An outbreak of parvovirus among dogs has the BC SPCA warning pet-owners to vaccinate their animals.
At least six dogs in the downtown-Vancouver area have been diagnosed with the highly-contagious virus, which attacks the gastrointestinal system and is often fatal.
"Parvovirus causes vomiting, loss of appetite, bloody diarrhea and lethargy," said Dr. Emilia Gordon, the senior manager of animal health with the BC SPCA. "A dog with parvovirus may also have difficulty absorbing nutrients, increasing the risk of dehydration and malnutrition. Even with treatment, dogs can develop sepsis and die."
The virus can be transmitted through contact with an infected dog's feces and can live in an environment for several months. Puppes and non-vaccinated adult dogs are highly susceptible to the illness, according to the SPCA.
Dogs receive the vaccine on a schedule determined by their veterinarian, said Gordon, and typically start at six to eight weeks of age. The vaccine is followed up by boosters at four-week intervals until they are 16 to 20 weeks old. She added that adult dogs that did not receive the full set of vaccinations should receive at least one shot.
"We are concerned that the six dogs, most of which did not survive, may have exposed other dogs in the community," Gordon said. "We urge any guardians of unvaccinated puppies or dogs to see their veterinarian and to seek immediate help if their pets show symptoms of the disease."