ANIMAL lover Milika Feiloakitau wants to know why western Sydney's dogs suffer higher rates of parvovirus than pets in other regions.
The third-year university student, who is studying a bachelor of natural science in animal science at the University of Western Sydney, has teamed up with vet Matthew Churchill to discover whether the vaccination rates of dogs in western Sydney vary depending on their owners' postcodes.
"I want to find out if in different postcodes people have more knowledge or not, so I can determine if certain areas get more publicity," Ms Feiloakitau said.
"I thought it was a good topic to find out why people don't vaccinate and why preventable diseases still occur even when there's vaccines available."
From mid-June, the 19-year-old will distribute flyers for her anonymous, online survey to letterboxes across western Sydney to local government areas including Parramatta, Holroyd, Auburn, Penrith, Hawkesbury, Blacktown and Liverpool.
So far, she's targeted homes in Penrith, Kingswood, Werrington, Willmot and Ropes Crossing, with plans to letterbox another 30 selected suburbs within each western Sydney council area until July 31.
Penrith Veterinary Hospital veterinarian Matthew Churchill, who is backing the project, said that it appears western Sydney has higher rates of canine parvovirus.
"Anecdotally, yes, there's a lot more in western Sydney than in town," he said. "It seems to vary even from suburb to suburb.
Dr Churchill said his clinic saw about half a dozen parvovirus cases each year, and there was about a 25 per cent fatality rate.
"It's the saddest thing in the world to see a dog die of parvovirus," he said.
"When you see this disease, you never want to see it again.
"Prevention is by far and away the best way of dealing with it.
"It's really as simple as that, if we do see dogs vaccinated, we don't see parvovirus."
■ Complete Milika's canine vaccinations survey: http://bit.ly/1nXhvOQ.