bloody diarrhoea, leading to toxic shock and death.