TOWNS throughout the Banana Shire are facing one of the biggest outbreaks of canine parvovirus - or "parvo" - in years.
Biloela vet Kevin Agius said it was the worst outbreak of parvo he had seen in his years in Biloela.
"I have been here for 12 years and it's the most animals I have seen in any particular parvo outbreak," Dr Agius said.
"Normally, we only see it for a couple of weeks but now it has already been a month.
"My understanding is it's reasonably widespread over our shire, including Biloela, Banana, Moura, Gladstone - there are a lot of areas that have problems."
Canine parvovirus is a highly contagious disease, usually affecting young dogs yet to reach adulthood.
"We tend to mainly see it in puppies but you can see it in older dogs. Only last week, we had one that was a couple of years old."
Dr Agius said many people didn't understand how the virus was spread.
"The contagious principal of it is the faeces.
"It is dogs coming in contact with infected faeces and, unfortunately, it is mechanically spread - meaning it is spread by footwear and tyres - so even having a dog in isolation at home, you can bring it home on your footwear or on your vehicle.
"You don't have to step in a patch of faeces because it is just a micro-organism and, if there are faeces on the footpath that are being dispersed by weather or whatever it is, you can just walk on grass and you get it - you can get it that easily."
He said there were symptoms to look out for.
"The initial symptoms are a rapid onset of depression, not eating, then vomiting, followed by diarrhoea with blood - and that progresses over a short period of time.
"If the owners bring the patient in to us early at the initial presentation of signs and if they are willing to go ahead with treatment involving plasma transfusions, the success rate is normally really good - but it does come at a cost.
"The incubation period is up to 10 days and they can spread the virus in their faeces for up to 10-12 days after they are normal."
Dr Agius said the best way to prevent dogs becoming ill was through vaccination.
"By vaccinating your dog, you can prevent the illness.
"Most viral diseases are hard to treat and best prevented with a vaccine, if one is available and parvo is one of those.
"Any dog over six weeks of age can be vaccinated, whether it has had puppy immunisation or not."
He said this outbreak of parvo involved a "host-specific" virus and would only affect dogs.
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