Nova Scotia

Sydney SPCA told to clean up to limit dog disease

The provincial SPCA has told the Sydney animal shelter to tighten up its procedures for cleaning to help manage an often-fatal disease in dogs.

The provincial SPCA has told the Sydney animal shelter to tighten up its procedures for cleaning to help manage a potentially fatal disease in dogs.

The order follows an audit at the Cape Breton SPCA last week.

The organization said it's trying to limit a contagious and often fatal gastro-intestinal disease called parvovirus.

There are about 40 dogs in separate wire cages in one large room at the SPCA.

Kristin Williams, executive director of the Nova Scotia SPCA, said that's the kind of environment where the parvovirus can quickly take hold.

Parvo affects dogs' intestinal tracts and the virus can live on floors or in cages for months. The disease affects mainly older dogs and puppies and can be transferred through feces and saliva.

Common symptoms in dogs are severe diarrhea, fever, vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite and dehydration.

Treatment of the disease can cost thousands of dollars, depending on health of animal before contracting the disease, age of animal and vaccination among other factors.

"Vaccination is key," said Sandra Flemming, the director of provincial animal care for the Nova Scotia SPCA.

'It's heartbreaking'

"It's heartbreaking because sometimes we've put thousands of dollars into an animal and we haven't been able to save it," Flemming said Wednesday.

The provincial SPCA said parvo seems more common in Cape Breton than elsewhere in Nova Scotia.

"It's a particular issue in Cape Breton, we do actually intake a number of dogs that are at risk for having parvo, so it's something we need to be extra vigilant about, in a shelter environment," said Williams.

The SPCA recommends new steps for cleaning and managing the disease to avoid any outbreaks at the shelter.

A dog diagnosed with parvo must be quarantined for at least 14 to 21 days, said Flemming.

Local manager Patsy Rose said she used to see a lot more cases, but now she said only a handful of dogs at the shelter contract the virus each year.

However, she said she welcomes efforts to improve cleaning and monitoring.

"We're checking every animal now. If an animal looks like it's sick, we'll parvo test it," Rose told CBC News.

"We have parvo tests here to make sure that they don't have parvo, because we don't want animals going out to be adopted that have parvo."

Williams did say the Sydney staff is doing a remarkable job, given the number of dogs and cats that arrive at the shelter each year.

The shelter took in more than 2,700 last year alone — more than any other shelter in the province.