An outbreak of the deadly parvovirus that affects dogs has hit the Dearne.
Four pet deaths as a result of the highly contagious illness were recorded in the Wath area last week, and vets are reporting a general increase in cases all around the area.
Dog owners are warned to take care and vaccinate their pets against the virus by both vets and animal charities, who fear people have stopped vaccinating to cut costs as money is tight. Both Rotherham and Barnsley areas are now affected.
Vet Melanie Spencer-Marshall of the Abbey group that has a surgery at Wombwell said: “Parvo virus is an extremely contagious virus that affects dogs, particularly younger ones.
“It is very distressing and if untreated it has an extremely high mortality rate - around 91 per cent.”
She continued: “We are seeing an increase in parvo all over the country and I think it’s because people are not having their dogs vaccinated as a cost cutting measure.
“There has certainly been a noticeable increase in cases locally. We’re seeing about one a day, whereas you’d normally expect to see maybe one every two weeks or so.
“Once infected the treatment is very intensive and expensive. Basically the message is don’t cut corners. If your dog does get infected it will cost you a heck of a lot more in vet bills and there is a very real chance your dog will die.”
The virus is passed from dog to dog or through contaminated dog faeces. Symptoms include severe vomiting, diarrhoea and fever.
The PDSA (People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals) provides reduced-cost vaccinations to eligible clients, who must be in receipt of Housing Benefit or Council Tax Benefit. Pet owners can call 0800 731 2502 or visit www.pdsa.org.uk/eligibility to find out if PDSA can help them.
A PDSA spokeswoman said: “Parvo is a nasty disease that causes a lot of suffering. We have seen areas across the country affected since the summer and now South Yorkshire. Our surveys indicate the main reasons people don’t vaccinate is because they don’t realise the danger, or to save money. If people suspect parvo they should ring their vet in the first instance, not take it to a surgery where other animals may become infected.”