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Will govt help out with vaccines for dog distemper

Vets say it must do so

Manashaa G

A dog resting

Canine distemper, a serious contagious disease, is on the rise in Bengaluru. The city witnessed an outbreak of it in 2017. The number of dogs affected spiked in the past couple of months, according to doctors.
Canine distemper is a viral infection with hardly any cure. It affects dogs, wolves and foxes.  If diagnosed early, dogs can recover. Vaccination is not completely effective.
“In our hospital, at least one dog is admitted every day. This disease is more common in stray dogs. Pets are prone to the disease as it is contagious.  Sometimes vaccines have proven ineffective,” Dr Lohith, a surgeon at the Bangalore Pet Clinic, informed The Observer.
Few pet owners are aware that affected dogs must be kept in isolation to prevent the disease from spreading.
The government doesn’t seem to be doing much to gather data on canine distemper. Not all government veterinary hospitals in Bengaluru keep a record of the disease.
“The BBMP can provide canine distemper vaccines like they provide vaccines for rabies,” said veterinary consultant Dr Nagesh Reddy.
Dr Lohith said: “Canine distemper has increased in the past few months. It has a 50-60% mortality rate. Since the vaccines are very expensive, it is difficult to provide them on a large scale. We doctors do our bit. The other part must come from BBMP. They provide anti-rabies vaccines. So why can they not provide vaccines for canine distemper?”
Incidence of the disease has gone up with the rise in the population of street dogs. Initially, an affected dog gets respiratory infection and conjunctivitis. The infection then travels to the brain, killing the animal. Dogs that recover are left with after- effects such as twitching of muscles or improper body movements.
“We need to detect it at an early stage for treatment to be successful,” Dr Lohith added.
The early symptoms of canine distemper include vomiting, fever and diarrhoea. Pups are prone to the disease because their immunity is low.
Distemper spreads through water or air. Haemoglobin antibodies are administered to treat it. Sometimes bird vaccination is used.
Dr Anand Rao, joint director, animal husbandry, BBMP, informed The Observer: “Since this does not spread to human beings, we have not included it in our norms. Also, vaccination is expensive. Each vaccine costs between Rs 600 and Rs 2,000. If we receive more complaints, we can include it in our norms and arrange for vaccines like we provide for rabies.”
A resident of Banaswadi who owns a Cocker Spaniel said: “It would be fair if the BBMP or the department of animal husbandry provides vaccines for distemper. As the vaccine costs a lot, it is hard for many dog owners to afford it.”
“The government should step in and help people in such conditions,” said Shyam Sunder, a retired bank officer.
Vijay Kumar, who works for Compassion Unlimited Plus Action, an NGO based in Bengaluru, said: “I saw the highest number of cases in 2017. Vaccination cannot cure the disease 100%. I do not think the BBMP has a budget for a distemper vaccine. If they do, it would be helpful. There must be proper government schemes to tackle and track the disease.”
A at the City Government Veterinary Hospital, Bengaluru, said: “Separate rooms must be provided in Government Veterinary Hospitals in order to stop the disease from spreading to other pets. We do not have such separate rooms here.”
manashaa.g@iijnm.org