A SPIKE in cases of a highly contagious virus that can cause an agonising death in puppies has prompted warnings from veterinarians to vaccinate pets.
Canine parvovirus causes haemorrhagic vomiting and diarrhoea, dehydration and, within a matter of days, death.
''It's a terrible disease,'' veterinarian Mark Kelman said. ''Of the dogs that catch the virus, 50 per cent will die.''
Of those, he said, half will have to be euthanised by a vet.
The virus spreads through bodily fluids, mainly faeces.
It can live for up to a year in the environment, and exists throughout the world, but it has existed for only three decades and could be eradicated, Dr Kelman said.
His research with the University of Sydney into the spread of the disease has found it occurs more commonly in poorer areas of Australia's cities and towns.
At Cathy Irwin's veterinary clinic at Bradbury, near Campbelltown, five puppies have been brought in with the virus in the past few weeks alone.
''We see a lot of dogs with parvovirus in our area and that's to do with levels of vaccination,'' Dr Irwin said.
''I still see people who aren't aware of the vaccination requirements,'' Dr Irwin said. ''[And] the vaccine is so effective.''