Bristol woman's warning after her dog dies of highly infectious parvovirus

Willow died days after contracting parvovirus Credit: Georgina Skuse

A woman from Bristol is raising awareness of a highly infectious disease that took the life of her pet just a month after she got her.

Georgie Skuse was left "heartbroken" after her dog Willow contracted parvovirus, who she says was fully vaccinated after she bought her from a breeder.

Georgia now wants to share an urgent message with other owners to stop them from going through the same experience.

She bought Willow, who was then aged five months, with her best friend Maddy in September.

Willow became ill in mid-October. Georgie thought she had a sickness bug as she was eating and drinking the next day.

"On Tuesday, she was sick and we thought she had maybe eaten something when she was out for a walk, and on Wednesday she was able to eat some scrambled egg and boiled chicken, and she was drinking, so we thought she had got over it", she said.

"She was still looking quite sad and sleepy so we thought maybe she was just tired out from being sick. She didn't have any diarrhoea, just sickness.

"On Thursday, she still did not look right, so we took her to the PSDA.

"They gave her an anti-sickness injection and Willow seemed very sleepy after that. We were advised to syringe water into her."

However, by Friday, Willow had not improved and she was admitted to a vets. They gave her antibiotics and did a test for parvovirus - which came back positive.

"She was passing blood from her bottom by that stage," said Georgie. "So they put her on an IV drip, nutrient feeds and more antibiotics and she seemed to have perked up by Saturday.

"Then we got a phone call at 2am saying she had taken a turn for the worse and by Sunday they said she wasn't going to make it.

"Up until then, she had been absorbing the nutrients they'd been giving her, but then she stopped being able to and it was all sitting in her stomach."

What is parvovirus?

It is a contagious virus that spreads through direct contact with an infected dog or indirect contact with a contaminated object.

It is classed as a disease of the stomach and small intestine, as this is where it does the most damage. It infects the small intestine, where it destroys cells, affects absorption, and disrupts the gut barrier.

A dog is exposed to the virus every time it sniffs or licks infected faeces. Indirect transmission occurs when a person who has recently been exposed to an infected dog touches another or if it encounters a contaminated object, like a feeding bowl or leash.

Symptoms to look out for include: 

  • lethargy

  • loss of appetite

  • abdominal pain and bloating

  • fever or low body temperature

  • vomiting

  • severe, often bloody, diarrhea

Persistent vomiting and diarrhea can cause rapid dehydration, and damage to the intestines and immune system can cause septic shock.

Willow died just one month after meeting her owners Credit: Georgina Skuse

Georgie added that she was shocked Willow had passed away so quickly and said she couldn't believe how quiet she had been despite being very poorly.

"She didn't make any crying sounds or do anything to tell you she was ill," she said.

Now, she and Maddy must wait six to eight months before getting another pet. Parvovirus is highly contagious and can only be killed with bleach.

Georgie is urging other owners to know the signs to look out for and to make sure their dogs are fully vaccinated:

"Even if Willow had pulled through, she wouldn't have been allowed outside our house or garden for three to six months, until she was no longer contagious.

"People need to be aware of how easily it is spread. That means picking up your dogs' poo and making sure sick dogs stay at home."