DOG owners are being warned that a deadly disease could be spreading through the Wearside canine community.
Canine parvovirus type two, usually known as parvo, is a highly contagious disease that is spread from dog to dog by direct or indirect contact with their faeces.
So far, four cases of the disease have been picked up at a Sunderland vet surgery, with two of those affected dying.
The two dogs had not been vaccinated against parvovirus.
King’s Road Veterinary Practice, in Southwick, says it has treated four dogs with the illness in the past fortnight.
Surgeon Wendy Rowntree said today: “This is the beginning of a nasty outbreak of the illness.
“I’ve been here 13 years and this is only about the third time that there has been an outbreak like this.
“In cases with unvaccinated dogs, it is nearly always fatal.
“From the four cases we’ve had, there was one from Houghton, one from Southwick, one was a stray and the latest is from Pennywell, so there doesn’t seem to be any pattern to it.”
Dogs affected by parvovirus will usually become ill three to 10 days after being infected.
Symptoms include lethargy, vomiting, a fever and diarrhoea, which is usually bloody.
The virus can survive in the environment for up to a year after being shed by an infected dog.
It can be severe in puppies and can also cause two different conditions – a cardiac and an intestinal form.
The cardiac form causes respiratory or cardiovascular failure in young puppies, with the intestinal form causing severe vomiting as well as dysentery.
“If the disease is present in a puppy which is going through its vaccination process I would tell the owners not to stop,” added Wendy. “It is not worth chancing it.
“Being vaccinated massively reduces a dog’s risk of getting the disease.”
Treatment usually involves veterinary hospitalisation and intensive care for several days.
Vaccination will usually prevent this infection, but there are rare cases where a vaccinated dog will succumb to the disease.
Pet owners who suspect their dog may have been infected by the virus should take it to the vet as soon as possible.
l Has your dog been affected by parvovirus? Call our newsdesk on 501 7208 to tell us about it.