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Vets wash money as virus threatens dogs on Lefevre Peninsula


Veterinary surgeries are reporting an outbreak of the highly contagious and fatal parvovirus among dogs in Adelaide’s north-west, prompting concerns that cost of living pressures are stopping pet owners from getting their puppies vaccinated.

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One Staffordshire bull terrier puppy has died and a chihuahua puppy has been taken into intensive care during the past 48 hours at the Semaphore Vet surgery, where Dr Alison Booth said staff have washed cash used as payment from customers with a precautionary anti-viral wash to prevent the virus spreading.

Reports of four other dogs presenting with parvovirus at another surgery serving Taperoo, along with anecdotal evidence of other puppies dying in the community have led to Booth calling on owners to act fast to protect their family pets.

The Semaphore surgery has informed the local council and sent text messages to dog owners associated with the surgery, telling them to ensure vaccinations are up-to-date and for puppy owners to avoid local dog parks.

Booth said the chihuahua puppy, named Poppy, was lucky because its owner acted quickly.

“The one we have in the surgery at the moment is luckily eight months old so its prognosis is good and its owner knew the dog was not vaccinated and was aware of deaths of other puppies in his street when (the dog showed symptoms),” she said.


Dr Emily Brandon treats Poppy, a chihuahua puppy infected by the highly contagious parvovirus in Semaphore. Photo: supplied

However, the deadly parvovirus can quickly attack the body, gastro lining and bone marrow, with an infected dogs often needing five to seven days of intensive care that could cost more than $5000.

The surgery has informed its clients that the virus can survive in the environment up to five years “meaning dogs can contract the disease even if they have no contact with other dogs”, and that there was a mortality rate in unvaccinated puppies that contract the virus of more than 90 per cent.

“Vaccination is a very effective protection but it is often people who are of lower socio-economic circumstances not being able to afford the treatment so those dogs are more likely to get the virus and it is often a tragedy for them,” Booth said.

She said it was one of the worst outbreaks the region had seen and was concerned it could be linked to rising cost of living pressures leading to more dog owners not paying for vaccinations costing about $140 each.

Puppies need two to three vaccinations depending on the brand, followed by a booster one year later and then another every three years.

Semaphore vet Dr Emily Brandon said the highly contagious virus could be transferred via other dogs, drinking water, the bottom of shoes or from dirt in a dog park.

“We’ve heard through the grapevine that some of the dogs have been at the dog park at Taperoo and we are expecting other dogs will be infected,” she said, adding that there was a two-to-five day incubation period.

Infected dogs could then show signs of having no appetite, lethargy, diarrhoea and vomiting.

Veterinarians at Semaphore Vet wear PPE to check any potential cases in the surgery car park to avoid the virus’s possible spread, testing dogs with a swab similar to a COVID test.

Brandon said older dogs were usually able to cope with the virus as they had stronger immune systems.

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