Vets are imploring pet owners to get their puppies vaccinated against parvovirus after a major outbreak of the deadly disease.

Fifty-five puppies have come to the Mangere Veterinary Clinic with the virus over the course of just three days, manager Rachel Radich says.

It’s been an ordeal.

‘‘We’ve seen tons of kids crying, owners crying and puppies dying. Even our staff who see these things every day are upset. We’ve seen so many dead and dying puppies.’’

Parvovirus is a highly contagious disease that spreads from dog to dog through direct or indirect contact with their faeces.

It causes vomiting, diarrhoea and severe dehydration and is fatal in about 50 per cent of cases, even with treatment.

Puppies can be vaccinated against the virus from the age of 6 weeks but many people aren’t aware of that fact, Radich says.

‘‘A lot of these puppies were given to people at Christmas time or just before Christmas and they weren’t told they had to vaccinate them.’’

The Manukau After Hours Vet Clinic is also seeing ‘‘absolutely astounding amounts of parvo’’, head nurse Kirsty Spemann says.

It has seen about 100 infected dogs over the sum-

‘‘ horrific’’ mer period. The outbreak has been heartbreaking and frustrating for clinic staff.

‘‘Often with the cases we’re getting they’ve already been sick for three days, which makes our ability to treat really limited.

‘‘So by the time they get to us, they’re really sick.’’

Clinic staff have been giving out information packs to dog owners to let them know what they can do to prevent the virus.

It can live in the ground for up to a year and survive on inanimate objects like bowls and toys so people who have had an infected dog should not get another dog for at least 12 months, Spemann says.

Deryn Pearce, a vet nurse at Great South Vets in Papatoetoe, says the clinic is seeing about 10 or 15 puppies with the virus each day.

Cases often spike around this time of year because the virus thrives in the hot weather, she says.

‘‘It’s a pretty ruthless sort of virus. It’s very tough on us. It’s tough on the owners as well but it’s hard seeing so much of it.’’

It’s important that puppies get all their vaccinations on time and that they are kept at home until about two weeks after their third vaccination, Pearce says.

‘‘ If they’ve had their vaccinations on time, by the time they’re about 14 weeks old they should be able to go out.’’