Tears Urges Capetonians To Vaccinate Their Cats And Dogs After Dramatic Increase In Infectious Canine Hepatitis Cases

TEARS Animal Rescue has announced an increase in laboratory confirmed cases of Infectious Canine Hepatitis (ICH), which results in a 95% death rate in unvaccinated animals or if they receive treatment too late. Due to the infectiousness of the disease TEARS is urging pet owners to speak to their local animal clinic regarding the risks to their pets and confirm if their vaccinations are up to date.

ICH (which does not affect humans) is a fatal disease affecting dogs. It is caused by canine adenovirus 1 (CAV-1), which occurs worldwide, and is most commonly found in the environment because it can last up to three months in ideal conditions.

Says TEARS Head Veterinarian, Dr Tania Heuer, “We have a responsibility to do everything we can to prevent the spread of the disease and limit the negative impact in our communities and the unnecessary suffering of animals. While vaccination has been successful at reducing the prevalence of this disease, once it occurs in a community it’s extremely challenging to manage the spread and prevention of the disease. The vaccine for ICH forms part of TEARS’ community vaccination programmes, but we continue to see a general lack of compliance from many community pet owners because of our mandatory sterilisation and vaccination requirement. Puppies are most at risk but older dogs can also contract the disease if not vaccinated.”

The incubation period usually occurs between two to five days, but it can take up to 14 days to manifest. The virus is present in the urine, nose and eye discharges of infected animals with transmission occurring by direct contact with these infected materials between animals. Symptoms of the disease ranges from mild to severe and can be non-specific or even indistinguishable from, for example, “kennel cough”.  Lethargy, increased thirst, no appetite, coughing with nose and eye discharge, red eyes (conjunctivitis), abdominal pain, oedema (the swelling of soft tissues due to fluid accumulation), vomiting (including vomiting blood), yellow mucous membranes, and signs of internal bleeding due to liver necrosis (cell death) are commonly seen. Prognosis is poor if the animal’s symptoms have developed to the point of liver failure and internal bleeding. Dogs that recover from the disease will continue to shed (spreading the virus in the environment) via their urine for another six months.

Says Dr Heuer, “ The TEARS Veterinary Hospital is seeing more of these cases which indicates that there is a worrying re-emergence of this disease in our communities. We suspect that this is largely due to the reduction of administering routine vaccines during and post the Covid Lockdown, and because of pet owner complacency when it comes to ensuring puppies and adult dogs receive their required vaccines. “

Last month the TEARS Veterinary Hospital and Mobile Clinics vaccinated 641 community pets as part of its welfare mandate. Protection lasts for many months but it decreases with time and adult booster vaccination is required. In addition to the pets that were vaccinated in March, TEARS also conducted 507 free sterilisations, 824 veterinary procedures, rescued and admitted 71 homeless/surrendered pets to the TEARS Kennel and Cattery, and delivered 1460 pet meals as part of its Feed Hungry Pets Programme.

TEARS Head of Fundraising, Lara Van Rensburg emphasises the importance of financial support in order for TEARS to carry out its’ 2024/25 Veterinary Outreach Programme.

“TEARS relies 100% on donations to provide a vital lifeline to vulnerable pets. It costs the organisation R10M to sterilise and vaccinate 6000 at-risk companion animals over a 12-month period, reducing the spread of disease, uncontrolled breeding, and suffering. Our welfare mandate is to combat animal homelessness and prevent the spread of zoonotic and other deadly animal diseases in the under-resourced communities of the Southern Peninsula that we serve,” she says.

Capetonians can help by donating to the TEARS’ Veterinary Outreach Fund which enables the TEARS Mobile Clinics to continue their sterilisation and vaccination drives and protect more animals. Citizens of the Mother City can show their support and help through donations.

TEARS is a recognised Level 1 B-BBEE contributor and Public Beneficiary Organisation. Donations to TEARS are tax deductible, with donors receiving a Section 18A tax receipt.

Professional drinks hobbyist by day. Devoted Kat Angel at KAT KULT, all the time.
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