When I was on call the other night, I had a call from the distressed owner of a young puppy who had terrible vomiting and diarrhoea. The owners rushed the puppy down to the Surgery at Maple Street. Within minutes of entering the surgery, the puppy had vomited and passed a huge pool of bright red coloured diarrhoea and it was clear that something was very wrong.

Puppies can often eat things they should not and this can upset the stomach. An X ray of the abdomen reveal nothing was physically sitting in the stomach to cause the problems.

My next concern was that the puppy could have contracted parvovirus. We have an in-house test which allows us to test faeces for evidence of parvovirus and get a confirmed diagnosis within an hour. The test was performed and, unfortunately, parvovirus was confirmed.

Parvovirus is a viral infection which causes severe gastroenteritis. It can be passed directly from dog to dog but is also very resistant in the environment. This resistance means that your susceptible dog only needs to come into contact with ground that has been contaminated to contract the disease. The virus can survive for up to 6 months on the ground. It is even possible for an owner to pick the virus up on their shoes and walk it into their house and infect their dog.

Big advances have been made in the treatment of parvovirus in recent years but despite those advances, approximately 50% of dogs contracting the disease still die from it.

The puppy was admitted to our isolation ward and an intravenous drip was set up to try to replace the fluids that were being lost in the vomit and diarrhoea. Supportive drugs were given to help to protect the gut lining and reduce the vomiting. We can also use anti-viral drugs to slow down the pace at which the virus reproduces.

Unfortunately, despite the intensive management, the puppy was just too small to have sufficient stamina to fight the advance of the virus and passed away about 12 hours later.

Parvovirus cases are on the increase but can be prevented through regular vaccination. It is essential that all dogs are kept in isolation until 2 weeks after their initial vaccinations to ensure the vaccine has time to work. Immunity will decline over time and must be maintained with regular booster vaccinations.