Recent media coverage has highlighted a major problem with Parvo and Distemper among dogs in Port Elizabeth. Articles posted on the Herald Live website in June gave details of some cases recently reported there and warned dog owners to ensure their dogs were adequately vaccinated against these deadly diseases. This has left many Makhanda (Grahamstown) dog owners uncertain of what the situation is here and confused as to whether their dogs are adequately protected.
What are Parvo and Distemper?
It is important to understand what Parvo and Distemper are and to be aware of the symptoms. That way, you can seek the necessary veterinary care for your dog before it is too late.
Parvo virus mostly affects puppies up to a year of age. The most common symptom is foul smelling and bloody diarrhoea, often accompanied by vomiting. However, the initial symptoms of Parvo are usually more subtle. Puppies that have contracted this disease will often stop eating and remain weak and lethargic for a day or two before the disease progresses to the more severe symptoms.
The Parvo virus is extremely resistant and can remain within the environment for many years. Infected puppies shed the virus in their faeces and other puppies contract the disease by coming into contact with these. Parvo is particularly a problem among the poorer areas of our town where many dogs roam the streets and come into contact with a number of other dogs. Parvo is less of a problem in the more affluent areas where dogs and puppies are confined to a garden and seldom come into contact with other dogs or have access to the street.
Distemper, on the other hand, affects nearly all of the organ systems of a dog and can present with a number of different symptoms. Most common is an initial yellow-green discharge from their nose and eyes, similar to that of a child with a runny nose. Distemper can also cause diarrhoea, but most characteristically, the disease can progress to affect the nervous system and neurological signs can include muscle twitching, seizures, circling and even paralysis.
Distemper is spread through direct contact with an infected dog and therefore also presents as more of a problem in areas where dogs are not confined and comes into contact many other dogs. It is less likely that a dog living in a more affluent area confined to a garden will contract the disease.
The reason these diseases are considered to be such serious threats to the dogs in our community is that they are very contagious and both can be fatal.
The treatment for Parvo is very intensive, but the earlier a puppy is diagnosed and treated, the more likely it is to survive. In some cases, puppies are given home treatment. In more serious cases, puppies are hospitalised at a veterinary clinic, placed on a drip and monitored.
Unfortunately, most dogs either confirmed or suspected to have Distemper are humanely euthanised. This is because the diseases is extremely contagious and causes serious and debilitating symptoms which can often lead to lifelong complications if the dog were to survive.
What is the situation with these diseases in our town?
Parvo virus is rife in our town and at the SPCA this year alone we more than likely treated in excess of 50 puppies with Parvo at our Community Clinic since January 2019.
Distemper is less of a problem within our town. A few possible cases have been seen at the SPCA Community Clinic this year and the dogs have all been humanely euthanised.
What can you do?
As a dog owner, you can protect your puppy or dog and play a part in preventing these diseases from becoming a major problem in our town.
Fortunately, both can be prevented through routine vaccinations of your puppy or dog. Both Parvo and Distemper are included in the 5-in-1 vaccinations that your puppy or dog will receive when they visit your veterinarian for their annual vaccinations.
Stringent vaccination of puppies is particularly important, as this is when dogs are most susceptible to contracting these diseases. One vaccination of a puppy at 8 weeks old is simply not enough to provide adequate immunity. It is imperative that owners ensure their puppies receive their full set of vaccinations.
In most cases, veterinarians will advise that puppies receive three vaccinations over a period of three months i.e. one vaccination at the ages of 8, 12 and 16 weeks respectively to ensure the puppy is adequately protected.
From then on, dogs should receive their annual vaccinations as stipulated by your veterinarian. Keeping a vaccination card is the easiest way to ensure that your dog is up to date.
What does the SPCA do?
The SPCA has played an important role in managing these diseases within our town.
Among dog owners in our town who cannot afford private veterinary services, the SPCA Community Clinic offers routine vaccinations for a nominal fee provided the owners meet certain requirements. From January 2019, we have administered in excess of a thousand 5-in-1 vaccinations to dogs and puppies in our town. We have also treated a number of puppies for Parvo and educated many owners about the importance of vaccinations.
The State Veterinary Services also offer free Rabies and 5-in-1 vaccinations during their vaccination campaigns which generally occur once per year in designated areas.
If you are in any way concerned that your dog or puppy’s vaccinations may not be fully up to date, please contact your veterinarian for their advice. The contact details of the veterinary clinics and the SPCA have been included below.
Through education and awareness and through correct and up to date vaccinations, we as a community can prevent these diseases from becoming a major problem among our four-legged dog friends and ensure that all of them get to live a long and happy life, free from suffering.
Veterinary Clinics in Grahamstown:
Grahamstown Veterinary Clinic – Dr Nicola Clayton
Contact Number: 046 622 6743
59 Fitzroy Street, Grahamstown
Monday-Friday: 8am-1pm and 2pm-5.30pm
Sundays and publicholidays: Closed
Emergency number for after hours: 079 756 8148
Ikhala Veterinary Clinic – Dr Luca Mendes and Dr Annie Mears
Contact Number: 087 701 9501
3 Strowan Road, Industrial Area, Grahamstown
Sundays and public holidays: Closed
Emergency number for after hours: 079 756 8148
Contact Number: 046 622 3233
Address: Old Bay Road, Industrial Area, Grahamstown
Sundays and public holidays: 9am-11am
Emergency number for after hours: 064 820 8496