Four Grise Fiord sled dogs may have died of parvo

Jeffrey Qaunaq lost four members of his sled dog team to an illness he believes was parvovirus.

So far highly contagious illness confined to one dog team

Dog owners in GriseFiord, Nunavut, are taking precautions because of a contagious virus.

Jeffrey Qaunaq, a sled dog owner in the hamlet, has lost four members of his sled dog team over the past month.

Qaunaq figures his dogs likely had parvovirus — a serious illness in dogs, especially puppies, that can lead to death. It is highly contagious and is transmitted through feces. 

"They were very weak in their hind legs," he said. "They would try to eat but keep vomiting, and they were getting weaker and weaker and eventually died."

Qaunaq says his other nine dogs appear to be healthy. He says he is the only owner who has lost dogs so far.

Vaccination against the disease is a dog's best defence.

Nunavut's only veterinarian, Leia Cunningham, is in Iqaluit 1,500 kilometres to the south. But she says the vaccine does not have to be legally administered by a veterinarian.  

Cunningham says she has sent doses of the parvo vaccine to many communities in Nunavut and they can be administered by anyone.

About 30 per cent of dogs who get parvo and are treated will still die. 

Left untreated, about 70 per cent of dogs with parvo will die.