Source: The Post (Extract)
Posted: February 24, 2024

Dogs and puppies are under threat of a deadly virus surging through Wellington, the latest region to see an outbreak.

As cases of canine parvovirus grow, the SPCA is pleading with owners to urgently vaccinate their dogs, warning it’s the only way to keep them safe.

SPCA Wellington inspectorate lead Ben Lakomy says it’s difficult to quantify the number of cases but there’s been enough of a spike to cause serious concern.

“… we need to let the public know that it is a real risk.”

Commonly known as parvo, the highly contagious viral disease has been sweeping through New Zealand this year with major outbreaks reported in Auckland, Taranaki and Palmerston North.

In January, Auckland SPCA said it was seeing up to 40 cases a week, worsened by a trend of owners unable to afford vaccinations or treatment for sick pets.

Lakomy says the issue of affordability is also obvious in the Wellington region.

“This is evident in a recent case where someone contacted us to surrender their two dogs for euthanasia because they could not afford to vaccinate, and then couldn’t afford the euthanasia fee to put them both out of their misery when they got parvo….”

While parvo most often affects puppies between six and 20 weeks old, older dogs are also in danger.

Vaccination is the only way to prevent the virus: puppies need at least two shots before they’re protected and adult dogs require an annual booster.

Symptoms include lethargy, severe vomiting, and bloody diarrhoea resulting in life-threatening dehydration.

The virus can survive in some environments, including the ground, for up to a year and is transmitted by direct contact or through contaminated surfaces.

Lakomy says paleness, discoloured gums, vomiting, bloody diarrhoea and a distinctive metallic smell are all early signs of the illness.

“If your puppy is normally quite bouncy and happy, they’ll be very quiet and reserved if they have parvo.

“You need to catch it nice and early before it gets too advanced but it can be treated with vet guidance through fluid therapy, antibiotics, and whatever your vet recommends.”

Animal rescue centres and vet clinics struggle to treat sick animals because the virus is so contagious, he says.

“It is such a risk to other animals in their care, especially in an SPCA environment where we have a lot of vulnerable puppies and dogs. We simply can’t treat parvo on site.”

Lakomy says the SPCA has recently done major vaccination drives and awareness campaigns, even encouraging people who might suspect parvo in dogs around their area to report it.

“If anybody is concerned that somebody’s animal may have parvo but they don’t think they’re taking the right steps to deal with it, they can always report that through to our inspectors and we can go and have a look to ensure that those owners are dealing with the problem.”

Owners should also keep dogs away from land or environments that have had repeat cases of parvo.

“Some people perhaps treat it like the common cold and don’t take it seriously but you can’t just keep recycling these dogs and have them constantly getting parvo.

“You actually need to stop putting dogs back onto the same property because it can live for so long in the environment.”

SPCA Wellington’s head veterinarian Emma Passmore says that until puppies are fully vaccinated they should only be socialised with animals of known vaccination status, and only socialise with any dog 10 days after the second vaccine.

All dogs need to be vaccinated and pups must have all their shots before being put in risky environments.