We are currently experiencing an outbreak of parvo and distemper.
These are viruses which are highly contagious.
Parvo virus attacks young dogs from as early as 8 weeks. Those puppies born from unvaccinated mothers and those puppies who have not themselves been vaccinated are at high risk.
The virus attacks the lining of the intestines, causing it to be stripped away and hence the puppy vomits and has a bloody, foul smelling diarrhea. The prognosis is very poor, early treatment by a Veterinarian does not even guarantee success in saving the puppy.
This virus affects both puppies and adult dogs. The virus attacks the gastro intestinal tract, respiratory and nervous systems.
The early signs are loss of apetite, raised temperature and a bloody diarrhea, which looks similar to the parvo virus.
Puppies and adults can recover from this phase or it may be followed by respiratory symptoms such as coughing and thick mucus discharge from the eyes and nose.
Once again the dog can recover from this phase with aggressive treatment by a Veterinarian. However, the virus may already have entered the nervous system and 2 weeks to 2 months post “successful treatment” the dog will present with nervous symptoms, such a twitching and generalised weakness which progresses to complete paralysis, coma and death.
Once the nervous symptoms are present there is no cure.
The importance of vaccinations to control these diseases cannot be over emphasised. Puppies receive their primary vaccination at 6 to 8 weeks, followed by a booster vaccination at 12 weeks; they will also be given a rabies vaccination at 12 weeks.
Then they need their full set of vaccinations including rabies annually.
It is important to remember that distemper can be a catastrophic disease even for an adult dog, thus it is imperative to keep up these annual vaccinations.
Dr Tanya Hughes
Veterinarian for uMngeni SPCA