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Fatal dog virus going ignored: Norman Wells resident
Northern News Services
Published Monday, February 1, 2010
Two cases of parvovirus in dogs from Norman Wells and one case from Fort Smith have recently been confirmed at Yellowknife's Great Slave Animal Hospital. When untreated, the highly contagious virus causes vomiting, diarrhea and death by dehydration in dogs. Norman Wells resident Terry Gerstmeyer, owner of B-2's Pet Supplies, says many more dogs in the community have died of the virus. The town recently posted notices telling residents of a "suspected outbreak" of parvo, but Gerstmeyer said that's not enough.
"There's at least a couple dead here in town and a couple others that are suspected to have died from it, but the owners just took the bodies and just put them out into the woods or out into the dump," said Gerstmeyer, adding residents need to be more informed about parvo, since the virus can live in animal feces for weeks, even at cold temperatures, and is easily spread.
Norman Wells Mayor Dudley Johnson said the town is trying to inform residents as much as possible, through the community channel and the dogcatcher's office.
"We took whatever action we could," Johnson said. "The town is not responsible for getting people to vaccinate their animals, but if the animal has already got it (the virus), the vaccine is no good anyhow."
The town dogcatcher will collect dead dogs known to have been infected, wrap them in plastic and burn the carcasses to prevent further spread of the virus, which birds and other scavenging animals can carry and pass on.
There is a vaccine to guard against the virus - which Gerstmeyer's store sells - but it is only effective as a preventative measure, commonly given to puppies in two doses. He said town officials aren't doing enough to inform residents of the dangers of the virus.
"I had two people today saying, 'my animal is sick. Can you come over and give it a shot?'" said Gerstmeyer. "They're not letting people know that you've got to ship them out, what it's going to cost them, that even after an animal dies, you have to be cleaning up all the feces outside.
"I've given the town these reports over and over and over again, and they just want to ignore it. And the thing about it is, this is not a Norman Wells problem. There's no end to what this problem could affect."
The number of parvo cases in NWT so far this year is typical, said veterinarian Tom Pisz of Great Slave Animal Hospital.
"There's always cases of parvovirus, and there have been cases from all over the territories," he said. "It's not more than normal."
Treatment involves supplying the infected dogs with intravenous nutrients since they can't eat, and administering antibiotics and painkillers until the virus is out of the system. Even then, recovery is not guaranteed.
"If you treat them, they have a better chance of survival but even then, it's not 100 per cent - it's more like 60/40 per cent," Pisz said.
A mobile vet is scheduled to visit Norman Wells on March 6-7 at the Environment and Natural Resources lab, and is now accepting appointments.