Deadly virus spreads
Kiri Ten Dolle | 1st June 2012 5:58 PM
CANINE HEALTH: Dr Ray Baxter from Greencross Vet Clinic, Redbank Plains says he has been treating Parvovirus consistently in the past six months.
AN outbreak of parvovirus across the south-west has reached alarming heights, with local vets reminding dog owners to vaccinate their pets to prevent further spread of the disease.
In the past three months, 158 cases of canine parvovirus have been reported in Queensland, more than 50% of them in Brisbane and Ipswich.
The puppy disease was believed to have spread during the recent floods and subsequent rainfalls.
Redbank Plains veterinarian Ray Baxter said the number of dogs he had treated for parvovirus had spiked in the past six months.
"We have been seeing at least one dog a month," he said.
"There are weeks when we see five cases and there are weeks when we see 10."
Mr Baxter said parvovirus was more common is low socio-economic areas as many people did not vaccinate their dogs.
As a result, he said suburbs such as Redbank Plains and Goodna had become high-risk to the highly contagious disease.
"The moment an infected dog goes to a park and goes to the toilet there, every other non-vaccinated dog that smells or licks that spot is going to get the virus," he said.
Parvovirus could be passed on from not only direct contact with another dog, but also from hydro baths and previously contaminated soil in peoples' backyards.
"There are reports the virus can stay in the ground for up to 12 years," Mr Baxter said.
"It's very rare that it will live in the ground for 12 years, but it will definitely remain in the environment for several years.
"When it rains and the water levels rise, parvovirus can shift from one backyard and into another property."
Booval Vet Clinic practice manager Debbie Render, who has treated a number of cases in the south-west, said the disease cycle was vicious and not easily eradicated.
"People may lose a dog to parvo and after some time decide to get a new puppy," she said.
"What they don't know is the virus stays in the ground in their backyard and the new unvaccinated puppy will pick it straight up.
"We don't know why we are still seeing cases as it is unusual at this time of year and more regular in the summer months."
Common signs of parvovirus include tiredness, loss of appetite, severe vomiting and diarrhoea.
"The dog becomes severely dehydrated," Mr Baxter said.
"The virus attacks the cells inside the intestines, killing them and causing the dog to lose blood and become anaemic."
Greencross Vet Clinic at Redbank Plains upgraded their facilities two years ago and installed an isolation ward solely for parvovirus patients after noticing a consistent number of infections in the area.
Mr Baxter said the isolation ward the only one of its kind in south-east Queensland and other vets were referring dogs infected with parvovirus to his clinic.
"Puppies are most at risk, but the disease is so easy to prevent if they are vaccinated," he said.
While Mr Baxter said 95% of his patients survived parvovirus, the treatment was expensive.
"It costs $230 to for a course of three needles to vaccinate a puppy, now compare that to $1500 for what it costs at a bare minimum to treat parvo," he said.
The disease can not be contracted by humans.