West Coast CARE Network volunteers organized an emergency parvovirus vaccination clinic last March after an outbreak was discovered in Tla-o-qui-aht communities. (CARE Network Photo)

Parvovirus scare underscores lack of veterinary care on Vancouver Island’s West Coast

Puppy from near Ucluelet treated in Nanaimo after contracting highly contagious canine disease

West Coast dog owners are being urged to ensure their pets are fully vaccinated after a puppy was recently diagnosed with the highly contagious and potentially life-threatening canine parvovirus.

James Rodgers of the Coastal Animal Rescue and Education Network said the owner of a puppy in Hitacu reached out to the network after their young dog became ill and, based on the symptoms, CARE helped organize a trip out of town.

“The closest open vet, because it was the weekend, was Nanaimo and so [the puppy] went to the emergency down there, which of course just reinforces the need for us to have more local resources and professional vet services on the Coast,” Rodgers said. “That pup went down and the vets there confirmed that it was a case of parvo. The number one thing that everybody should be aware of is that all puppies and dogs should be vaccinated for parvo.”

Rodgers could not speak to the Hitacu puppy’s current condition, but said that the West Coast sees a parvovirus outbreak roughly once-a-year and a 2018 outbreak killed “more than a handful of dogs.”

The virus is spread through bodily fluids, like vomit and feces. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and lethargic behaviour.

“It’s a very quick virus and obviously very painful for the animal,” Rodgers said. “It can come out of nowhere and it’s not uncommon for puppy to die within 12 hours.”

He said the incident serves as terrifying proof that the West Coast needs increased veterinarian services.

“CARE’s 2019 New Year’s resolution is that we will be working with a number of vets to establish services regularly on the Coast again,” he said. “In some cases, it’s literally a matter of life and death. In other cases, it’s just tragic when [a pet] is in pain and an end of life situation and the closest resources to handle that humanely are a bumpy, long, three-hour ride away. Pain, suffering and death are what we’re dealing with.”

The West Coast has not had a full-time veterinarian since the College of BC Veterinarians revoked Jane Hunt’s veterinary license in 2004 after new regulations came into play that mandated equipment upgrades Hunt could not afford. She had served as the region’s only vet since 1988.

“West Coast communities have been calling for a regular veterinary service since Jane Hunt stopped practicing,” said Tofino mayor Josie Osborne who noted the Alberni Veterinary Clinic currently visits both Tofino and Ucluelet once-a-month.

“I think many people are grateful that there are regular visits from Port Alberni based vets for immunizations and check-ups, but practically every family with pets that I know is concerned about quicker and more convenient and affordable access for regular check-ups and more urgent care.”

She added travelling out of town for emergency medical care is not always feasible for pet owners and that a local vet could provide valuable preventative health measures.

“It’s important to remember that veterinary services are private businesses and they do have significant capital costs to establish a clinic and many requirements to meet through their governing legislation, the Veterinarians Act,” she said. “I suspect there’s a great deal of work for a prospective West Coast vet to do to determine if it’s a viable prospect in Tofino or Ucluelet, but I know that the CARE Network is working hard to attract and work with prospective veterinarians, and is looking at different models of delivery. We’re extremely fortunate to have a committed and professional organization like the CARE Network.”

Carla Anderson owns the region’s only pet shop, Ocean Pet Supplies, and said establishing a veterinary clinic would not be viable without local government funding from all West Coast communities.

“Unfortunately, we don’t really have the capacity to have a full time vet here based on the cost of running a clinic,” she said. “I’ve had four different veterinarians from all over B.C. look into opening a clinic up here and it’s literally $1 million-plus to open a bare-bones clinic…Of course the community would benefit from a full time veterinarian, but that doesn’t mean that it’s feasible for someone to go into debt for $1 million to come up here and try to open a clinic.”

Rodgers encourages any residents interested in supporting a pursuit for a local vet to visit www.CareNetwork.ca or the network’s Coastal Animal Rescue Facebook page.

Just Posted

$3.5M all-season turf field planned for Qualicum Beach

Town seeks grant for community playing surface upgrades

Car theft suspect arrested in Coombs

Vehicle and two motorcyles recovered on Jan. 16

Qualicum Beach council big on support for multi-use cinema proposal

Society asks for 10,000 square feet, gets recommendation to consider with strategic plan

Lincoln stolen from Parksville dealership found near Duncan

Vehicle was located three days later with minor damage

Ballenas student experiment going into space

Science experiment designed by five SD69 students will travel to International Space Station

B.C. opioid crisis to get same world-renowned treatment approach as HIV/AIDS

A program that focuses on treatment as prevention will roll out Jan. 17

In limbo: Leftover embryos challenge clinics, couples

Some are outright abandoned by people who quit paying storage fees and other couples struggle with tough decisions

BREAKING: Jury finds man accused of killing B.C. girl, 12, guilty

Twelve-year-old Monica Jack disappeared in May 1978 while riding her bike along a highway in Merritt, B.C.

B.C. government extends coastal log export rules for six months

Premier John Horgan talks forest policy at loggers’ convention

B.C. pair accused of ‘honour-killing’ in India to be extradited within days

Malkit Kaur Sidhu and Surjit Singh Badesha are accused of conspiracy to commit murder

Netflix rejects request to remove Lac-Megantic images from ‘Bird Box’

At least two shows on Netflix’s Canadian platform briefly use actual footage of the 2013 tragedy

FOCUS: Canada’s revamped impaired driving law brews ‘potential for injustice’

There must be ‘trigger’ for cops to come knocking, Surrey MP says

Barack Obama to speak at Vancouver event

Former U.S. president will speak with board of trade in March

Former welfare clients still owed money, B.C. Ombudsperson says

Investigation found 2,600 people docked illegally for earning income

Most Read