A NEW strain of the deadly canine parvovirus (CPV) has been confirmed on Australian shores for the first time.
Researchers at the University of Adelaide have found cases of the contagious virus, CPV-2c, in South Australia and Victoria over the past two years. A number of suspicious cases have also been red flagged in Queensland and Northern Territory.
There is no cure for CPV and the new form of the virus may not show-up in existing diagnostic (known as SNAP tests) exams. Dogs that are vaccinated against other types of canine parvovirus may not be protected against the newly-detected strain.
Lead researcher from the University of Adelaide’s School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences Farhid Hemmatzadeh said CPV was a highly contagious viral illness that attacked the cell lining in the small intestine.
He said symptoms included bloody diarrhoea and could be fatal.
“Most CPV infections occur in young dogs between six weeks and six months of age,” Associate Professor Hemmatzadeh said.
“CPV in Australia is historically associated with two viral variants in Australia, CPV-2a and CPV-2b. But we’ve now discovered a number of cases associated with the CPV-2c strain, previously thought not to occur in Australia.
“However we are not seeing a great spike in dog deaths in Australia so I think it’s a case of being alert, not alarmed.”
Researchers said dog owners should still vaccinate for CPV and take their dogs to the vet if they have unexplained or persistent diarrhoea and seem unwell.
The CPV-2c strain was discovered in Italy in 2000 and has since made its way across the world. It is now the most common variant of the canine parvovirus in the United States.
Dogs contract the virus through direct dog-to-dog contact and physical exposure to contaminated faeces, environments or people.
Traces of CPV can also be found in dog food, collars, leashes, kennel surfaces as well as the clothing of people who handle infected dogs.
The researchers found that in most cases, in-clinic diagnostic tests have shown negative results in infected animals and some cases of the new strain have occurred in dogs who had already been vaccinated against CPV.
Associate Professor Hemmatzadeh has been working with specialist veterinary pathologist Dr Lucy Woolford, PhD student Noor Haliza Hassan and veterinary science student Hannah Bobrowski, all from the School of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, and veterinary clinicians Dr Paul Crocker, and Dr Trevor Baker.
“The prevalence of CPV-2c is expanding worldwide and is reportedly associated with disease in adult dogs, as well as in dogs that have completed the vaccination protocols,” Dr Woolford said.
“While we still don’t have a lot of good evidence about whether current vaccines work against this new strain, it’s concerning that owners and vets may think the dog is protected against all types of CPV.”
She said dogs with the virus would show decreased appetite and lethargy, with bloody diarrhoea and vomiting.
Dr Woolford said there was no specific treatment for the virus itself but dogs could be hospitalised and supported with intravenous fluid therapy, anti-emetics to stop vomiting, antibiotics to treat secondary infection by bacteria, and pain relief, until they recovered.
South Australia’s capital Adelaide has three long-standing public universities, Flinders University, University of South Australia and the University of Adelaide, each of which are consistently rated highly in the international higher education rankings.