‘Virus alert after dog dies at vet’s surgery’ – Brighton Argus –  23rd December 2008

A deadly virus that kills dogs has broken out across Sussex for the second time in 18 months.

Canine parvovirus is a highly infectious disease that spreads through direct contact between dogs.

It is feared it could spread throughout the county unless swift action is taken.

Spores of the virus can be carried on shoes and clothing as well as the coat and foot pads of animals.

Vets at Pet Doctors clinic in Woodlands Avenue, Rustington, near Littlehampton, were alerted to the disease when a bitch and her puppies were brought to them suffering from severe diarrhoea.

Vet David Hodges said: “Both the mother and two of her puppies died and a third is fighting for its life. The disease just moves so quickly.

We saw the first dog in the morning and she was dead by the afternoon.”

Symptoms of parvovirus develop quickly and can include diarrhoea, vomiting and lethargy. Most animals suffering from the virus die within 72 hours.

The virus was first discovered by scientists in 1975 and killed thousands of dogs in the UK before a vaccination could be developed. Following this many dogs were immunised and the virus was all but wiped out, but recent outbreaks in Cornwall, Liverpool and at an RSPCA centre in Chichester last year have caused growing concern among officials.

The RSPCA has advised dog owners to ensure their dogs are fully vaccinated against the disease, especially if they are young.

Katie Geary, of the RSPCA, said: ‘’Vaccination really is the key. If you have any suspicions that your dog has symptoms, contact your local vet as soon as possible.’’ Experts believe that instances of parvovirus are on the rise as the number of dogs being vaccinated has fallen below the number needed to provide what is known as “herd immunity” to the virus, and Mr Hodges warned that complacency can be the first step towards allowing the disease to re-emerge.

He said: “The disease never really goes away. Prevention through vaccination is the only method of protecting dogs against serious diseases like parvovirus, distemper and hepatitis and against those, such as leptospirosis, that can be transmitted to people.’’

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