Vets are warning dog owners to keep their pets properly vaccinated as an outbreak of parvovirus sweeps across Griffith.
It's no ordinary outbreak, according to Griffith Veterinary Hospital vet Raiyan Shahab, who has seen infected dogs are coming in with a host of early symptoms not typically associated with parvovirus.
"In previous years in Griffith we've always noticed it as vomiting and diarrhea, but this year we've seen a shift in what we've been seeing - mostly lethargy and not eating," Ms Shahab said.
"We don't know whether the virus is mutating, or whether it's shifting in the way it's presenting in dogs."
Researchers at Sydney University are currently studying the strain to see whether there has indeed been a mutation in the virus's genes.
In the meantime Ms Shahab is urging dog owners to get their dogs vaccinated early and to keep unvaccinated dogs indoors to prevent them from catching parvovirus.
It's a highly contagious virus that can spread through soil or the feces of other dogs, and a hardy strain can hang around in the environment for up to eight years.
Younger puppies are especially vulnerable to catching the virus, however in recent times Ms Shahab has also treated dogs as old as 11 to 12 months of age.
The vet hospital has been treating an unusually high number of parvovirus cases for this time of year, with over 15 cases in under two months.
Ms Sahab is anticipating even more cases as Griffith heads into the warmer months, which is when cases of parvovirus reach their peak.
The virus destroys an infected dog's intestinal lining, leading to severe gastroenteritis, haemorrhagic diarrhoea, vomiting, dehydration, and even death in untreated cases.
Parvovirus vaccines are available for puppies around six weeks old and older, with follow-up booster shots for older dogs.
"There's no cure for parvo, which is hard to explain to people," Ms Shahab said.
"It's important that you remember to vaccinate, vaccinate, vaccinate."
While you're with us, did you know that you can now receive updates straight to your inbox every Monday at 6am from The Area News? To make sure you're up to date with all the Griffith and MIA news you can sign up here.