The outbreak happened in one street in Hornlee with 10 cases of infection reported earlier this year. It quickly spread in the months from March to August.
The Animal Welfare Society of South Africa (AWS) in Philippi, which encompasses the entire Cape Metro with a focus on the Cape Flats, said it has noticed a “worrying” spike in the number of cases reported.
“We are seeing between 10 and 20 cases per week which is significant.
“The apparent spike in the number of cases may be due to owner ignorance regarding the need to follow a proper vaccination regime.
“Given the number of cases seen the entire Cape Metro can be considered a hot spot,” said AWS spokesperson Allan Perrins.
Perrins said AWS has seen cases where the prognosis is regrettably hopeless and was left with no choice but to euthanise the dog to end its suffering and to prevent new infections.
“In a few instances, we have been able to offer supportive care. Being highly contagious, such cases are managed on an outpatient basis and the owner educated regarding the risk and spread of the virus.
“In domestic dogs, while the acute generalised form of distemper has a high mortality rate, disease duration and severity depends largely on the dog’s age and immune status and virulence of the infecting strain of the virus.”
Perrins said it has placed strict, non-negotiable bio-security protocols to prevent the spread of disease using basic foot-baths to costly sprays.
“Animals in our care, for example, hospital patients, impounded or stray animals and animals up for adoption, are safely isolated and carefully monitored to ensure their health and welfare.
“Their needs are not seen to by the hospital team who work in a high-risk area.
“Our kennels are very responsibly managed, disinfected and fumigated regularly to prevent the spread of disease and as a rule we do not wittingly admit infected animals, so there has not been a need to place our kennels under quarantine.”
Dogs that are not vaccinated and come into any kind of contact with an infected animal carry a particularly high risk of contracting this deadly disease.
Perrins urged pet owners to vaccinate and, in deserving cases where an owner really cannot afford the vaccine, it may vaccinate for free.