The Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation continues to battle a canine parvovirus outbreak in Ty-Histanis.
About 10 dogs have died from the quick-spreading and often fatal virus over the past three weeks and the Nation is working with the Coastal Animal Rescue and Education Network to prevent further deaths.
CARE co-founder James Rodgers said the network has dealt with canine parvovirus in the region before, but this latest outbreak has been particularly tough.
“We’ve dealt with parvo in various communities, this seems different to me…This seems more extreme,” Rodgers told the Westerly News on Sunday, Sept. 10. “It’s a very sad situation. For the families, these are beloved family members. It’s a tough situation right now.”
He added there have been several instances of SNAP tests being done—involving swabbing a dog’s feces and mixing that with a solution that produces a result within 10 minutes—and coming up negative, but bloodwork from the same dog being sent to a lab coming back positive two to three days later.
“The vets are trying to figure out what exactly is going on and talking to the labs about why the SNAP tests aren’t working, so it’s puzzling still. We’re still in the thick of it and still trying to figure out what’s going on,” he said. “The fact that the SNAP tests aren’t helping is really messing things up…That really, in a situation like this, causes problems. We’re working on many fronts to minimize the spread of the virus.”
He added triage would likely begin on Sept. 11 as sick dogs continue to be reported.
“Trying to sort out the most high priority situations and how to manage them. We’ve got a lot of animal issues on the go, but obviously with dogs dying and viruses spreading, especially viruses that can spread to wolves, our attention is definitely on this issue,” he said.
He said no confirmed cases have been reported in neighbouring communities, though tests have been done on a dog showing symptoms in Tofino.
“People are worried for their furry family members for sure,” he said. “We’re hearing a lot of people saying that they’re not taking their dogs out for walks in the usual places they might go, they’re keeping their dogs in and closer to keep them safe, and they’re asking a lot of questions about how this virus spreads and what steps they should be taking.”
An emergency vaccination clinic was held on Sept. 4 with a vet team travelling from Parksville and vaccinating about 35 dogs as well as providing tests and offering treatment for those presenting symptoms.
“Where we knew dogs were showing symptoms or feeling poorly, we went and did home visits to minimize any kind of spread and took all the usual precautions that one takes in these situations,” Rodgers said. “One puppy that was presenting symptoms and was pretty sick was taken out of the community just to, again, minimize spread and to get that puppy tested further.”
He added the vaccination clinic “was a really good step forward.”
“I’m very thankful to the vet team that came out on the Monday of a long-weekend to do this emergency clinic. That’s just one part of the network and that’s what it takes, I think, to manage these situations and make all our communities healthy and safe for both the four legged members and also the two legged members,” he said.
“I can’t stress this enough, parvo virus is not specific to Ty-Histanis, it is in all of our communities. It gets on the ground and lives there for a while and vaccinating, while not a 100 per cent solution, is the best thing we’ve got. The more dogs that are vaccinated, the less it’s going to spread and the fewer dogs that are going to die a pretty terrible death.”
More planning is being done between the CARE Network and Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation to further prevent the virus from spreading, though Rodgers noted there is no silver bullet or perfect gameplan to follow.
“I would characterize it as dynamic steering. We’re getting information and taking the next best step that we can come up with,” he said. “We’re wanting everyone to be aware of what’s going on so that we can all be prepared because, of course, vet clinics and animal businesses and organizations really need to be careful. If dogs that have the virus are coming into their environment, they can get shut down for quarantine for a fair amount of time which has a huge impact on the community in many different ways.”
All dog owners are urged to monitor their pets for symptoms, including diarrhoea, vomiting, rapid weight loss, lethargy and high temperature. Anyone who believes their dog is showing symptoms should immediately contact a veterinarian.
Rodgers suggested dogs should be kept on a leash when exploring the outdoors so their owners can keep a close eye on what they’re sniffing.
“We should always be cautious. All the beaches I think in the region are supposed to be on-leash only situations and that’s probably a good idea because it is feces that is the top way this spreads, so if one’s dog is going over to sniff where the last dog who walked the beach went, that’s an easy way for it to spread,” he said. “I would say keeping dogs on leash and away from other dogs poo and just being mindful of those kinds of things and, again, checking to see if those vaccines are up to date and, if not, make an appointment.”
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