SERIOUS diseases which have the potential to be deadly to dogs are rapidly rising in Barnsley due to owners buying puppies during lockdown - prompting an urgent warning to be issued to pet owners in a bid to stop the spread across the town.

The town - which is in the ‘eye of the perfect storm’ due to its higher-than-normal poverty rates - has been identified as a hotbed for illnesses including parvo, leptospirosis, distemper and hepatitis.

All preventable, rates for all have rocketed during the last two years, according to veterinary experts, who blamed the Covid-19 pandemic’s surge in dog ownership and a lack of vaccinations being delivered.

Mihai Silion, who is based at The Pet Vet on Wakefield Road, told the Chronicle residents’ squeezed finances due to the cost-of-living crisis has subsequently compounded matters.

He said: “We are heading towards the eye of a perfect storm when it comes to preventable diseases in dogs.

“A complicated mix of circumstances has led to a greater percentage of animals being either unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated - conditions that allow for once rare viral and bacterial illnesses to start to spread in local populations.

“During the Covid lockdowns, many people didn’t want to visit the vet unless it was an emergency and as a result, fell behind on their pets’ vaccinations.

“Some puppies didn’t finish their initial courses of vaccines, whilst many owners of older animals just got out of the habit of going for annual boosters.

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“You can never take it at face value when someone tells you a dog is vaccinated.”

The increased demand for dogs whilst people were furloughed or working from home may also have inadvertently led to a rise in unvaccinated animals, it is believed.

“The number of dogs in the UK increased by up to two million during the pandemic, leading to acute shortages in vaccine availability in 2021 and the start of this year,” he added.

“This was problem enough for animals bought from reputable breeders who were up front about vaccine delays, but many of these new dogs were bought from less reputable websites or even from social media posts, with new owners lied to about vaccine status.

“There’s been cases of puppies being ‘jobbed off’ at bargain prices over social media, only for them to die from parvo a fortnight later.

“Devastating for their new owners, these unvaccinated animals, almost certainly originating on puppy farms, were also responsible for spreading the virus into the wider dog population.

“My biggest fear is that decreased vaccination rates will allow distemper - a horrible virus that kills half of all dogs it infects - to once again become more common in the UK.

“Distemper attacks multiple organs in the body and can cause organ failure and brain damage in those who survive.

“Until the advent of vaccines in the 1950s, it was the leading infectious disease killer of dogs.

“I really don’t want to be seeing cases at my practice as it is highly distressing for the dogs, owners and for me and my colleagues.

“I urge Barnsley’s dog owners to keep up to date with their vaccines and keep diseases like distemper strictly in the history books.”