You may have seen or heard recent rumours about deadly parvovirus in Guelph. Articles like http://www.570news.com/2014/04/03/alarming-number-of-dogs-in-guelph-with-parvovirus/ or http://www.guelphmercury.com/news-story/4442218-potential-for-canine-virus-outbreak-has-guelph-humane-society-concerned/ are enough to make anyone alarmed. What is your dog’s risk?
Risk has two components. One has to assess the consequences of something happening, and the probability that it will occur.
If your dog (especially if a puppy) contracts parvovirus, the consequence is at minimum a costly hospitalization stay. At worst, it is death. It is a very serious disease; its diagnosis in a pup triggers a pit of dread in most veterinary staff.
As for probability of occurrence, parvovirus definitely has ‘hotspots’ geographically speaking. A lot of this has to do with appropriate vaccination. Parvovirus is a preventable disease as long as your pup receives all of its immunizations at 8, 12, and 16 weeks, as well as every 1-3 years following. Unfortunately, just like we are seeing in human medicine, as less and less of a disease is experienced by a population due to successful vaccination campaigns the more complacent people become. The disease then has a chance of re-emergence as vaccinations decline.
Choosing not to vaccinate, or not to keep up-to-date on immunizations, vastly increases the probability that your dog will contract life-threatening parvovirus. This includes dogs who do not contact other dogs directly; parvovirus is extremely resilient in the environment (it can overwinter in feces and still be contracted).
The Guelph Humane Society has noted an increase in the frequency of parvovirus cases this past spring. By no means is the disease rampant – we don’t think you should stop exploring the parks this spring with your dog! However, it does raise a red flag.
Reduce the consequences – This is difficult to do. To reduce the chances of fatality if your dog contracts parvovirus, the best you can do is get veterinary attention as soon as possible. Seek medical attention early if your dog has severe vomiting, diarrhea, and lethargy – particularly if they are a puppy.
Reduce the probability of infection – This is where you have the most control. Reduce the risk to your dog simply by following through with their puppy immunization series, and continuing their annual exams and vaccine schedule as recommended by your veterinarian. Avoiding areas where the disease is known to be present is also important. In Guelph, this includes the Christopher Court and Janefield Avenue areas as reported by Guelph Mercury.