They’ve done their damage on the human population, dragging national herd immunity levels down and helping to bring back diseases once thought to be eradicated.
Now, it seems the anti-vaccination movement has its sights set on the pet population. The CBC reports that some veterinarians in Calgary are encountering pet owners who are refusing vaccines for parvovirus. They report that the highly contagious yet easily preventable infection is on the rise.
“We do see more people thinking that vaccinations are not important or that they come with risks and I am not doing that to my dog,” says Dr. Katie Van Sluys of Calgary’s Fish Creek Pet Hospital. “But unfortunately the risk of this disease is out there and threatening the adult population, if you are not vaccinated.”
World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA), which represents more than 158,000 individual veterinarians, have defined a series of has defined core vaccines they believe all dogs and cats should receive, regardless of circumstance. For dogs, these include vaccines that protect from canine distemper virus (CDV), canine adenovirus (CAV) and canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV-2). Core vaccines for cats protect from feline parvovirus (FPV), feline calicivirus (FCV) and feline herpesvirus-1 (FHV-1).
The association acknowledges that there is no legal requirement for owners to vaccinate their pets. But like the medical community has stated with regard to a human population that is two generations removed from Polio outbreaks, the very success of vaccines has led some to question whether we need them at all.
I don’t think people understand parvo as such because we don’t see it as much. But when we do, we remember how bad it is. Diseases will come back, there’s no doubt in my mind. That’s why we vaccinate livestock and domestic animals.
“There is little doubt that in most developed countries the major infectious diseases of dogs and cats are considered at best uncommon in the pet population, but there do remain geographical pockets of infection and sporadic outbreaks of disease occur, and the situation regarding feral or shelter populations is distinctly different to that in owned pet animals,” says the organization’s vaccination guideline paper. “However, in many developing countries these key infectious diseases remain as common as they once were in developed nations and a major cause of mortality in small animals.”
Across the United States and in Australia, outbreaks of parvovirus are taking place. In Grand Forks, North Dakota, where the infection has been a problem, one vet says many pet owners are obsessing about the often mild side-effects of some vaccines and forgetting that what they are meant to eradicate is a much worse result.
“I don’t think people understand parvo as such because we don’t see it as much. But when we do, we remember how bad it is,” says Dr. Lori Gossard, who practices at All Pets Hospital. “Diseases will come back, there’s no doubt in my mind. That’s why we vaccinate livestock and domestic animals. We don’t see distemper like we used to many years ago,” Gossard said. “But if we stop vaccinating for it, we would see it again.”
Canine parvovirus is caused by infection with CPV, most often, CPV-2a or CPV-2b. It is an acute illness, meaning that symptoms develop quickly and can cause death within two or three days Symptoms include bloody diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and loss of appetite.