OPINION: Plea to protect pets from deadly epidemic

TAKING your dog or puppy to the local park or beach is something that most Hunter residents probably take for granted. Many don’t realise that by doing this, they could be putting their pets at risk if they are not fully vaccinated.

In a week where businessman and philanthropist Bill Gates urged Australians to immunise their children, here in the Hunter the RSPCA is calling on pet owners to vaccinate their puppies and dogs to protect them against a deadly epidemic affecting the region – parvovirus.

In NSW, there have been 350cases of canine parvovirus reported to the Virbac Disease Watchdog. Of these, 101 cases were within a 50-kilometre radius of Muswellbrook Hospital, an area that includes Scone and Singleton. One-third of all reported cases in NSW have occurred within a 100-kilometre radius of Muswellbrook – an alarming statistic.

Parvovirus is a terrible way to die; the viral infection causes lethargy and loss of appetite, followed by vomiting, profuse bloody diarrhoea and dehydration. 

Highly contagious, the virus can survive up to a year in the environment, which means that your dog doesn’t have to come in contact with other dogs to contract the disease. 

Parvovirus is a preventable disease and the only way to protect your dog is through vaccination. 

It’s incredibly important to be diligent with your puppy’s vaccination schedule, a point demonstrated recently when little Max, a Maltese-Shih Tzu crossbreed contracted the virus after missing his second vaccination by only a few weeks. His owner, Judy Campbell, of Largs, rushed him to an emergency veterinary facility where he came very close to death. 

Following stabilisation and a week of care at RSPCA Hunter Veterinary Hospital, little Max has now made a full recovery. 

However, many puppies that contract parvovirus are not so lucky.

The true tragedy of the outbreak of parvovirus and subsequent deaths in the Hunter Region is that they all could have been prevented through vaccination. 

For this reason, RSPCA NSW has been running a half-price vaccination program at the epicentre of the epidemic in conjunction with veterinary practice Pet Medical and veterinary pharmaceutical company Virbac.

So please, if you have an unvaccinated puppy or dog, take it to one of the three Pet Medical practices offering half-price vaccination this week, or to your local veterinarian. 

Only through proper vaccination can you best ensure your canine companion’s protection from this prolific and deadly virus.

We also recommend that puppies are restricted from public, outdoor areas until the entire series of  vaccinations is complete.

Dr Magdoline Awad is the chief veterinarian at RSPCA NSW.

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