Unvaccinated puppies brought into UAE ‘spreading deadly dog virus’
DUBAI // Imported pups that have not been vaccinated are helping to spread a deadly canine virus.
Veterinary surgeons are urging dog owners to have their pets vaccinated after a surge in the number of parvovirus cases over the past two weeks.
Pups being brought into the country with false vaccination documents are a major cause of the spread. Eight cases have been reported and at least three cases of the distemper virus.
“More than 90 per cent of the puppies that get infected with parvovirus will die if they are not treated in time,” said Dr Sara Elliot, veterinary director at the British Veterinary Hospital.
“The virus is already in the environment and so any puppies that are not vaccinated against it are at risk.”
Among the cases was a pup that was taken from a shelter and was covered in ticks. After 12 hours staff at the hospital noticed bloody diarrhoea and suspected he may have parvovirus, which was later confirmed.
The dog received treatment and is now recovering, but Dr Elliot urged owners to ensure their pets were correctly vaccinated.
Over the past two weeks more than 40 worried owners have contacted the hospital after seeing symptoms in their pets.
Although the appearance of the virus in the environment is cyclical, imported dogs, particularly from Eastern European pup farms, are a major contributing factor.
“In many cases these companies do not vaccinate puppies and falsify documentation to say they have,” Dr Elliot said.
“There is only so much the authorities can do when these animals come to the UAE and I’d advise anyone who has bought a puppy and has not seen it being vaccinated with their own eyes to assume it has not.”
Although completely harmless to humans, the virus is highly infectious to dogs and remains in the environment for a long time.
“In summer the high temperatures kill off the virus, but during the cooler months when we get wetter weather the virus can survive out in the environment longer,” Dr Elliot said.
Parvovirus is found wherever dogs gather, such as parks, kennels, shelters and open spaces. Dogs that have not been vaccinated can contract it from infected animals or surrounds.
The disease attacks the intestinal tract, white blood cells and occasionally the heart, and can be easily transmitted by faecal waste or vomit.
Common symptoms are vomiting, bloody diarrhoea, loss of appetite and lethargy.
The incubation period could be up to 12 days after exposure and infected dogs may rapidly dehydrate, which could lead to death as soon as 48 hours later if left untreated.
Even after successful treatment the virus will remain an infection risk to non-vaccinated dogs for six months, because it is passed through the faeces.
Vets are also warning about the distemper virus, which spreads in a similar fashion and results in flu-like symptoms and neurological changes in behaviour in infected dogs.
Three cases of this disease have been reported to the hospital, including one where a labrador had to be put to sleep.
Nasser Al Falasi, founder of Dubai Dogs Society, a not-for-profit organisation that educates dog owners, urged them to make sure pups were vaccinated.
“I would urge people not to import dogs from outside the country because you have no idea what you’re getting and how healthy they will be,” Mr Al Falasi said.
“We have so many dogs in shelters in this country, which are in need of new homes and would make wonderful pets.”
Updated: March 1, 2016 04:00 AM