San Diego veterinarians are warning pet owners about a spike in viral infections and other potentially life-threatening health problems affecting puppies purchased on some websites.
More than 20 critically ill puppies have been treated at Bodhi Animal Hospital since May. Some of them have passed away. Veterinarians said the owners had purchased the dogs through private online sellers.
"It is absolutely heartbreaking for any pet owner to endure this kind of situation and we want the public to be aware of the risk of buying a pet on these kinds of websites," said Dr. Ann Eliopulos, medical director of Bodhi Animal Hospital. "This is a growing problem and many buyers are blindsided by these elaborate scams. Oftentimes, the seller will arrange to meet buyers in parking lots and communicate using burner phones. Once you have the puppy you will never be able to get in touch with them again."
Veterinarians say pets sold through websites are often bred in puppy mills and falsely advertised as being raised by local breeders. Experts are warning the public to adopt or buy pets from reputable organizations or breeders.
Pet owners should also remain vigilant for symptoms that could indicate illnesses, veterinarians say. Symptoms include, but are not limited to, lack of appetite, vomiting, cough, difficulty breathing, diarrhea and mobility issues.
"Many people are going to Craigslist to look for specific breeds at more affordable prices, however because these puppies are often raised in unhealthy conditions and separated from their mothers too early, their health quickly deteriorates. It's not worth the risk," said Eliopulos. "We strongly encourage pet buyers to never purchase from these kinds of sellers as it perpetuates a system that harms a growing number of animals each year."