Canine Stomach Flu Has Killed 250 Dogs in West Bengal, Sickened More
More than 250 dogs, both street dogs and pets, have been found dead over the last four days in Bishnupur in West Bengal. Gastroenteritis—a form of stomach flu—caused by the highly contagious canine parvovirus, is the cause, according to veterinarians.
Canine parvovirus is one of the most severe diseases a dog can get, with a mortality rate as high as 91% in untreated cases. The virus commonly causes severe illness in young and unvaccinated dogs, although adult dogs can also be infected. The disease is highly contagious and spreads very quickly through direct or indirect contact with feces. The virus can live outdoors for a very long time and is resistant to many disinfectants.
However, the infection is preventable with proper vaccination, and the disease cannot be passed to humans from dogs.
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Veterinarians in the region say the spread of the canine virus is likely a side effect of the pandemic, which has led many pet owners to avoid timely vaccines for their dogs. “Due to the pandemic, many dogs have not been vaccinated,” Subhash Sarkar, a veterinary doctor in the region who has treated a rush of parvovirus-infected dogs in the past two months, told India Today. “This year, as vaccination is not completed on time, it is causing chaos. Another issue was the unavailability of vets for vaccination.”.
While dogs in other states have also been found to have the virus, the number of deaths has not been alarming outside of West Bengal. “We have reported the incident to the district and state health authorities,” said Bishnupur’s municipality chairman to the Times of India. Municipal officials have also been making large-scale public announcements to spread awareness and curb panic. But as long as street dogs are not vaccinated, parvovirus will continue to be a threat to pets, too.
The symptoms of parvovirus are similar to cholera in humans: loose motions, blood loss, dehydration, and in severe cases, cardiac failure. “Once a dog shows symptoms such as not eating food, excessive vomiting, diarrhoea, saline must be given to it,” veterinarian Gautam Mukherjee told India Today. “A medicine called Parvo Care should be given along with antibiotics when the vomiting stops.” Vets are advising people to avoid taking their pets out for walks for the time being, especially if the dogs are newly vaccinated, and isolating their dogs at home—the same way humans are isolated to prevent the spread of coronavirus.