An outbreak of the canine distemper virus (CDV) in Knysna has killed 80 dogs. The outbreak started on Charlie Lawack Street in the Hornlee neighbourhood.
Speaking to the Knysna-Plett Herald, public relations manager of the Knysna Animal Welfare Society (KAWS), Retha Havenga, said this strain is even more dangerous than usual.
“It is really bad, for this month alone we had to put more than 80 dogs down, that already had the aggressive distemper,” she said.
The CDV virus can be transmitted through the urine and faeces of infected dogs, but the primary method of transmission is through airborne viral particles breathed in by the dog. The virus attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, nervous and urogenital systems of a dog.
The symptoms of distemper include:
– Continued fever
– Pneumonia (Characterised by laboured breathing and coughing)
– Depletion of white blood cells
– Hardening of the pads of the feet
– Unusual tooth enamel
– Ataxia, an inability to coordinate the muscles
– Hyperesthesia, a heightened sensitivity to sensory stimuli, like touch and pain
– Myoclonus, disabling muscle spasms
– Paralysis, partial or complete
– Deterioration of mental abilities and motor skills
– Seizures affecting any part of the body. One type of head seizure that is unique to distemper is sometimes called “the chewing gum fit” because the dog appears to be chewing gum.
Dogs that have not yet been vaccinated and come into contact with an ill animal may carry a particularly high risk of contracting this deadly disease.
“There is nothing we can do to treat the dogs. It is very hard to contain it because dogs walk around the streets,” Havenga said. “We can help with the basic symptoms but we have to put the dogs down humanely.”
The particular strain of distemper currently active in Knysna causes aggressive symptoms, and closely resembles rabies. A marked change in personality, fear of water and paralysis of the jaws and throat may cause foaming at the mouth. A lack of coordination in the dog may occur as well, as the virus also causes paralysis in the hind legs.
Often people wait too long to take their dog to a veterinarian after the initial symptoms begin to show, causing the virus to progress without treatment.
Havenga urged dog owners to have their pups vaccinated at a young age. “People get puppies and take them from one area to another; that is how it is spread from one dog to another.”
It is also important for the owner to ask for proof of vaccination as soon as they receive or adopt a puppy.
Those who are able to prove that they cannot afford veterinary services for their dog may contact the Garden Route SPCA George at 0448781990 or 0823787384, or Mossel Bay at 0446930824, 0822520351 or 0722871761.