The Fan Hitch   Volume 17, Number 4, September 2015

          Journal of the Inuit Sled Dog                                    
In This Issue....

From the Editor: The Statistics of Sharing

Fan Mail

Contaminated Water! Yet Another
Long-standing Debacle in Iqaluit

Searching for the Shelters of Stone

How to Loose a Husky Team

A New Home for the BAS Husky Memorial Bronze Statue

Historical and Climatic Prerequisites of the
Appearance of the Population of Sled Dogs of the
Shoreline of the Chukotka Peninsula

The Sledge Patrol documentary update
Major Virus Issues in Canada’s North and
Canine Parvovirus Infects Inuit Dogs in
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, 1978

A Decade of Service: The Chinook Project’s
2015 Labrador Animal Wellness Clinic

Inuk’s release in North America!

Book Review: Games of Survival: Traditional
Inuit Games for
Elementary Students

IMHO: The Presumption of Good Faith

Index: Volume 17, The Fan Hitch

Navigating This Site

Index of articles by subject

Index of back issues by volume number

Search The Fan Hitch

Articles to download and print

Ordering Ken MacRury's Thesis

Our comprehensive list of resources

Defining the Inuit Dog

Talk to The Fan Hitch

The Fan Hitch home page

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Editor: Sue Hamilton
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Bill with pups just over two weeks-old                              Photo: Carpenter

Major Virus Issues in Canada’s North and
Canine Parvovirus Infects Inuit Dogs in
Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, 1978

by William J. Carpenter

As history has shown, viral diseases can be devastating and fatal to human and animal populations, both domestic and wild. The mode of transmission, virulence, the natural immunity within a population and whether a vaccine is available will be among the determining factors as to how the virus affects a population.

The 2014 Ebola outbreak in Western Africa drew world attention to this often fatal viral disease that recently killed thousands of people. The Ebola virus is known to spread from a person who is sick with Ebola through direct contact via broken skin; mucous membranes of the eyes, nose or mouth; or from blood or body fluids such as urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk and semen.

Arctic Canada, as isolated as it was in the 1600s and 1700s when European contact was made, has had its own experience with viral diseases. Not only did fur traders and whalers reshape the Northwest Territories from the time of their first contact, Europeans also brought viral diseases such as measles to the Arctic. Inuit had never been exposed to measles before, and hundreds died because they lacked the natural resistance necessary to fight off this virus. Inuvialuit who primarily resided around the Mackenzie River delta were one of the local populations severely affected by measles and as a result their original population was severely reduced.

Having worked as a wildlife biologist in the north, I was aware of the well-known fact that rabies was an endemic disease in white (arctic) fox populations primarily as the so-called “dumb rabies” type. The most common mode of this virus transmission is through a bite when virus-containing saliva of an infected host is passed to an uninfected animal. Distemper, another viral disease, may have also been endemic in wild populations of both foxes and wolves. 
In the early 1950s, as a method of putting a barrier between wild animals with rabies and humans and their domestic animals, Agriculture Canada, in partnership with and administered by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), introduced a rabies vaccination program throughout the Northwest Territories. This was noted in a Canadian Veterinary Journal paper1.  Recently Brett Elkin, DVM reported to me (personal communication August 11, 2015) that the program primarily used a bi-valent vaccine (rabies and distemper) for much of its duration, therefore protecting all sled dogs from distemper as well as rabies. This made sense as during the 1950s the RCMP was using dog teams as their winter mode of transportation when travelling on the land. However, in my opinion the program in its original setting was doomed to have gradual regional failures once the RCMP stopped using dog teams. In addition, with many new officers being from cities and not having farm backgrounds as did officers in the past, the handling of working animals (in this case sled dogs) was totally foreign to many of them. For example, in the early 1970s in the community of Behchokö (formerly Rae-Edzo) 100 km west of Yellowknife, the RCMP had not vaccinated the 250+ sled dogs for over five years. This led to a major distemper outbreak with a high number of dogs dying from the disease. I voluntarily took over the program and using RCMP provided D/R Connaught vaccines, I went to the community for several years in a row vaccinating all of the remaining sled dogs at their staked out locations. 

Another disease that has plagued the dog world is canine par influenza virus (CPIV).  This is a highly contagious respiratory airborne virus often called “kennel cough” as it can spread easily in kennels or residential neighborhoods simply by an infected dog coughing and spreading the virus to adjacent dogs. We saw this occur in Yellowknife when a single infected dog arrived into this geographically isolated location and gradually the virus spread throughout the entire city. By itself this is not a fatal disease and a vaccine is available to prevent infection.

Since the 1970s a highly virulent canine virus has spread globally and has become endemic worldwide.  In 1978 it was identified as canine parvovirus type 2 (CPV-2) and in 1979 a variant, CPV-2a2 was isolated.  In layman’s terms, canine parvovirus is usually described as a highly contagious viral disease of dogs characterized by vomiting, haemorrhagic diarrhoea, depression and often death in young puppies. The virus is known to be highly resistant, can live in the environment for several months and is extremely contagious. It can be transmitted by any person, animal or object that has come in contact with an infected dog's feces.

This leads to the parvovirus focus of this paper, when in the spring of 1978 at my Yellowknife location I was seeing, for reasons at the time we did not understand, a very high mortality rate in young puppies in my colony of Inuit Dogs. 

William Carpenter, 36, with his Canadian Inuit Dog “Qadraluk” (“big white dog”)
at the 1978 Montreal International Dog Show, Place Bonaventure, Montreal, PQ, Canada

In the winter of 1978 I was sponsored by the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) to attend the Montreal International Dog Show and to take with me a couple of Inuit Dogs to present as an exhibition for dog fanciers of this unique arctic breed. I took an adult male, “Qadraluk“, approximately five or six years-old plus a four month-old black and white juvenile pup. Both dogs had up-to-date vaccinations of distemper and rabies. The dogs were nightly housed at a kennel owned by one of the CKC judges. They were washed and groomed at a nearby facility then transported daily to the show and kept in a large wired off area for public viewing. On two or three occasions the two dogs were taken to the large open show area before the dog show crowds and walked ahead of me in harness, each pulling on a single trace line. Several hundred dog fanciers greeted and patted the two Inuit Dogs during the show. Other than receiving a lot of human attention and the occasional nose-to-nose contact with other dogs, the entire trip was basically uneventful and the dogs were healthy the entire time.

I arrived back in Yellowknife and returned the dogs to their separate large holding cages each of which had numerous other companion Inuit Dogs.  At the time I had over 100 Inuit Dogs at my Yellowknife location, all of which were healthy. Pups over the age of five weeks had been given their initial Connaught distemper vaccinations followed by booster shots.

Mortality Problems in Puppies
In the spring of 1978 several litters of puppies were born and the population of my Inuit Dog colony was rapidly growing. Unexpectedly I experienced the loss of numerous pups from several litters, some of which had rapidly become ill and died overnight. The veterinarian I had employed at the clinic I owned3 sent off samples of whole deceased puppies to the laboratory at the OS Longman Building of Alberta Agriculture in Edmonton. Although the reports from the lab have long since disappeared from my files, later notes from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine (WCVM), University of Saskatchewan, made reference to the pups’ necropsy findings prepared at the Alberta Lab as being immuno deficient and having no thymus4.

In June of 1978 five pups died acutely from one litter and another was euthanized from a different litter. All six were cooled and submitted as whole cadavers under my name for a full pathological examination, including thymus studies for immune status, to Dr. Ron Presnell5 at the WCVM.
Later in September 1978 there were further pup mortalities with the loss of five dying overnight plus previous deaths from the same litter. Two were submitted, again as whole cadavers, under my name to WCVM to Dr. Presnell. 

Clinical Results from WCVM
On July 6th, 1978 I received a Final Pathology Report No. N78-3253 from the June 20th, 1978 submission of six puppies. The report identified pulmonary atelectasis (areas of lungs that collapse or don't inflate properly) as the pathologic diagnosis with no indication of immunodeficiency, based on morphological examination of the thymus, spleen and lymph nodes. 

On January 16th, 1979 I received a Final Pathology Report No. N78-4771 from the September 29th, 1978 submission of two puppies. The pathologic diagnosis: 1. nonsuppurative myocarditis (inflammation of the heart's muscular wall, the myocardium, without the production of pus), 2. pulmonary edema, 3. hepatic congestion.
Under Etiologic Diagnosis Comments, the report went on to say: “These puppies have a previously unrecognized disease of the heart which appears to be due to an infectious agent, but in spite of extensive investigation on these and other similar cases, we did not determine the cause. Similar cases have been occurring in other regions of Canada and the USA.”

On April 2nd, 1979 a second Final Pathology Report No. N78-4771 was received. The Etiologic Diagnosis was canine parvovirus. The additional comments were: “Detailed investigations into the cause of the heart disease has led to the identification of canine parvovirus as the causative agent. This virus also causes gastroenteritis of dogs, and appeared as a new disease in the past 12 months.”

A full copy of the WCVM pathology reports can be read here.

As stated earlier, viral diseases can be devastating and fatal to an animal population.  In the spring and summer of 1978, having lost numerous puppies, I found out first hand just how fatal the new disease known as canine parvovirus was. Had it not been for the excellent support from the Western College of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Veterinary Pathology, University of Saskatchewan, we might never have known the cause of high puppy mortality in several litters. Many of the pups had rapidly become ill and died overnight. 
At the time canine parvovirus was such a new disease that a vaccine was simply not available. It took a bit of investigation to learn when a parvovirus vaccine actually became available in Canada.
On Aug. 31, 2015 Brett Elkin emailed me a publication on the emergence of parvovirus which indicated in the last paragraph of section 2 that the first CPV vaccine became available in 1979 but it did not specify Canada. The article was written by American authors.

On September 1, 2015 Dale Godson, DVM reported to me: “I found reference to a canine vaccine study that changed its protocol in 1979 to accommodate parvovirus vaccine, corroborating Brett’s paper on the time of introduction of parvovirus vaccines for dogs in the States.  A Canadian paper on the development of a vaccine published in 1982 compared their product to feline panleukopenia vaccines that had been licensed for use in dogs. Using existing feline vaccines in dogs would have been the first approach used by veterinarians in the field while canine vaccines were being developed6.   A letter from the Chief of Veterinary Biologics, Agriculture Canada in the Dec 1980 issue of the Canadian Veterinary Journal indicated a single product (feline vaccine from Dellen Laboratories Inc.) was licensed in Canada at that time (an editor’s note indicated a second parvovirus vaccine from Fromm Laboratories Inc. had been licensed prior to publication). An advertisement for a parvovirus vaccine using canine parvovirus antigen (Connaught Laboratories Inc.) was present in the June 1981 issue, so it looks like a canine parvovirus vaccine was available then.” 

I can only assume that one or both of the dogs I took to the Montreal International Dog Show returned to Yellowknife either with canine parvovirus or as a carrier, infecting some of my puppies, leading to the high mortality. “Qadraluk”, the adult male was a very dominant alpha dog, was the lead dog on my Arctic Expedition in the spring of 1979 and he worked right up until his death several years later at 14+ years. The other male, although he lived to be a mature dog, was never a strong animal and died earlier than was expected.

First, my very sincere thank you goes to Erica Zurowski, Laboratory Clerk, Prairie Diagnostic Services Inc., 52 Campus Drive Saskatoon, SK. Erica spent many days and hours trying to locate the pathology reports I requested. She finally enlisted Dr. Gary Wobeser's help to broaden the search and eventually she found our 1978 reports. Without her successful search this paper would not have been possible. Thank you Erica.
Next I thank Brett Elkin, DVM, Veterinarian, Department of Environment, Government of the Northwest Territories, Yellowknife. In his first email to me after I contacted him about my plans to write this paper, Brett said, “Nice to hear from you, and great to hear you’re getting that material out. I have always been really interested in the history and insights you had on distemper and parvovirus in the North, and good to capture that in the literature.” I have known Brett since he was a young boy. Years later he worked at our clinic as a student. In his second email he said, “Great talking to you last week – been way too long!” Shortly after he supplied me with a publication on the emergence of parvovirus. Thank you Brett for your interest and support.

I am also very much indebted to Dale Godson, DVM, PhD Veterinary Microbiologist (Virology, Immunology, & Serology), Prairie Diagnostic Services Inc., Saskatoon, SK.  From the moment I was in contact with Dale by phone and then email after a referral from a co-worker of Erica Zurowski, he has jumped right on board and has provided me with a great deal of valuable material that I have included in my paper. Dale, your sincere interest has really been appreciated and it is obvious that you spent a great deal of time assisting me. Thanks again, Dale.

I further extend my thank you to Brett and Dale for reviewing this paper prior to it being submitted to The Fan Hitch Journal for publication.

And finally, I thank Andrea Ramsey for proof reading this paper and correcting my numerous grammatical errors. 

Current Status of Various Parvovirus Vaccines; Letter by D.C. Alexander, DVM, Chief Veterinary Biologics, Animal Health Division, Food Production and Inspection Branch, Agriculture Canada. Canadian Veterinary Journal, (1980) 21:353.

Karin Hoelzer, Colin R. Parish; The emergence of parvovirus of carnivores; Vet. Res. (2010) 41:39.

Orr J.P. Final Report, Department of Veterinary Pathology, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan; Pathology No. N78-3253, July 6th, 1978.

Reuter R. Final Reports, Department of Veterinary Pathology, Western College of Veterinary Medicine, University of Saskatchewan; Pathology No. N78-4771 January 16th, 1979 and April 2nd, 1979.

Ryan K. Brooks, Susan J Kutz, Caroline Millins, Alasdair M. Veitch, Brett T. Elkin, Ted Leighton; Evaluations and delivery of domestic animal health services in remote communities in the Northwest Territories: A case study of status and needs. Canadian Veterinary Journal (2010) 51:1115-1122.

United States Patent, March 18, 1980; Patent # 4,193,990, a vaccine against disease caused by canine parvovirus (CPV) is produced by using a modified live (attenuated) or chemically inactivated feline panleukopenia virus vaccine.


1 Ryan K. Brooks, Susan J Kutz, Caroline Millins, Alasdair M. Veitch, Brett T. Elkin, Ted Leighton; Evaluations and delivery of domestic animal health services in remote communities in the Northwest Territories: A case study of status and needs, Canadian Veterinary Journal Vol. 51/October 2010 Page 1117


2 Karin Hoelzer, Colin R. Parish; The emergence of parvovirus of carnivores; Vet. Res. (2010) 41:39; page 4


3 In addition to directing the Inuit Dog recovery program under the William J. Carpenter, Eskimo Dog Research Foundation, I also owned the only veterinary clinic in the NWT and employed numerous veterinarians over the years to serve Yellowknife and all of the NWT.  


4 The thymus gland, is closely associated with the immune system. The thymus serves a vital role in the development of T-lymphocytes or T cells, an important type of white blood cell. T cells defend the body from potentially deadly pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and fungi.


5 I had previous professional contact with Dr. Presnell during my attempts to locate a veterinarian for our Yellowknife clinic.


6 Feline panleukopenia virus is closely related to canine parvovirus.


* * *

Whiskers. She saved Bill’s life when he was  attacked by a  black bear
near his Moraine Point Lodge.                                  Photo: Carpenter


Beginning with the December 2015 issue of The Fan Hitch, Bill Carpenter will present a photo essay about the dogs of his Eskimo Dog Recovery Project in Yellowknife beginning back in the mid-1970s!

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