Distemper epidemic: vaccinate your dogs

2008-06-02 00:00

The Pietermaritzburg SPCA yesterday warned that they have seen cases of distemper in areas not far from the city.

This follows a warning they issued last week of a Distemper (Hardpad Disease) epidemic in and around Richmond.

SPCA spokeswoman Maureen Vida said the epidemic in Richmond has reached “alarming proportions” and could spread and eventually impact on the pet population in other areas, including Pietermaritzburg.

“Already the clinic at the Pietermaritzburg SPCA has dealt with a few isolated cases from areas in fairly close proximity to the city,” said Vida.

She said the disease, usually fatal for dogs, is caused by a virus and is transmitted from dog to dog via direct contact or droplet infection, mainly by dogs sneezing.

“Affected dogs usually show an increase in temperature, pus will often dribble from the nose and the pads of the feet and skin of the nose may become thick and cracked. Skin and muscle twitches and convulsions are often noticeable. The course of the disease may be as short as 10 days, but can, in some cases, last for months.”

She said that although there is no risk to humans, the disease invariably proves fatal for dogs, and treatment, even if administered in the early stages, is usually unsuccessful.

“Prevention is far better than cure. If your dog’s annual vaccinations [part of the annual 5 in 1] are up to date it should be adequately protected … All pups should be vaccinated at six weeks, a booster given a month later, and then annually.”

Vida cautioned that the rabies vaccine will not protect dogs against distemper.

“As it is not a state controlled disease, the state vet or stock inspector will not vaccinate your dogs against distemper. It is the responsibility of every caring dog owner to ensure that their pets’ vaccinations are up to date and especially in view of this epidemic … This essential annual vaccination is obtainable at your local veterinary practice.”

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