Thursday 18 July 2019

Warning issued to pet owners as outbreak of deadly virus kills 6 dogs

Rachel Farrell

Rachel Farrell

Pet owners are being urged to vaccinate their dogs after six dogs were killed in the last eight days by the outbreak of parvovirus.

Dr Kathy Enright, from Clare Street Vets in Limerick, says the highly contagious disease, which is reported to have a 90c mortality rate, appears to have spread in the Limerick city area in particular, leading to six deaths out of 11 cases.

Ten of the cases were confirmed cases and four went home after several days of hospitalisation, according to the city vet.

It is understood that the others were either so sick that they were euthanised on welfare and financial grounds or died during treatment.

The one unconfirmed death died at home but the vet notes that it had all the clinical signs of the virus, and was from the same area.

“All cases are from inner city Limerick, where they exercise their pets on the communal green and surrounding areas,” Dr Enright told

“I have had an intermittent case but not seen so many cases in such a short period of time and all from the same area, unless they’re in a shelter outbreak or breeder outbreak for example.”

Dr Enright adds that the disease can spread “like wildfire” and that it’s similar to the spreading of the flu virus among humans.

“It is unusual but not as the majority of cases were either not fully vaccinated or their vaccines had lapsed. It's so contagious that it can spread like a wild fire in an unvaccinated population.

“It’s caused by contact with a dog that is in the ‘shedding’ phase of the disease, so in contact with them directly or their feces or vomit, and spread by anything contacting that like birds or vermin. It’s like the flu virus in people.”

According to Dr Enright, certain breeds are more susceptible to the disease than others- but vaccination is the main key to prevention.

“If they present to us too far gone and lost a serious amount of blood, fluids and electrolytes then this disease can have up to a 90pc kill rate,” she said.

“Black and tan, rottweilers and German shepherds are more susceptible. If we see them early, we can support them through the disease. But that is costly, so vaccination is definitely the way to go from a welfare point of view and a financial point of view.

“The main issue is that we are failing to get the message out there that vaccination is lifesaving. The primary vaccination course is two injections and boosters are required.” 

Symptoms of the parvovirus include lethargy, severe vomiting, loss of appetite and bloody, foul-smelling diarrhea that can lead to life-threatening dehydration.

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