Deadly dog virus hits territory

In the last few weeks, four dogs have died in Whitehorse from a new deadly strain of parvovirus. “Usually, dogs with parvo respond very well…

In the last few weeks, four dogs have died in Whitehorse from a new deadly strain of parvovirus.

“Usually, dogs with parvo respond very well to treatment,” said Copper Road vet Dr. Marina Alpeza.

“After five or six days, we usually see an 80 to 90 per cent recovery rate,” she said on Friday.

But the two puppies and two adult dogs with the new strain died after just two to four days, she said.

“We think it’s a new strain because it hit so hard and so fast.”

All four dogs were not up to date on their vaccinations.

The Alpine Veterinary Medical Centre hadn’t seen any unusual strains of parvo as of Friday morning.

“We normally see a number of parvo cases every year,” said Alpine vet Kim Friedenberg.

“And of those, five per cent die.”

Parvo outbreaks usually correspond with the puppy season, said Friedenberg.

“Puppies are more susceptible to the virus.”

The hardy virus can survive Yukon winters and will stay active in the soil for up to 20 years, he said.

Dogs can contract the virus from other sick dogs, from infected feces or just from rummaging in contaminated soil.

The virus can also come home on people’s shoes and clothes, said Alpeza.

“So it might be a good idea to soak your shoes in bleach.”

So far, the virus hasn’t infected vaccinated dogs.

And vaccinated dogs living in the same neighbourhood as the infected animals have not contracted parvo, she said.

“Parvo is not necessarily a death sentence,” said Friedenberg, who sees an average of 25 cases a year.

Of those, only one or two die, he said.

Dogs with the virus usually show up at the clinic with severe dehydration and “blood coming out of both ends.”

It attacks the upper gastrointestinal track, said Friedenberg.

Deaths are often cause by complications like the animal’s gut twisting from the severe diarrhea, he said.

While many jurisdictions only require animals to be vaccinated every three years, it’s recommended that Yukon pets be vaccinated annually, said Friedenberg.

“We see more parvo up here because there is a higher number of unvaccinated dogs,” he said, citing problems with vaccination in the communities.

People who get puppies from Outside or who do not finish the necessary three-shot puppy vaccine regime are at a greater risk, said Alpeza.

If puppies did not finish their three-shot series, it’s like they’ve never been vaccinated at all, she said.

In those cases, it is necessary to give the dog a booster shot a month after it’s yearly vaccination.