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A woman who bought a dog to help her children through her terminal breast cancer diagnosis was scammed by breeders who gave her fake vaccination papers – which almost cost the dog its life.

It comes as vets have issued a warning over Parvovirus – a potentially fatal illness in dogs after a rise in cases around the UK.

Sixty clinics have reported 89 cases of parvovirus in dogs in the first five months of 2021.

This is a rise of 82% from the 49 cases reported over the same period in 2020.

UK vet network My Family Vets said the increase was down to a combination of a “lockdown puppy boom” and dog owners not keeping up with vaccinations.

Parvovirus is a potentially fatal illness which attacks the gastrointestinal tract and immune system in dogs.

Stephanie Wilkins, 34, a hospital worker, said she nearly lost her cocker spaniel puppy Cooper after it contracted parvovirus within a day of being welcomed into the family.

She bought it to help her three children deal with her terminal breast cancer diagnosis by giving them “something positive to focus on”.

But the family was duped by forged vaccination papers from the breeders, who sold nine-week-old Cooper for £1,400.

Ms Wilkins said: “We thought it was just the new surroundings.

“But he became really quiet and wouldn’t eat and when he started having bad diarrhoea, we knew we had to get him help.

“He was so ill that we were told he probably wouldn’t survive, which was horrendous.”

She said the vets told them they would try everything they could.

“When I went in to see him, he looked awful, as if he just wanted to die and I didn’t want him to suffer”, said Ms Wilkins.

“But every time he got really bad and it looked as if every hour might be his last, he would stabilise again.”

Cooper received intensive treatment at Bath Vet Group and recovered, despite the disease having a fatality rate of 80% in dogs.

The People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals (PDSA) clinics see around 1,500 cases of parvo every year.

Early aggressive treatment can include intravenous drips to treat shock and combat dehydration, anti-nausea medication, and highly specialised viral treatment.

Ms Wilkins said owners must make sure they are vaccinating their pets and getting help straight away if their dogs fall sick.

She said: “I think with everything we’ve had going on, we missed some warning signs.

“You’ve got to know everything is genuine and definitely make sure you get all of the vaccinations you need.”