Outbreak of deadly dog disease parvo in Auckland

A dog disease with a low survival rate is surging in Auckland, with the SPCA saying it is one of the worst outbreaks inspectors have seen in the city to date. 

Canine parvovirus, often referred to as parvo, is an extremely contagious and potentially fatal disease that affects dogs and puppies. 

While it's common to see an increase in cases during summer, the SPCA said this season has been particularly bad. 

Auckland's Inspectorate has so far responded to 54 calls for assistance relating to dogs or puppies that are sick with the virus since December 1, and SPCA's Auckland Centre on average is seeing almost 40 cases a week presenting at the centre by members of the public seeking assistance. 

Symptoms of the disease include lethargy, severe vomiting, and bloody diarrhoea leading to life-threatening dehydration. Parvo can survive in certain environments for up to a year, making it easy for unvaccinated dogs to become infected. 

SPCA General Manager Animal Services and veterinarian Dr Corey Regnerus-Kell said one of the major trends the charity is seeing is dog owners being unable to afford vaccinations or treatment for their pets. 

"This is one of the worst outbreaks some of our Auckland Inspectors have seen to date, and our resources are currently being stretched by this vicious disease," Dr Regnerus-Kell said.  

"The majority of the calls we're receiving are for financial assistance to help treat dogs or puppies infected with parvo, which can be costly. We are also seeing an alarming number of cases where dogs are being left untreated and are suffering dearly as a result." 

The virus is shed in a dog's faeces and vomit and is transmitted through contaminated surfaces like bedding, cages and dishes, or through hands, clothing and footwear of people who came into contact with the dog. 

There's no cure for the disease, and treatment is expensive. 

The only way to prevent parvo is through vaccination. In New Zealand, puppies require a series of vaccinations before they are fully protected, and adult dogs must receive a regular booster vaccination.    

"Unfortunately, due to the increased financial pressure many New Zealanders are experiencing right now, some pet owners have put off vaccinations for their dogs or puppies, or have chosen to forgo them altogether," Dr Regnerus-Kell said. 

"This is a painful and debilitating illness and sadly survival rates are very low. We don't want any animal to suffer from parvo, especially as it’s so easily preventable. It's also devastating for the infected animal's owner to see their beloved pet suffer, and in many cases, die as a result." 

Dog owners are urged to avoid walking their puppies in high-risk areas such as parks, carparks and footpaths until they are fully vaccinated. 

Keeping them safe, however, must be balanced by the need for socialisation, the SPCA said. Socialisation can still be done safely by only introducing puppies to healthy, vaccinated dogs in private areas, such as your garden or puppy classes, and carrying them in areas where unvaccinated dogs may have been. 

In 2022, the SPCA said it experienced the worst Parvo outbreak in Auckland in 20 years with some vet clinics seeing up to 20 cases a day. Cases had also popped up in Wellington and Christchurch.