Cat owners are urged to have their pets vaccinated after an increase in confirmed cases of the highly contagious feline panleukopenia, which has a 90% mortality rate in unvaccinated animals, says The Emma Animal Rescue Society (Tears).
“We urge all pet owners to make sure their cats and kittens have been vaccinated to prevent the spread of the disease and limit the negative impact in our communities and the unnecessary suffering of animals… animals that contract and show symptoms of the disease have to be euthanised,” says Tears head veterinarian Dr Tania Heuer.
The first case of the disease was first identified five weeks ago in Vrygrond, Capricorn.
According to Tears, feline panleukopenia takes two to seven days to manifest in animals and is easily contracted by direct or indirect contact with other infected cats.
Cats who are sick can experience a range of symptoms such as loss of appetite, vomiting, diarrhoea, dehydration, high fever, and ultimately, death.
“Due to the infectious nature of the virus, an outbreak in the Western Cape is inevitable if nothing is done to curb its spread. Kittens need two vaccinations one month apart, starting at eight weeks old, while a standard annual vaccination is adequate for adult cats,” says Dr Heuer.
The rise in feline panleukopenia cases follows a distemper scare in May that claimed the lives of many unvaccinated dogs and puppies, says Tears.
Distemper and canine parvovirus are the two most infectious diseases in dogs, says Tears.
Tears vaccinates as many as 350 vulnerable pets per month, providing sterilisations and the first vaccine for free to its welfare clients living in Masiphumelele, Capricorn, Ocean View and Red Hill.
Lara van Rensburg, the organisation’s head of fund-raising, says responsible animal welfare decreases the spread of deadly and highly infectious viral diseases that have the potential to affect all unvaccinated pets, irrespective of geographic location.
“Funding is critical to extending our vaccination footprint and educating more pet owners regarding the importance of vaccination in keeping pets and communities healthy. Tears needs approximately R8 million per annum on its veterinary outreach provision of free sterilisation and vaccination support to indigent pet owners in the four low-income communities that Tears serves.”
Capetonians can help by donating to the Tears Veterinary Outreach Fund, enabling the Tears mobile clinics to continue their sterilisation and vaccination drives and protect more animals.