Cats do not spread parvovirus as circulating message implies

Cats are not the carriers of ‘cat flu’, or the canine parvovirus, as a message being circulated in Hartbeespoort seems to imply. The disease is not contracted from cats but is spread from dog to dog by direct or indirect contact with their faeces.

A number of parvo cases have been reported in the Hartbeespoort area and dog owners are advised to have their dogs vaccinated. Vaccines can prevent this infection. The mortality rate is more than 90% if left untreated.

Parvo is a highly contagious virus. It causes an infectious gastrointestinal (GI) illness in puppies and young dogs, and without treatment, it is deadly. Part of what makes the virus so dangerous is the ease with which it is spread through the canine population.

According to the South African Veterinary Association, the virus attacks rapidly dividing cells such as those in the lymph nodes, intestinal lining and the bone marrow. This results in depletion of the white blood cells necessary for the immune system to function, delaying the recovery of infected puppies. The rapid death of the intestinal cells results in the sloughing (breaking away) of the intestinal lining, vomiting, diarrhoea and severe intestinal bleeding. This may eventually lead to the death of your puppy if left untreated.

The symptoms of parvovirus or cat flu are: lethargy, vomiting, anorexia, bloody diarrhoea, dehydration and collapse.
The only way to prevent parvovirus is through vaccination.

Puppies should receive their first vaccination at six weeks of age with two more vaccinations thereafter at 9 and 12 weeks of age. Your veterinarian will assess your puppy on its first visit and will provide you with the dates for the follow-up vaccinations. Dogs are usually vaccinated on an annual basis thereafter. The parvovirus is included in this combination vaccine.

Should you have a puppy that has parvovirus, care should be taken when introducing new puppies into your environment as the parvovirus persists in the environment for long periods of time. Diluted bleach is one of the readily available disinfectants that kills parvovirus but may take up to ten minutes to achieve full effectiveness.