19 March 2016

Canine Parvovirus Outbreak in Alaska

An outbreak of canine parvovirus, deemed to be “severe” by animal experts has hit the Interior Alaska and claimed the lives of several dogs so far.

Because the highly contagious virus is not on the state's list of “mandatory reportable diseases” for vets, the number of casualties could be higher.

Dr. Robert Gerlach, Alaska's state veterinarian, is urging pet owners to take steps to safeguard against spread of the infection which can be fatal for puppies or older dogs with weaker immune systems. “It's severe in the symptoms,” he told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. “Several dogs have died due to infection.”

He added the strain appears to be particularly dangerous considering some dogs infected had already had vaccinations for parvovirus.

CPV-2 = Canine Parvovirus 2
The disease can spread easily and quickly, requiring as little as nose to nose touching between dogs, making it important for those suspecting their dog might be infected to isolate it from other dogs and have it tested for the virus.

It is typically spread through fecal matter, vomit and can even live on items, like dog dishes, for several days.

Gerlach suggests pet owners ensure dogs are vaccinated against the virus (although the only required vaccine in the state is for rabies,) and recommends those with dogs already vaccinated consider a booster if they are going to be in frequent contact with other dogs.

Canine parvovirus targets a dog's gastrointestinal system or the cardiac system and in worst-case scenarios can take the life of a dog within days.

Those infected will commonly suffer with diarrhoea, depression, fever, lack of appetite, vomiting or blood in their stool.

Although humans are not at risk of contracting this particular strain of virus, Gerlach recommends individuals working around dogs to change their clothes and wash hands to thwart potential of being a carrier and spreading infection to other canines.

Outbreaks of canine parvo are not uncommon globally and have proven devastating when striking at animal shelters.

Canine parvovirus was first identified in 1967 and evolved into a variety of sub-types, according to Canadian Vet, which states affected dogs are typically between 6 to 20 weeks of age and some breeds, including American pit bull terrier, Rottweiler, German shepherd and Doberman pinscher are thought to be at increased risk.

While vaccines can prevent the virus, mortality can be as high as 91 percent in cases left untreated.

According to petalk.com, cases can be mild but on the other end of the spectrum - deaths from parvovirus usually result from dehydration, bacterial infection stemming from a pet's lowered resistance, blood loss from internal bleeding or cardiac issues.

By Nadia Moharib
Nadia Moharib is an animal lover who has adopted everything from birds to hamsters, salamanders, rabbits, fish and felines. She has written about all-things-pets for years and was a long-time editor of a pet magazine in a daily newspaper which featured a Q & A column, Ask Whit, penned by her pooch (ghost written, of course.) The serial dog owner lives in Calgary, Alberta and most days can be found at a dog park picking up after her rescue pooch, Scoots.

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