Helderberg, Canine Parvovirus Outbreak

Scores of dogs are being put down daily because of a severe outbreak of canine parvovirus in the Somerset West, Gordon's Bay and Strand area.Dog owners have been warned to keep their pets away from the area.

Veterinary clinics reported that they were putting down large numbers of dogs - sometimes entire litters of puppies - that were infected with the parvovirus, while the Animal Welfare Society said it had euthanased 55 dogs in the past four weeks.And a vet from the Tygerberg Animal Hospital warned that the contagious virus could spread to dogs elsewhere in the city.Dr Ater McDonald said the canine parvovirus was very serious.

It was quite common among puppies between the ages of six and eight weeks that had not yet, or had recently, received their first vaccination, he explained. Their immune systems were much weaker and it made them more vulnerable to the virus, he said. That, however, did not mean that older dogs were safe, because they could just as easily get infected but "maybe not as severely".Helderberg Animal Welfare manager Julia Evans said healthy dogs should be prevented from coming into contact with infected dogs because the virus was highly contagious. Dogs in nearby areas were at risk, she said.

The virus could also be carried by humans on their clothes, shoes or hands and be spread very quickly.McDonald added that the virus might be triggered in dogs that were stressed, because stress could weaken an immune system. "Many dogs in the poorer areas are stressed due to lack of nutrition or improper accommodation."

The parvovirus affects a dog's intestinal tract and causes vomiting, diarrhoea and fever, while reducing its body's ability to fight the infection, according to the Textbook of Veterinary Internal Medicine.The virus is sturdy and can stay in the environment for at least six months, according to the textbook.The best approach to preventing the disease is by vaccinating animals. Puppies should be started on vaccines at six weeks and exposure to infected environments should be minimised until the vaccination series is complete.Puppies should be vaccinated every two to three weeks until the age of 16 weeks


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