There's a been a sad dark side to the COVID-19 puppy boom
BRISBANE veterinarians dealing with a "corona puppy" influx have expressed despair at the condition some of them have been sold in, leaving devastated new owners thousands out of pocket within days.
Dr Kate Bruce, 27, of Manly West said she has seen a 40 per cent increase in puppy patients after people rushed out to buy a new puppy while they were working from home thanks to the novel coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
With that, has come an increase in sick puppies and some kittens, including a French Bulldog so sick he had to be hospitalised to a cavoodle sold with a broken leg.
"I usually try to maintain as much professional respect as possible for breeders, but some of the cases we've seen over the last few weeks of corona-puppies have been dreadful," Dr Bruce wrote in a post on her @kate.the.vet Instagram page.
"We have had SO many very sick puppies who were either adopted sick, or became sick within hours of getting home. One puppy sold WITH A BROKEN LEG (sic)."
In the same post, Dr Bruce told her 29,000 followers that one family could not afford critical care costs right after paying for the tiny dog.
"One heartbroken family had to surrender their Frenchie puppy who had spent only one day with them as he was so sick and they couldn't afford ongoing critical care costs," she wrote.
Dr Bruce told the Courier Mail the Morningside family made that heartbreaking decision after the 7-week-old puppy, Obi, had already spent three nights at the vet but still needed further care.
"Obi spent three days in hospital with hookworm and coccidia … before his extremely heartbroken owners had to surrender him to the RSPCA for ongoing care as they couldn't afford his ongoing treatment," she said.
"They're both types of parasites picked up from contaminated environments, other dogs who are sick with worms or infected soil.
"They definitely would have come home from the breeder with it."
Another 7-week-old puppy, Branston the Labrador, was brought in only hours after arriving at his new Teneriffe home.
He, too, spent his first week in hospital after being infected with the parasite coccidia, along with two different types of bacteria.
In both cases, Dr Bruce said, neighbouring veterinary clinics reported having sick puppies from the same litters also brought in for treatment.
She said it was likely the puppies had been sold without having been wormed and were bought from backyard or "hobby" breeders.
The small animal veterinarian said a colleague, at another vet clinic, had a cavoodle puppy come in who the owners had picked up at a discounted price due to a misshapen leg.
"They took her in to get checked and it turned out the leg was broken, so they spent thousands getting it repaired," she said.
Numerous other puppies had arrived having not been wormed or vaccinated, while some also had no microchip.
It is illegal to sell, or give away, a dog or cat without a microchip in Queensland.
"Puppies are arriving with no worming or vaccine status, no microchip (illegal), being fed only raw meat or weetbix, sick with diarrhoea, way too young, and in one case with their own (horrific) anaesthetic recommendations," Dr Bruce wrote.
Director of Animal Emergency Services, Dr Alex Hynes, 43, said the emergency animal hospitals had also seen an increase in the number of puppies needing treatment.
"A majority of the puppies have come in with vomiting and diarrhoea within the first few weeks of being in their new home," she said.
"Sometimes, it's just because of a simple change in diet and being in a new environment.
"But in some more serious cases, they have been carrying a parasite burden, which is when we raise questions about worming."
Puppies and kittens should be started on worming treatment from two-weeks of age, with a wormer that covers multiple types of parasites.
Dr Hynes, who also stars on Bondi Vet: Coast to Coast, said some puppies had been brought in suffering from the often-fatal parvovirus.
"Whenever you see a puppy boom like this, you're going to see more parvo cases come through," she said.
Vets across four of the Animal Emergency Service hospitals in Queensland had already diagnosed more than 40 parvovirus cases for the year by early May, having diagnosed only 60 patients during the entire previous year.
The canine parvovirus is a highly contagious viral infection that primarily affects the cardiovascular system or gastrointestinal tracts.
Dr Hynes said when buying or adopting a puppy, questions that should be asked included when the puppy was last wormed, when were they due for their next worming and what type of worming tablet was used.
On her Instagram post, Dr Bruce advised those looking for a puppy to look for reputable breeders who offered genetic testing and hip scoring among other things.
She said to ask to inspect the breeder's property and to avoid picking up puppies younger than 8-weeks-old.
"Beware the cheap/discounted puppy. Never take home a sick one! (sic)," she wrote.
"REPORT breeders who try to do this, and report if they are not registered and appear like a backyard or puppy farm breeder."
Originally published as Dark side to COVID-19 puppy boom