Dog owners are being urged to vaccinate their pooches against the highly contagious parvovirus, which can be deadly.

The virus attacks cells, particularly the lining of the gastrointestinal tract and bone marrow. This can be fatal for dogs and puppies that are unvaccinated or have incomplete vaccinations.

Australian Veterinary Association president Paula Parker said many pets’ lives were unnecessarily put at risk.

“Canine parvo is a disease that we have excellent vaccines for,” Dr Parker said.

“This is not a disease that we need to see any more.”

Dogs that are showing signs of lethargy, vomiting or diarrhoea should be taken to a vet immediately, Dr Parker said.

“Early treatment is essential in improving the chance of survival,” she said.