Pet owners have been urged to get their dogs vaccinated following a harrowing 129 per cent increase in suspected cases of the deadly parvovirus.
Infections have surged in the first three months of 2021 compared with the same period last year, researchers say.
It’s thought that a potential surge in cases could come as a result of the massive boom in lockdown puppies and also concerns over still attending surgeries for routine jabs.
One of those cases included labrador retriever pup, Paisley, who was just a few weeks old when she was struck down by the highly contagious parvovirus.
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After a week-long battle in intensive care, she’s now back safe and sound with her owner, veterinary nurse Cathy Ball.
But things could have turned out very different for the poor pup, if she hadn’t had her first vaccines at six weeks old.
Cathy had spotted the signs that something wasn’t quite right early on, but Paisley’s condition went downhill quite quickly, resulting in her being referred for round-the-clock intensive care at Pride Veterinary Centre in Derby, part of the My Family Vets network of clinics.
Working in a veterinary herself, Cathy understood the importance of vital vaccinations and boosters and had done everything possible to protect her pup from the frequently fatal virus.
The lifesaving treatment at the state-of-the-art hospital was boosted by the fact Paisley had already been given some protection by having her first parvovirus vaccination.
Many new owners have been duped into buying poorly puppies by dodgy dealers and puppy farm bandits. But Cathy 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 she 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 her,” 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 a lifesaver.”
Vets are now 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, follows research that up to 45 per cent of registered pet owners hadn’t got vital vaccinations and boosters.
“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.
“Surgeries have taken all steps to ensure they can see pets safely and keep giving these vital vaccinations.”
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.