West Coast CARE Network volunteers organized an emergency parvovirus vaccination clinic last March after an outbreak was discovered in Tla-o-qui-aht communities. (CARE Network Photo)

West Coast CARE Network volunteers organized an emergency parvovirus vaccination clinic last March after an outbreak was discovered in Tla-o-qui-aht communities. (CARE Network Photo)

Parvovirus scare underscores lack of veterinary care on Vancouver Island’s West Coast

Puppy from near Ucluelet treated in Nanaimo after contracting highly contagious canine disease

West Coast dog owners are being urged to ensure their pets are fully vaccinated after a puppy was recently diagnosed with the highly contagious and potentially life-threatening canine parvovirus.

James Rodgers of the Coastal Animal Rescue and Education Network said the owner of a puppy in Hitacu reached out to the network after their young dog became ill and, based on the symptoms, CARE helped organize a trip out of town.

“The closest open vet, because it was the weekend, was Nanaimo and so [the puppy] went to the emergency down there, which of course just reinforces the need for us to have more local resources and professional vet services on the Coast,” Rodgers said. “That pup went down and the vets there confirmed that it was a case of parvo. The number one thing that everybody should be aware of is that all puppies and dogs should be vaccinated for parvo.”

Rodgers could not speak to the Hitacu puppy’s current condition, but said that the West Coast sees a parvovirus outbreak roughly once-a-year and a 2018 outbreak killed “more than a handful of dogs.”

The virus is spread through bodily fluids, like vomit and feces. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea and lethargic behaviour.

“It’s a very quick virus and obviously very painful for the animal,” Rodgers said. “It can come out of nowhere and it’s not uncommon for puppy to die within 12 hours.”

He said the incident serves as terrifying proof that the West Coast needs increased veterinarian services.

“CARE’s 2019 New Year’s resolution is that we will be working with a number of vets to establish services regularly on the Coast again,” he said. “In some cases, it’s literally a matter of life and death. In other cases, it’s just tragic when [a pet] is in pain and an end of life situation and the closest resources to handle that humanely are a bumpy, long, three-hour ride away. Pain, suffering and death are what we’re dealing with.”

The West Coast has not had a full-time veterinarian since the College of BC Veterinarians revoked Jane Hunt’s veterinary license in 2004 after new regulations came into play that mandated equipment upgrades Hunt could not afford. She had served as the region’s only vet since 1988.

“West Coast communities have been calling for a regular veterinary service since Jane Hunt stopped practicing,” said Tofino mayor Josie Osborne who noted the Alberni Veterinary Clinic currently visits both Tofino and Ucluelet once-a-month.

“I think many people are grateful that there are regular visits from Port Alberni based vets for immunizations and check-ups, but practically every family with pets that I know is concerned about quicker and more convenient and affordable access for regular check-ups and more urgent care.”

She added travelling out of town for emergency medical care is not always feasible for pet owners and that a local vet could provide valuable preventative health measures.

“It’s important to remember that veterinary services are private businesses and they do have significant capital costs to establish a clinic and many requirements to meet through their governing legislation, the Veterinarians Act,” she said. “I suspect there’s a great deal of work for a prospective West Coast vet to do to determine if it’s a viable prospect in Tofino or Ucluelet, but I know that the CARE Network is working hard to attract and work with prospective veterinarians, and is looking at different models of delivery. We’re extremely fortunate to have a committed and professional organization like the CARE Network.”

Carla Anderson owns the region’s only pet shop, Ocean Pet Supplies, and said establishing a veterinary clinic would not be viable without local government funding from all West Coast communities.

“Unfortunately, we don’t really have the capacity to have a full time vet here based on the cost of running a clinic,” she said. “I’ve had four different veterinarians from all over B.C. look into opening a clinic up here and it’s literally $1 million-plus to open a bare-bones clinic…Of course the community would benefit from a full time veterinarian, but that doesn’t mean that it’s feasible for someone to go into debt for $1 million to come up here and try to open a clinic.”

Rodgers encourages any residents interested in supporting a pursuit for a local vet to visit www.CareNetwork.ca or the network’s Coastal Animal Rescue Facebook page.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A partnership is looking to identify skeletal remains that were discovered by recreational divers in the Gorge Waterway this February. (Black Press Media File Photo)
Divers find partial human skull in Gorge Waterway

B.C. Coroner Service determines remains likely historical, not ancestral

This rendering shows the proposed warehouse for lands under the authority of the Victoria Airport Authority near a Sidney residential neighbourhood. (York Realty/Submitted).
Sidney calls on Victoria Airport Authority to improve design of planned warehouse

Council stops short of a definitive statement for or against proposal

The Victoria Police Department is looking for help identifying a person of interest after an April 29 hit-and-run. (VicPD handout)
Victoria police looking for suspect in hit-and-run investigation

The suspect was driving a four-door grey Dodge Ram 1500 truck

A man was arrested after allegedly threatening people downtown on May 10 while brandishing this knife. (Photo courtesy of VicPD)
Man armed with a knife arrested for allegedly threatening people in downtown Victoria

Officers used de-escalation techniques during afternoon arrest

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

Two-year-old Kashius Weme rides at the Steve Smith Memorial Bike Park in Nanaimo on Tuesday, May 11. The youngster’s precocious bike-riding ability is already attracting cycle sponsors. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
2-year-old bike rider on Vancouver Island already attracting cycle sponsors

Nanaimo’s Kashius Weme has a knack for extreme cycle sports

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

A scene from the Schoolhouse Squat from October 2018, where Alliance Against Displacement members and supporters occupied the Rutherford Elementary School site, advocating for people experiencing homelessness. (News Bulletin file)
‘Schoolhouse Squat’ activists get conditional discharge in Nanaimo school occupation

Ivan Donald Drury, Tingchun (Listen) Chen sentenced in provincial court in Nanaimo

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Most Read