Veterinarians say they’re treating more and more cases of canine parvovirus – a potentially fatal disease in dogs. Contracting the virus can easily be prevented with regular vaccinations.
The isolation room at the Fish Creek Pet Hospital has been full of dogs suffering from parvovirus, a highly contagious infection, Dr. Katie Van Sluys says. “Really, because this disease is so preventable from vaccines, we shouldn’t have to worry about it. It’s sad.”
Canine parvovirus is highly contagious and spread either by direct contact with an infected dog, or indirectly, by the fecal-oral route. Its symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, fever and general weakness. It can also lead to dehydration, which if severe enough, can cause death.
Any dog owner can prevent their dogs from catching parvovirus. The current vaccine is highly effective and usually included as part of a dog’s regular shots.
Why are people not vaccinating their dogs?
Dr. Van Sluys says there is a problem among the Calgary pet community. A trend is emerging among pet owners who are choosing not to vaccinate their dogs, similar to the anti-vaccine movement with children.
“We do see more people thinking that vaccinations are not important or that they come with risks and I am not doing that to my dog,” Dr. Van Sluys says. “But unfortunately the risk of this disease is out there and threatening the adult population, if you are not vaccinated.”
She adds that anti-vaxxers are relying on what’s known as herd immunity – the idea is that as long as a certain percentage of the dog population is vaccinated, the disease has a harder time spreading.
But according to Dr. Danny Joffe, the medical director at the Care Centre Animal Hospital, these decisions are driven a lot by un-researched opinions on the internet.
What are the risks and benefits of vaccinating your dog?
“Are vaccines innocuous? No. They are biological and they can cause side effects just like they can in people. But for most patients, and again this should be assessed by your veterinarian, but in most cases, the benefits of vaccinating far, far, far outweigh any risks of giving the vaccine,” says Dr. Joffe.
Dr. Joffe adds that as the population of unvaccinated dogs grows in Calgary, Parvo will become more prevalent. He assumes that the virus may even affect vaccinated dogs — especially those with weaker immune systems which didn’t respond well to the vaccine.
“It puts the entire canine population at risk. And in a city like Calgary where we have a large urban coyote population as well, which also pick up these same diseases, it just ends up causing a snowball effect,” says Joffe.
Canine parvovirus is affecting adult dogs too!
Until now, Parvo is usually found in puppies, who were not fully protected or vaccinated against the disease. But Dr. Van Sluyssays it’s becoming more common to see it in adult dogs, which can catch staff off guard.
“It’s really unfortunate when you have a vomiting three-year-old Labrador. In most people’s minds, that’s a foreign body, [they’ve] eaten a rock or a sock,” said Sluys. “It’s really unfortunate situation when you make a diagnosis of Parvo in surgery.”
Vacinnating your dog has long term-cost benefits
Having your dog vaccinated is a lot cheaper than having your pet treated for the disease.
Dr. Van Sluys said dogs stricken with Parvo can be in the hospital anywhere from a couple of days to a couple of weeks.
“A very intense therapy, which can be challenging for some owners to face… a vaccine versus a $2,000 vet stay,” she said.
The Canine Parvovirus vaccine is usually given in combination with one for Canine Distemper, and it is recommended for puppies at 8, 12 and 16 weeks, again at 18 months, and then every three years afterwards.
Source: CBC Canada