The BC SPCA is warning Port Alberni-area dog owners to ensure their pets are vaccinated against parvovirus after two dogs from the north side of the city were brought into SPCA care suffering from a strong strain of the virus.
Parvovirus, or parvo, is a highly contagious and often fatal viral disease that attacks the gastrointestinal system of dogs and can also damage the heart muscle.
The virus is transmittable through contact with an infected dog’s feces and can live in an environment for several months or longer. Puppies and non-vaccinated adult dogs are highly susceptible to the illness.
“Parvovirus causes vomiting, loss of appetite, bloody diarrhea and lethargy,” says Dr. Emilia Gordon, senior manager of animal health for the BC SPCA. “A dog with parvovirus may also have difficulty absorbing nutrients, increasing the risk for dehydration and malnutrition. Even with treatment, dogs can develop sepsis and die.”
Dr. Gordon says puppies, who are particularly vulnerable, should receive vaccines on a schedule determined by the dog’s veterinarian. Typically, these start at six to eight weeks of age, with follow-up boosters at four-week intervals until 16 to 20 weeks old and another booster at one year. Adult dogs who did not have a full set of parvo vaccinations as a puppy should receive at least one shot.
This virus is resistant to many disinfectants, so it lingers on surfaces for several months. Dogs typically pick up the virus by coming into contact with feces from an infected animal.
“We are concerned that the two dogs, one of whom has had to be euthanized, may have exposed other dogs in the community,” says Dr. Gordon. “We urge any guardians of unvaccinated puppies or dogs to see their veterinarian and to seek immediate help if their pets show symptoms of the disease.”