TEARS Animal Rescue, based in Sunnydale, is currently being inundated with pet owners seeking help for unvaccinated puppies that have been infected by the lethal Canine Distemper Virus (CDV or Distemper).
This highly contagious airborne virus, mainly affects the respiratory, gastrointestinal and neurological systems, includes symptoms like fever and diarrhoea before spreading to the brain and resulting in death. Because there is no cure for the disease, and based on its high contagiousness, the standard animal welfare response, mandated by the SPCA, is to euthanise any dog that is diagnosed with Distemper.
Says TEARS Head Veterinarian, Dr Tania Heuer, “Distemper, together with Canine Parvo Virus, are two of the most infectious diseases to dogs. We have a monumental responsibility to prevent the spread of the disease in our communities, and a high euthanasia rate in cases where a dog tests positive for the virus. The most important thing any pet owner can do for their pet, is to make sure they’re fully vaccinated. Distemper is avoidable if puppies are vaccinated early.”
One vaccination at six weeks, another again at none weeks, and then preferably a third vaccine at twelve weeks (three months) will provide sufficient protection from the virus. Adult dogs only require two vaccines one month apart.
TEARS vaccinates as many as 350 vulnerable pets per month, providing sterilisations and the first vaccine for free to its welfare clients living in Masiphumelele, Capricorn, Ocean View and Red Hill.
While many pet owners are without access to transport, TEARS operates a Mobile Clinic service seven days per week, collecting animals from these four communities and taking them into the TEARS Veterinary Hospital for treatment, before returning them. Despite this, many welfare pet owners neglect to vaccinate their puppies or never receive their booster vaccines as required.
“Many pet owners continue to have an anti-vaccination and anti-sterilisation mentality,” says Dr Heuer. “We cannot force owner responsibility on anyone.”
TEARS Head of Fundraising, Lara Van Rensburg comments, “TEARS desperately needs funding support for its Veterinary Outreach Programme to vaccinate more animals and prevent more unnecessary deaths. It costs us R63,000.00 to vaccinate 350 animals, but the vaccination status of pets remains low relative to the need. Homeless and abandoned animals that are more susceptible to infection roam freely, which, combined with the overcrowded conditions in these low-income communities, means the spread of the virus is an ongoing challenge. Pet owners who neglect to vaccinate their animals realise the dangers of not vaccinating, too late. The incubation period of the virus is between three and six days and by the time symptoms appear after exposure, it’s too late.”
Capetonians can help by donating towards TEARS’ Veterinary Outreach Fundenabling the TEARS Mobile Clinics to continue their sterilisation and vaccination drives and protect more animals.
TEARS is a recognised Level 1 B-BBEE contributor and Public Beneficiary Organisation. Donations to TEARS are tax deductible, with donors receiving a Section 18A tax receipt.