WA vets are worried a different strain of the highly contagious and potentially deadly canine parvovirus has entered Australia, after an alarming number of cases in the past month.
Some vets are reporting up to 30 dogs a week coming through their clinic with the virus, prompting them to send samples to be tested for a strain that has never been recorded in the country.
"It is serious enough for us to be worried," Australian Veterinary Association WA president Garry Edgar said. "Everyone is being particularly vigilant because we are seeing such numbers."
Mr Edgar said it was possible a different strain of the virus, which has never been recorded inside the country, could be causing the recent outbreak.
Parvovirus is a severe illness that strips the lining from a dog's intestine, causing vomiting and bloody diarrhoea, and can be prevented by vaccination.
It can be fatal if not treated and can require intensive 24-hour care costing up to $9000. Pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim monitors cases of parvovirus to keep track of the strains in Australia. A spokesman said so far there were no reported cases of the new strain. But the exceptionally high number of recent cases has sounded alarm bells.
Balcatta Vet Hospital reported three times the number of parvovirus cases it had a year ago.
So far this year, Murdoch Pet Emergency Centre has seen 44 cases of the disease, with nearly 30 per cent recorded last month. Last year the centre saw only 17 cases.
Murdoch vet Ryan Ong said a likely cause could be that fewer dog owners were vaccinating their pets.
"It is definitely concerning," he said. "People are not being as vigorous about vaccinations, there has been a decline and potentially that could be a source of the problem."
Dr Ong warned dog owners to vaccinate or get pet insurance because they faced a hefty bill for treatment.
He said at least 25 per cent of dogs with parvovirus were put down because of the prohibitive costs of treatment, but more than 90 per cent of dogs that were treated survived. Less than 8 per cent of dogs left untreated survived.Last month Phil Whybrow and his wife Anita paid $7500 to save their three-month-old golden cocker spaniel Tink who was struck down with the virus just weeks after joining their family.