The B.C. SPCA is holding a special vaccination clinic today in a Downtown Eastside SRO after an outbreak of the potentially fatal canine parvovirus was confirmed in four puppies being cared for in a building near Dunlevy Avenue and Powell Street.
Three dogs have died, and one is in intensive veterinary care, the animal welfare organization said Monday in a statement.
Parvovirus, or parvo, mainly affects puppies and non-vaccinated adult dogs. It is spread among animals through contact with fecal matter. The virus attacks canines' gastrointestinal systems and can damage the heart muscle. It can live in the environment for several months or longer.
"It could be fecal contact through walking your dog in parks or streets or two dogs meeting, and the virus has passed on one to the other," said Mark Vosper, the regional manager of animal protection services in the Lower Mainland and the Fraser Valley.
Vosper says it's up to the owner to take their dog for annual vaccinations.
"They need to get puppies vaccinated straight away and keep up with a series of vaccinations your veterinarian might advise you and annual boosters as well."
"If the puppies haven't got the antibodies and if they or the parent haven't been vaccinated, then they can pick up parvovirus very easily," said Vosper.
If a dog contracts the virus, the SPCA advises the owner to seek veterinary treatment as soon as possible.
Symptoms of parvovirus include lethargy, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and bloating, fever or low body temperature (hypothermia), vomiting and severe diarrhea.
"It can be extremely smelly, and there can be some blood in the diarrhea as well," said Vosper.
The B.C. SPCA says doctors, other volunteer veterinarians and volunteers are administering the vaccines and ensuring that residents understand the symptoms to watch for at the clinic.
Vosper says low-income owners can also seek support from the B.C. SPCA, a veterinarian or local charities.