A NUMBER of puppies have taken seriously ill in recent days amid growing concerns of dog breeding farms demanding extortionate prices in Scotland.

It comes as the Scottish SPCA launched 78 investigations into puppy farming in October alone.

People are being urged to be wary when purchasing puppies after the SSPCA was contacted about four puppies in recent days.

Two of the puppies have sadly died while a third has taken unwell.

One of the puppies, a bulldog-pug cross named Nugget, died on October 25 just three days after he was bought.

Cockapoo Maxi died on October 24 less than a week after being brought home to his new family.

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A dog thought to be his sibling sold to another person has become unwell.

Inspectors from the charity fear dealers are taking advantage of coronavirus restrictions and a growing demand for dogs to confuse prospective buyers.

Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “The combination of coronavirus restrictions and extortionate prices of puppies is being manipulated by puppy traders selling badly bred dogs.

“There are things we would urge any buyer to do, such as insist on seeing the pup they are buying at the seller’s home or premises with their mum.

"At the moment, we know many dealers are telling unsuspecting members of the public to meet them in a car park or public space to pass over the dog safely.

"The seller will often be wearing a mask and afterwards they are impossible to get a hold of when the pup gets sick."

So far in 2020 the animal welfare charity has received 523 calls from people concerned about puppy dealers.

The charity's boss also warned that dealers are charging more for puppies than ever before.

"Prices have skyrocketed in 2020 as responsible breeders scaled back due to the restrictions yet demand increased as many people were stuck at home.

"Now, dealers can charge more than ever before and sell more easily than they’ve previously been able to. The root of this problem is public demand.

"As we approach Christmas, we are frightened by the prospect of the general public flocking to these people to buy sick and ill puppies."

Tests are ongoing to establish the conditions of the puppies Maxi and Nugget but their appalling health is consistent with being bred on a puppy farm.

Maxi was lively when he was brought home but his health quickly deteriorated.

And both the pups were too young to be separated from their mother being sold at less than eight weeks.

Mr Flynn added: "The onus is on everyone single person in Scotland to put this despicable trade out of business.

“Of these four dogs, three were sold by the dealer taking the dog to the buyer’s home and the other in was given a fake address which turned out to be a car park. You should never purchase a pup in a public place or at your own home.”

“Every single time a pup dies we say the same thing to the public – don’t be rushed in to parting with money and insist on seeing the puppy with their mum. Do not buy a puppy until you have seen paperwork and certificates for vaccinations, microchipping and worming.”

Anyone who believes they come in to contact with a puppy dealer should contact the Scottish SPCA's animal helpline on 03000 999 999.