A recent outbreak of canine parvovirus prompted volunteers at the Coastal Animal Rescue and Education Network to swiftly organize an emergency vaccination program in the Tla-o-qui-aht communities of Esowista, Ty-histanis, and Opitsaht.
When the outbreak was discovered over two weeks ago, it raised concerns from Parks Canada and businesses about the welfare of local and visiting dogs as well as the resident wolf population.
“This virus is deadly,” said James Rodgers, executive director at CARE Network.
“It’s quick when it does rear up and it can live outside in our environment for years. In the soil, on concrete, gravel, you name it, it’s there.”
Rodgers said they quickly got the word out to local communities to contain the virus and then they started talking to partners about getting an emergency vaccination plan in place.
Dr. Holly from the Pacific Rim Veterinarian clinic in Port Alberni was able to volunteer her time and Tofino-based adventure tour operator Ocean Outfitters stepped forward with a generous donation.
“We got a crew of volunteers together and made it happen,” said Rodgers.
In the morning, they held a clinic at Ty-histanis and then, in the afternoon, they went to Opisaht.
“We vaccinated somewhere in the 90 per cent range of all the dogs in those communities,” Rodgers said, adding that the crew will return in a couple weeks to follow-up with booster shots.
He noted that, unfortunately, canine parvovirus comes up every few years. Typically puppies are most susceptible, but it can happen to any dogs.
“The number one answer for all our communities and certainly anyone adopting a puppy or a dog into their family would be to get them vaccinated as soon as they are old enough, to prevent this kind of thing from happening,” he said.
Symptoms to watch out for are: vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and a loss of appetite.
“You shouldn’t wait for all those symptoms to show up. Any one of those, assuming we are dealing with an outbreak situation, should be cause to get in touch with either the CARE Network or their vet.”
Todd Windle, human wildlife and coexistance specialist with the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve, said they haven’t come across any wolves with the parvovirus.
“Wolves will be having pups in the next few weeks. We will be monitoring them with our remote camera monitoring system for changes in activity patterns or if they are looking unhealthy,” said Windle.
He reminded visitors to the Park to keep their dogs on leashes.
“That helps prevent spreading the virus. Or consider leaving your dog at home particularly if its not vaccinated.”