By A.J. Etherington
The Courier 

Vet Warns Against Common Preventable Diseases in Pets


August 1, 2018

According to Dr. Chelsie McAllister, DVM of Valley Vet Clinic in Glasgow, canine parvovirus and distemper virus in Valley County are much higher in this region than in most. According to McAllister, the high rates are due to a lack of proper vaccination in puppies, which she says can lead to costly treatment or even death despite being preventable.

Canine parvovirus targets the dog’s gastrointestinal tract causing bloody diarrhea, vomiting, loss of appetite and lethargy. According to Dr. McAllister, the disease can be cured with costly treatment if the dog is large enough, usually over seven pounds, and healthy enough to fight the disease. But with vaccines the disease is almost certainly preventable.

Distemper virus in canines targets the GI tract, respiratory and nervous system causing fever, lethargy, and slight nasal and eye discharge in mild cases. According to literature on the disease provided by Dr. McAllister, severe cases occur most often in young puppies and unvaccinated adult dogs causing fever, watery or cloudy nasal and eye discharge, and coughing with the potential for difficulty breathing. Decreases in appetite, vomiting and diarrhea are also common signs of the disease.

Distemper symptoms attacking the nervous system can cause seizures, behavior changes, weakness and difficulty walking. In almost all distemper cases in Valley County, the prognosis is usually fatal according to Dr. McAllister.

According to the veterinarian, parvovirus is far too common in Valley County with rates occurring following breeding season at as high as one parvovirus or distemper case a week despite the fact that the diseases are completely preventable with vaccinations. “It is frustrating to see a four-month-old puppy come in with parvo,” explained McAllister, “when, with three little vaccines, it was completely preventable.”

Parvovirus and distemper are prevented by the same vaccine administered best starting at age six to eight weeks and then every three to four weeks after that until all three are complete. McAllister warned that even with one or two vaccines completed the animal may still contract the disease, although it may not be as severe.

“It is important that until all three are complete that people keep their puppies out of social settings where they could come in contact with dogs that may not be vaccinated,” warned McAllister. She did concede that if owners know that other dogs are vaccinated it should be fine but that public parks or large gatherings with multiple dogs may not be the best setting for animals until the vaccines are completed.

McAllister warns that parvovirus is very contagious with the virus staying alive on clothing for long periods of time. She cautioned that if pet owners come in contact with the virus they could easily transfer the disease to other animals that are not vaccinated against it. Distemper is less hardy, according to McAllister and it usually requires more direct contact between animals in order to spread. Neither of the two viruses are zoonotic, meaning they cannot spread from canines to other animals or humans.

An animal disease that is zoonotic and is required by law to be vaccinated against is rabies virus. Rabies has no cure and any animal that contracts the disease must be put down. Another element of a rabies vaccine Dr. McAllister pointed out is that any animal who bites a person and is not vaccinated for rabies must be put down or quarantined for an indefinite amount of time. Rabies vaccines should be administered at 12 weeks of age for both cats and dogs.

Another misconception people who bring their puppies or kittens into the clinic think is that since they live in town they do not require a rabies vaccine. This is not accurate, says Dr. McAllister who pointed out that stray animals can carry rabies and that bats are the largest carriers of the disease and are commonly found in town.

For owners of young kittens the news is less grim than canine parvovirus or distemper. Kittens require vaccines for feline distemper and feline upper respiratory disease to prevent the consequences of both. Neither virus is as deadly as the canine counterparts but both can be costly to treat and should be vaccinated against starting at six to eight weeks.

The last point of puppy and kitten health Dr. McAllister wanted to stress was diet. Each animal requires a specific style of high quality pet food to keep them healthy and growing properly. This will prevent bone and joint problems caused by growing too fast or a lack of proper nutrition.

McAllister pointed out that when new pet owners come into the clinic they are advised about vaccinations and given a “welcome kit” which provides them brochures on their pet, treats and a sample of high quality dog food.

Vaccination clinics are conducted by Valley Vet Clinic in each town in Valley County usually between May and July. If you need to schedule vaccinations for your pet or you want more information about the above topics you can call 228-9313 and schedule an appointment.


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