Vets across the UK are urging dog owners to make sure their pets are vaccinated as they brace themselves for a possible surge in the potentially-fatal parvovirus disease.
The warning from the UK’s biggest group of vets, My Family Vets, the UK veterinary clinic brand of IVC Evidensia, follows research that up to 45% of registered pets hadn’t received vital vaccinations and boosters.
It’s thought that a potential surge in cases could be coming as a result of the massive boom in lockdown puppies and also concerns over still attending surgeries for routine jabs.
Meanwhile, separate research by pet emergency service, Vets Now, which is part of the IVC Evidensia group showed a 129 per cent increase in suspected cases of parvovirus in the first three months of 2021, compared with the same period last year.
“It’s really disturbing to see so many puppies being left unprotected and we are encouraging pet owners to keep up to date with dog vaccinations.,” said Tiago Henriques, a Resident in Internal Medicine from the My Family Vets network, which is a network of vet practices across the UK.
“Surgeries have taken all steps to ensure they are able to see pets safely and keep giving these vital vaccinations.”
The warning comes after a week-long battle saved a puppy from death when it contracted frequently fatal parvovirus.
Labrador Retriever Paisley was only weeks old when she was struck down by the highly contagious virus. Owner Cathy Ball had spotted the very earliest signs, but her puppy became ill so fast he needed to be referred for round the clock intensive care at Pride Veterinary Centre in Derby, part of the My Family Vets network of clinics.
The lifesaving treatment at the state-of-the-art hospital was boosted by the fact Paisley had already been given some protection by having its first parvovirus vaccination.
Many new owners have been duped into buying poorly puppies by dodgy dealers and puppy farm bandits. But Cathy, a vet nurse at Cheshirepet Vets in Sandbach, checked out the breeder and the parents meticulously first.
“I made sure all the health screening tests had been done, saw her with her mum and knew she’s had her first vaccinations at six weeks,” said Cathy.
“I got her home at eight weeks and was taking every precaution to keep her safe before she got her second vaccine at 10 weeks.
“But she was just two days short of being able to get that when she was diagnosed with parvovirus. Often at work we see animals who are already pretty sick with vomiting, bloody diarrhoea and lethargy but we caught it early with Paisley.
“She hadn’t been keen on her breakfast, which is very unusual with Labradors, and was a little bit sick so I took her to work to keep an eye and got the parvo test done just to be sure.”
When it came up positive, Paisley was put on anti-viral drugs and a drip but after three days of nursing by Cathy and care at Cheshirepet, Paisley became so ill he needed to be referred to Pride Vets.
“I’m a vet nurse and had done everything I could, but I knew it was time to step back, just be an owner and let someone else look after him,” said Cathy.
The team at Pride Vets was led by Tiago Henriques, a Resident in Internal Medicine.
“Paisley was very ill when she came in and I was concerned that we might not be able to save her,” said Tiago. “We had to continue with the supportive treatment she had already had, put her on a feeding tube and give her anti-nausea medication to stop her being sick.
“We monitored her 24 hours-a-day in our intensive care unit and it was about five days before, happily, we saw real signs that she was going to be okay.”
For Cathy, who knew only too well that often dogs don’t recover from parvovirus, it was an agonising wait.
“She’s my baby and it was so upsetting to see her so ill and then wait for news,” said Cathy.
“I’ve seen so many dogs die from this so I had to be realistic about her prospects, but they did an amazing job at Pride and I honestly can’t thank them enough.
“It was a week before I got her back and that was the longest week of my life.
“Thankfully, she’s healthy, growing fast and is nearly six months now.”
Cathy is sure that having had the first vaccine shot would have helped Paisley win her life and death battle. And, having seen the prognosis in other dogs, Cheshirepets have reviewed their puppy protocols and now add in a third parvovirus vaccination at 16 weeks.
“I can’t urge owners enough to make sure they get their dog vaccinated,” added Cathy.
“That’s literally a lifesaver.”
Edward Davies, Chairman of the UK Clinical Board at IVC Evidensia explained: “There are several reasons why we are really concerned about seeing an increase in cases of parvovirus and our practices have been taking steps to brace themselves for a potential resurgence in this disease as well as ensuring they are encouraging their clients to keep up to date with dog vaccinations. Due to the lockdown puppy boom and the whole COVID-19 situation, ensuring preventative health care has been correctly followed for all pets has been a real challenge. The potential resurgence of parvo has been quite a worry during this time.
“Luckily, dogs and puppies can receive a vaccine against parvovirus. Puppies can get their first vaccination when they are 6-8 weeks old, with a follow-up injection 2-4 weeks later.
“Your dog’s annual health check and vaccination cycle includes protection against parvovirus, so it’s vital to keep these up to protect your pet against this serious infection.
“As well as protecting your adult dog or young puppy against this nasty and potentially fatal disease, regular vaccination is required by kennels and pet insurers as a condition of cover.
“I cannot stress enough just how important it is for pet owners to get their pets vaccinated and we can hopefully prevent this becoming a problem for pet owners across the UK this year.”
My Family Vet practices across the county have added extra COVID-19 prevention measures over the past year to ensure it’s safe for owners to still attend for routine vaccinations.