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Deadly distemper outbreak in Knysna

An outbreak of canine distemper in Knysna has seen 10 cases of infection reported in the same street, with the animals having to be put down.

Knysna Welfare Society (KAWS) spokesperson Retha Havenga said distemper had been picked up in Hornlee. There was no cure for the virus.

According to the Garden Route SPCA, this highly contagious viral disease is spread through the air, and by direct or indirect (ie utensils, bedding) contact with an infected animal.

It attacks the respiratory, urogenital, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems.

Dogs that are not vaccinated and come into any kind of contact with an infected animal carry a particularly high risk of contracting this deadly disease.

“Distemper is a viral disease and attacks the nervous system, so it is painful for the animal,” Havenga said.

“People get puppies and take them from one area to another; that is how it is spread from one dog to another,” Havenga said.

But people often waited too long to bring their dogs in for help after symptoms had begun to show, she said.

Sometimes the dog would not eat, and the owner would leave the animal for a couple of days hoping the situation would improve.

As the disease progresses, the dog could suffer from seizures and become more sick.

“There is nothing we can do to treat the dogs. It is very hard to contain it because dogs walk around the streets.

“We can help with the basic symptoms but we have to put the dogs down humanely,” Havenga said.

This strain of the distemper virus caused aggressive symptoms, mainly neurological, that closely resemble rabies symptoms, she said.

Symptoms include fever; listlessness and tiredness; vomiting and diarrhoea; discharge from the eyes and nose; coughing; muscle tremors in the body and on the head; and sudden aggressive behaviour.

A marked change in personality, fear of water, weakness, loss of appetite, seizures, paralysis of the throat and jaw muscles might follow, resulting in foaming at the mouth and disorientation. Lack of co- ordination and staggering (around) could occur, caused by paralysis of the hind legs.

Havenga urged the public to get their animals vaccinated while young.

“As soon as owners get a new arrival, ask for proof of vaccination. If they don’t have a vaccination card from wherever you get the puppy, get the puppy vaccinated,” she said.

Should you not be able to afford a vet and be able to prove it, you can contact the Garden Route SPCA George at 0448781990/0823787384 or Mossel Bay at 0446930824/ 0822520351/0722871761.

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