Positive Parvo cases have been climbing rapidly at the TEARS Animal Rescue in Sunnydale, Cape Town. More and more positive cases give enough evidence to state that it is now an outbreak situation.

The Parvovirus is highly contagious and can last for months or even years in the environment. To help keep your pooch up and going, regular vaccinations are a must to manage these diseases.

“Covid restrictions have played a large part in restricting TEARS from reaching the communities we support in order to deliver vaccinations to pets in the area. Pet owners are financially constrained, out of work, and barely have enough means to support themselves, let alone feeding their dogs and cats and getting their vaccinations done”, says TEARS Animal Rescue Operations Manager, Mandy Store.

Parvo is also deadly and kills 95% of dogs who are unvaccinated and untreated. Some unvaccinated dogs are lucky enough to have access to expensive treatments and their chances of survival increase slightly to about 40%.  A vaccinated dog who does fall ill has nearly a 100% chance of survival unless the dog has a comorbidity.

Head TEARS Veterinarian, Dr. Tania Heuer, believes that the public needs to be educated about the importance of vaccinating when buying or adopting a pet.

“Parvovirus is a killer in waiting. Once an area has been compromised with parvovirus, we tend to see rampant infection spikes resulting in the deaths of many unvaccinated dogs and puppies. Vaccination is the key to not only preventing parvovirus but eliminating it from the community,” she says.

Parvovirus is also commonly referred to as “kat griep” or “cat flu” but as this confuses people into thinking cats are spreading the virus, which is why TEARS prefer to only refer to the disease by its causing agent, i.e the parvovirus.

Due to the virus being contagious, TEARS Welfare Clinic advises to vaccinate puppies four times, three to four weeks apart starting from as early as six weeks old. The ideal schedule remains to vaccinate all puppies at six weeks, nine weeks, and 12 weeks with the last vaccine at 16 weeks of age.

The parvovirus attacks the immune system that is also located in the puppies’ intestines, hence the general symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea.

Symptoms of Parvo:
– Vomiting
– Severe, bloody diarrhoea
– Lethargy / Listlessness (Not wanting to play with other puppies)
– Anorexia (Not wanting to eat)
– Fever
– Weight loss
– Weakness
– Depression
– Dehydration
– Death

Current Challenges with positive cases:

Due to Covid-19, many animal owners can’t afford even the most basic of veterinary care and this has left our community animals at risk of infections.

A positive animal could be shedding the virus for two weeks without showing symptoms and someone believing they have a healthy puppy, may spread the virus unknowingly.

Furthermore, should a puppy contract parvo, receive treatment and survive, it can continue to shed the virus for approximately one month (articles reporting three to six weeks of active shedding).

The virus can be spread with “fomites” meaning dead materials and things like clothes and shoes could spread the virus as well, and not just the usual direct and indirect routes between dogs.

Direct virus exposure is if a puppy licks infected vomit or stool from a sick animal, and indirectly from an active shedder (smelling a recovered dog’s behind) or if being touched by an owner that may have touched another ill puppy.

Pearls of wisdom:
– Always vaccinate your puppy (four times, three weeks apart)
– Do not touch a stranger’s puppy and then yours without washing your hands, clothes and shoes
– Do not take your puppy to public places until two weeks after the last vaccination at 16 weeks old (four months old)
– Keep puppies in your yard at all times until fully vaccinated (before taking them to the beach or park)
– DO NOT GET A NEW PUPPY if you lost a puppy to parvo for at least one YEAR
– Do not allow unvaccinated animals into your property
– For all dogs (and cats) continue their vaccination schedule annually (more so in highly infectious areas and closed living communities)
– Puppy training and puppy school properties are usually considered “safe” after the secnd vaccine schedule
– Always speak to your own veterinarian for the best advice
– Always check on your puppy and feed it three times per day until it is six months old. By checking on your dog regularly, you can identify problems sooner and seek veterinary care at the first sign of illness. Whether the puppy is being listless, not wanting to eat, “not itself”, showing signs of vomiting or having diarrhoea.

TEARS Animal Rescue is dedicated to the prevention of disease in the low-income communities that we serve. Diseases like parvo can be prevented and eventually eliminated in areas with vaccination programmes.

Last year, TEARS vaccinated 1340 companion animals. Donate today!

Picture: Unsplash

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