Mission Pawsible: This Chennai-based animal dispensary vaccinates stray dogs against parvovirus

Working relentlessly in the parvovirus outbreak since June, vets at Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary have saved more than 700 strays through an active vaccination drive 

Published: 04th August 2021 07:14 AM  |   Last Updated: 04th August 2021 07:51 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Besides the occasional pat on the head, a friendly “Who’s a good boy?” or the semi-regular helpings of leftover food, our stray dogs don’t get a lot of love. Especially when they are injured or sick. How many times have you seen one walking the streets with a large tumour pushing through its abdomen? How often have we chanced upon one nurse a wound that’s taken too long to heal? While most of us could care less or have little means to offer help, Besant Memorial Animal Dispensary has been working to address this gap for years. This time, it’s the parvovirus outbreak that has them busy.

An endemic virus that’s always around, parvovirus gets a fresh boost during periods of rain, begins R Sooraj Mohan, senior veterinarian at the Dispensary. This wave started around mid-June. “When a puppy is affected, it spreads through contact. We feel that the shower helped spread it to all the puppies in the area. We noticed a spike by the end of June and have had around 25 cases every day,” he reports.

While a viral infection isn’t something treatable, the dispensary offers vital support through fluids and drugs that are essential for recovery. Without this help, a dog that isn’t vaccinated, the infection can prove to be fatal.

“Healthy puppies, if they are vaccinated, stand a better chance at fighting the infection. The first shot is given when the pup is 45 days old. It’s a weak form of the virus that helps the body produce antibodies. It helps them fight the virus when they get the infection,” he explains.

The point of relief to look for is when the puppy stops vomitting. Since the virus affects the digestive tract, vomitting and bloody/smelly stool are the most visible symptoms. It’s this that they try to address with their treatment.

“When they stop vomitting is when we can medicate them orally. So we ask owners to bring the puppies in till they stop vomitting. For those that only have loose stools, we ask them to bring them in for supportives,” he details. This applies to any stray dog you might want to protect. 

Besides assisting the animals pets and strays alike the dispensary has also been trying to cover as many strays as possible through their vaccination drive. After one that covered around 500 stray dogs between July 21-25, they have inoculated 350 dogs since.

While the treatment for parvovirus has them busy now, the dispensary regularly handles vaccinations, wound cases, tick fever cases (blood parasitic infection) and maggot infections. This care doesn’t just stop with dogs. This animal hospital-cum-shelter caters to cats, horses, donkeys, cows, bulls and more, says Shravan Krishnan, coordinator for the dispensary.

“These are animals that get injured on the road and we pick them up and rehabilitate them. Our facility currently has 250 in-patient animals. We have seven veterinarians working at the clinic who do everything from birth control surgery, tumour removal to amputations. We treat them and release them back where we found them. We also have an active outpatient clinic, where people who cannot afford to treat their pets at a private clinic come for treatment. We do it at a nominal price; most of the time, it’s free. We have a proper diagnostic facility to assist this. We see anywhere close to 1,000-1,500 cases a month,” he details.

An outreach programme by the Theosophical Society, the dispensary is run with funds from the parent body and thoughtful donations from the public. To improve their capacity further, given that they get requests for help from even outside the state, they are planning to set up a second unit in the Kundrathur area.

The clinic is open from 9 am to 9 pm (Sundays: till 5 pm) and round the clock for emergencies. Check their Facebook page for more details.


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