One veterinarian TNM spoke to said that they were seeing 7-8 pets with parvovirus per day now, compared to 3-4 cases a day earlier.

Dog and cat playing together on the grassImage for representation
news Animal welfare Tuesday, August 04, 2020 - 18:08

Dr Pawan, a veterinary surgeon at Cessna Lifeline, a veterinary hospital in Bengaluru, has been noticing a worrying trend in the past month and a half. The number of parvovirus cases he gets in cats and dogs has risen significantly – from around 3-4 a day he was seeing this time last year, to 7-8 per day.

Canine parvovirus (CPV), which affects dogs, can be fatal for the animal especially if diagnosed late. The virus targets the dog’s intestines, preventing them from being able to absorb vital nutrients. In cats, it is the feline panleukopenia (FPV) virus which causes the disease by infecting and killing cells in the bone marrow, intestines and developing foetus. Both viruses are quite contagious, and an animal can contract them by coming in contact with the infected animal’s urine, faeces or hair, or materials used by the infected animal like bedding, cages, surfaces and so on. In cats, even fleas from an infected feline can transfer the virus.

“Normally also we see a spike in parvo cases during the monsoon because of water contamination and lack of sanitation. But this time, the increase is higher – 70% of the cases we are getting are dogs, and 30% are cats. Mostly puppies and kittens are getting infected,” Dr Pawan says.

Dr Narendra Raghavendra, President of the Karnataka Veterinary Council and owner of the Bangalore Pet Hospital, has also noted an increase of around 50% in parvovirus cases compared to last year. Dr Amar of Dr Amar Pet Clinic in the city has similar observations.

What could be the causes?

Dr Pawan explains that beyond the seasonal increase, one of the reasons could possibly be that people are thinking twice about stepping out and getting their pets vaccinated on time due to the pandemic.

Dr Narendra pegs the spike on the increased demand for puppies as more people are at home and many are seeing this as the right time to adopt a pet. “80% of the puppies are sold through brokers who are not educated about these risks. Not everyone is maintaining hygiene in the kennels. So, if one puppy was infected and kept in a kennel or cage, and then the next puppy comes and is kept in the same place without proper sanitation, will the chances of infection not be more?”

He adds that another reason could be the quality of the vaccines available for pets. “Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the import of good vaccines has decreased, so the required immunisation may not be happening in some cases where people are coming and getting the pets vaccinated too.”

Apart from people slacking in vaccinating their pets, another reason, Dr Amar says, could be the pets coming in contact with other, infected animals’ urine and faeces while on walks. Given that the pandemic has brought a lot of things to a standstill, animal welfare and vaccination when it comes to strays has also taken a backseat save for some organisations and volunteers, which could be increasing the infections in strays as well. “Generally also stray animals are given only rabies vaccine,” Dr Pawan points out.  

What to look out for

While parvovirus can affect the animals at any age, the vets say that it can be especially deadly for puppies (up to nine months) and kittens (up to six months). The mortality increases especially if the diagnosis happens late.

They suggest that people who have pets make sure they follow proper vaccination schedules, and do not skip booster doses. Further, people who are adopting or buying puppies or kittens right now should ensure that the offspring is not separated from the mother before eight weeks. “If the mother has been vaccinated, she also passes on some immunity through her milk. People should also be careful to not immediately get a new puppy if they have lost a pet to parvo. Wait for around two months to ensure that the surroundings are free of the viruses before getting another pet,” Dr Pawan says.

Dr Narendra says that if one is buying a pet from a breeder, they should try to go and see the mother, make sure the animal is healthy and vaccinated. “Get one round required vaccination done at the breeder’s place. Don’t stress out the puppy too much with long travels,” he states. “You also have to do proper follow ups with booster vaccines. Just vaccinating once may not be enough,” Dr Amar adds.

Some symptoms to look out for in your pet to enable early diagnosis of parvovirus are:

-          Lethargy

-          Loss of appetite and/or dehydration

-          Diarrhoea, which often has blood

-          Vomiting

-          Weight loss

-          Fever

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