Parvo Virus Outbreak Cape Town & Surrounds

During the last month the number of confirmed, positive parvo cases have been steadily climbing at TEARS Animal Rescue in Sunnydale, Cape Town. As the recent article circling on social media from other welfare groups also confirm, we are seeing more and more positive cases recently and this is sufficient evidence to believe there to be an outbreak.

We believe that the Covid restrictions played a large part to this problem, where welfares were restricted to reach their communities to deliver vaccinations for pets in the area. Pet owners are financially constraint, out of work, and barely have enough means to support themselves, let alone feeding  their dogs and cats and getting vaccinations done for them.

The parvo virus is a highly contagious virus that can last for months to even years in the environment, and very easily spread. It requires relentless and persistent vaccinations for all animals to manage these diseases.

Not only is parvo virus persistent and contagious, but it is deadly. Parvo virus kills 95% of unvaccinated and untreated dogs. If these unvaccinated dogs are lucky enough to access the expensive treatment, then their chances of survival increase slightly to about 40%. It is vaccination that makes the biggest difference. A vaccinated dog who does fall ill has nearly a 100% chance of survival unless the dog has a comorbidity.

Parvo virus is also commonly referred to as “kat griep” or “cat flu” but as this confuses people thinking cats are spreading the virus, we prefer to only refer to the disease by its causing agent, i.e the parvo virus.

Due to aggressiveness of the virus, the TEARS Welfare Clinic advises to vaccinate puppies 4 (four times), 3-4 (weeks apart), starting as early as 6 weeks old. Our ideal schedule remains to vaccinate all puppies at 6 weeks, 9 weeks, 12 weeks with the last vaccine at 16 weeks of age.

The parvo virus attacks the immune system that is also located in the puppies’ intestines, hence the general symptoms of vomiting and diarrhoea.

Symptoms of Parvo:

  • Vomiting
  • Severe, bloody diarrhoea
  • Lethargy / Listlessness (Not wanting to play with other puppies)
  • Anorexia (Not wanting to eat)
  • Fever
  • Weight loss
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Dehydration
  • Death

Current Challenges with positive cases:

Due to Covid, animal owners can’t afford veterinary care even as simple as vaccinations and this left our community animals at risk for infections.

A positive animal could be shedding the virus for 2 weeks (14 days) without showing symptoms and someone believing they have a healthy puppy, may spread the virus unknowingly.

Furthermore, should a puppy contract parvo, receive treatment and survive, it can continue to shed the virus for approximately 1 month (articles reporting 3-6 weeks of active shedding).

The virus can be spread with “fomites” meaning dead materials like clothes and shoes could spread the virus as well, and not just the usual direct and indirect routes between dogs.

Direct virus exposure is if a puppy licks infected vomit or stool from a sick animal, and indirectly from an active shedder (smelling a recovered dog’s behind) or if being touched by an owner that may have touched another ill puppy.

Pearls of wisdom:

  • Always vaccinate your puppy (4 times, 3 weeks apart)
  • Do not touch a stranger’s puppy and then yours without washing your hands, clothes and shoes
  • Do not take your puppy to public places until 2 weeks after the last vaccination at 16 weeks old (4 months old)
  • Keep puppies in your yard at all times until fully vaccinated (before taking to the beach or park)
  • DO NOT GET A NEW PUPPY if you lost a puppy to parvo for at least 1 YEAR
  • Do not allow unvaccinated animals into your property
  • For all dogs (and cats) continue their vaccination schedule annually (more so in highly infectious areas and closed living communities)
  • Puppy training and puppy school properties are usually considered “safe” after the 2nd vaccine schedule
  • Always speak to your own veterinarian for the best advice

Always check on your puppy, feed it 3x per day until it is 6 months old. By checking on your dog regularly, you can identify problems sooner and seek veterinary care at first sign of illness. Whether the puppy is being listless, not wanting to eat, “not itself”, showing signs of vomiting or having a diarrhoea.

TEARS Animal Rescue is dedicated to the prevention of disease in the low-income communities that we serve. Diseases like parvo can be prevented and eventually eliminated in areas with vaccination programmes. Last year, TEARS vaccinated 1,340 companion animals. Donate today to help us reach more.