A free twitter-based early warning system to alert vets and dog owners of cases of canine parvovirus (CPV) in their area went live on 1st November 2012.
The service, launched by Virbac Animal Health, is a twitter feed that updates followers on the geographic location of cases of the disease using the first half of the relevant postcode. The company is asking vets and owners learning of a case to tweet the first half of the postcode where it occurs to @parvoalert. Virbac will then retweet it. Vets and dog owners can check the feed for news of new parvo cases.
According to Virbac, canine parvovirus causes terrible suffering to dogs and is often fatal. The virus attacks the lining of an infected dog's digestive system, leaving the dog unable to absorb nutrients or liquid. Symptoms include fever, lethargy, depression and loss of appetite. Typically, the illness develops to cause vomiting and diarrhoea. Dehydration, shock and death can occur with the virus attacking the dog's heart. In puppies this can cause heart failure.
The Veterinary Director of Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, Shaun Opperman, comments: "As recent viewers of ITV1's 'Paul O Grady: For the Love of Dogs' may have seen, parvovirus causes dreadful suffering to dogs. Unfortunately many people still aren't vaccinating their dogs, so we see cases on a regular basis and it is vital that owners vaccinate their dogs, are aware of the disease and remain vigilant for the early signs.
Simon Boulton MRCVS, Product Manager at Virbac, explains: "One of the problems in tackling canine parvovirus is that little information is shared on the frequency and location of cases so, in some ways, it's a hidden problem. While it's not as common as some other infectious diseases, when outbreaks occur, as they did earlier this year in South Wales and Oxford, the disease proves fatal in around half of diagnosed dogs.
To help alert dog owners, Virbac will automatically provide veterinary practices local to reported cases with a 'Parvo-alert' pack, containing a range of tools and support materials. Once @parvoalert is established, the company aims to build it into a comprehensive web-based canine parvovirus resource, featuring background on the prevention and treatment of the disease, comment from veterinary experts and downloadable practice support materials.
Simon Boulton continued: "It's heart-breaking for owners to lose their pets in this way and to see them suffer from a disease that could easily have been prevented. We hope @parvoalert will help to raise awareness of the fact that canine parvovirus continues to represent a significant threat to unvaccinated dogs.