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SPCA warns dog owners to keep their pets safe against potentially fatal disease

17 April 2020
SPCA warns dog owners to keep their pets safe against potentially fatal disease

SPCA is urging all pet owners to keep their unvaccinated puppies and dogs safe during the lockdown after several cases of the highly infectious and usually fatal canine parvovirus have been reported in Lower Hutt.

In the space of five days, SPCA’s Wellington Centre confirmed four separate cases of puppies suffering from parvovirus in the Naenae and Taita areas, and a fifth is suspected of becoming infected while in Moera. Sadly, because of the severity of the disease, four of the five puppies were humanely euthanised.

Parvovirus can affect dogs of all ages, however, it is more common in unvaccinated puppies under six months of age. The virus is spread by contaminated faeces and vomit and can remain in the environment for 12 months, sometimes longer.

Infected dogs can begin shedding the virus before symptoms appear, leading to environmental contamination which can sometimes result in isolated outbreaks in certain areas.

Symptoms of parvovirus typically include lack of appetite, depression, lethargy, fever, vomiting and diarrhoea (sometimes bloody). Urgent veterinary care should be sought if parvovirus is suspected. Unfortunately, there are no specific treatments available, so management of infected dogs usually focuses on providing supportive care such as fluid therapy and pain relief.

Fortunately, parvovirus is highly preventable, and vaccination is the key to preventing this disease and protecting dogs.

SPCA Animal Welfare Inspector Gina Kemp says just taking dogs for a walk down the street to the park can put them at risk of contracting the disease if they have not finished their course of vaccinations.

“We are strongly advising pet owners to please keep puppies and unvaccinated dogs safe and contained on their properties and to give their local vet a call to discuss the next available time to book in vaccinations,” she said.

“We know that pet owners may have to wait longer than normal as a result of the lockdown, but they will be preventing unnecessary suffering by exercising their dogs safely.”

“One walk has cost these puppies their lives, and we don’t want to see further lives lost.”

It is essential that owners make sure their dogs are up to date with vaccinations and a series of initial vaccinations and regular booster vaccinations are needed for protection.

If pet owners have a puppy or dog that hasn’t yet completed its full vaccine schedule, the best way to minimise risk is to limit their exposure to other dogs and avoid places where the risk of environmental contamination may be higher (such as dog parks).

SPCA recommends owners speak with their veterinarian if they are unsure whether their dog has been vaccinated.

If pet owners have any questions about vaccinations, or if their dog starts showing symptoms of parvovirus, they’re advised to call their local veterinarian immediately.

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