A parvovirus epidemic has broken out in Maitland because the city has the highest number of unvaccinated dogs in the Hunter.
There have been at least 100 cases in the past month as the deadly disease continues to spread and leave veterinary clinics inundated with gravely ill dogs.
Isolation wards at several clinics are at capacity and the disease is expected to continue to spread into the summer months.
RSPCA shelters and selected veterinary clinics were offering discounted vaccination fees to encourage dog owners to vaccinate, but had little success in convincing them that it was worth the money.
Greencross Vets Maitland veterinarian Louise Trist said dogs that were vaccinated annually did not contract the deadly virus. She urged pet owners to ensure their dog’s vaccinations were up to date.
“We are seeing adult dogs come in with parvovirus because their vaccinations have lapsed, in some cases for a couple of years,” she said.
“It’s not just puppies that are unprotected.”
Ms Trist said unvaccinated dogs and puppies that stayed in their owner’s backyard were still at risk.
“People don’t realise that their dog doesn’t have to leave the backyard to get the virus,” she said. “The owner or anyone that comes to the house can bring it with them if they come into contact with it elsewhere.
“They could bring it home on their car tyres or on their shoes, and once its gets into their lawn it stays there for about six months.”
Ms Trist said it was cheaper to vaccinate a dog than risk having to pay the parvo treatment costs, which could rise to about $1500.
It costs about $150 to vaccinate a dog against the parvovirus.
She also said owners needed to be aware that about 50 per cent of dogs that contract the disease die, and it is a cruel and horrible death.
“Vaccinating the dog every year is the best way to ensure that it doesn’t get parvo,” Ms Trist said.
Parvovirus cases have occurred throughout this year, particularly towards the end of winter when there was unusually warm temperatures.
The Virbac Disease Watchdog recorded 89 cases, including 12 at Woodville, 24 at Aberdare and 21 at Cessnock.
The virus normally spreads during autumn and spring and is generally spread through contact with infected faeces.
The incubation period is four to 14 days and infected dogs have diarrhoea and vomiting. The diarrhoea is usually a yellow colour and then becomes bloody.