The Fan Hitch   Volume 18, Number 3, June 2016

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

From the Editor

Canadian Inuit Dogs I have owned, raised and trained: a photo essay; Part 3
Book review: Across Arctic America
Book review: White Eskimo

Interview with Author Stephen Bown

The Thule Atlas Project

March distemper outbreak in Ilulissat

Okpik’s Dream/Harry Okpik still going strong

IMHO: I’m “Neat” with Tarps

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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Another Distemper Outbreak in Greenland

Appearing in the March 2016 issue of The Fan Hitch was “Is there a vet in the house?”, about a distemper outbreak in the small settlements of Qeqertaq and Saqqaq located on the northern shore of Disko Bay. Shortly after that issue went on line there was yet another distemper outbreak story published, again reported in The Arctic Journal, this time in Ilulissat, a town in the eastern Disko Bay region, with a population of 4530 humans and 3500 sled dogs.

Thanks once again to The Arctic Journal for granting us permission to reprint this latest story on a dog health crisis.

Winter of their distemper

Veterinary officials in Greenland are calling for mandatory distemper and
parvovirus vaccinations after a second outbreak is confirmed

Stay, or they’ll shoot
March 21, 2016 – by Kevin McGwin

The best way to stop the spread of distemper and parvovirus, two fatal canine diseases, is vaccination. Such is the advice of veterinary authorities to dog owners in northern Greenland, where this winter has seen dogs in three towns become infected with at least one of the illnesses.

Now though, after a second full-blown outbreak since January, this time in the town of Ilulissat, was confirmed last week, local officials are resorting to another method: dogs that are not penned or chained will be shot on sight.

A team of hunters began shooting strays today after veterinary officials, on Friday, put down several dogs found to be carrying the incurable and highly contagious illnesses.

The viruses are believed to have been brought to Ilulissat by four dogs that took part in a dog-sledge race earlier this month. The dogs came from Qeqertaq, a town that, in January, had seen two-thirds of its 300 dogs either die from distemper or be put down after becoming infected with the illness.

Dogs from both towns, even if they have been given a clean bill of health, have now been excluded from participating in the April 2 Avannaata Qimussersua, an annual dog-sledging race that is one of the largest events in northern Greenland. Typically, some 40 teams, each made up of a dozen dogs or so, take part in the race, being held this year in Uummannaq.

Excluding dogs from areas that have seen an outbreak will eliminate much risk, but not all of it, say race organisers. Long transport times at sea, or the stress of travelling on helicopters, are a source of stress for dogs. That, in turn, makes them more susceptible to contracting a virus if they come in contact with an infected dog being transported at the same time or while taking part in the race.

A similar incident occurred last year, when three dogs from Ilulissat were found to be carrying virus upon arriving at the race site. Officials managed to quarantine the dogs before they could come into contact with other dogs, but this year, they are taking no chances.

In addition to excluding dogs from any town that has had an outbreak since last year’s Avannaata Qimussersua, all owners will need to provide proof that their dogs have been vaccinated.

Currently, such vaccinations are not mandatory. That, say veterinarians, is a problem that could easily be remedied. It is possible to inoculate dogs against both viruses, and the vaccine can generally be readily purchased from a veterinarian, although January’s outbreak underscored that vaccinations were not always immediately available to dog owners.

Moreover, even though the vaccine is inexpensive, spread out over scores of dogs the cost inoculating an entire pack can be significant, and many owners chose not to vaccinate.

Veterinarians, however, note that owners are required to vaccinate dogs against rabies once every three years. The vast majority do, even though the vaccine costs twice as much, and despite encountering similiar supply hiccups
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