The deadly parvovirus, which can kill puppies and dogs within 72 hours of the symptoms first appearing, is a serious concern across the region, according to Rebecca Newth, small animal vet at Vetora Taupo.

"Our isolation ward has been full and has been this way a lot more than in previous summers," said Rebecca.

Vetora Taupo is the small animal hub for southern Vetora clinics in the Bay of Plenty, Reporoa, Rotorua and Ngongotaha and has found the high incidence of the preventable disease very upsetting.

"It's a horrible way to die. If though it is diagnosed early on, it usually takes up to a week of intensive treatment for a puppy to be free of the disease. During this time the puppy needs complete isolation. All IV fluids, anti nausea drugs and antibiotics have to be administered by vets and vet nurses who are fully gowned up, wearing gloves and shoe covers as the risk of infection, given that the virus is highly contagious, is so high."

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Parvovirus can remain in the ground for several years and is typically spread through contact with infected faeces. If a pregnant female dog has been correctly vaccinated against parvovirus, a small level of immunity can be passed on to her puppies but this will not be sufficient to ward off the risk of infection.

All puppies need to be vaccinated from six to eight weeks of age, every four weeks with the last vaccine at around 16 weeks of age. The full course, which is generally three vaccinations is necessary for full protection.

During this time it is important not to take the puppy into public areas where the risk of infection is high.

"Owning a pet is expensive. We urge pet owners, including those who may have received a free puppy to visit their local vet and pay for the parvovirus vaccination. While each vaccine dose will cost between $60 and $70 this is a small price to pay to prevent a death or to prevent substantially more expensive treatment in isolation.

Adult dogs only need the vaccine every three years."

Parvovirus is currently epidemic in Turangi, Taumarunui, Whanganui and Auckland.