A campaign urging people to shun illegal puppy farms has been launched.

The Scottish Government and SSPCA is highlighting the trade which is estimated to be worth £13m a year.

The SSPCA said research has shown that “farmed” puppies are at greater risk of infectious diseases and genetical disorders which can leave unsuspecting owners with vet bills of thousands of pounds.

It said the advertised parents of the dogs are usually not the parents to disguise the poor condition of the mother.

SSPCA Chief executive Kirsteen Campbell said it was organised crime and there was little deterrent at present.

Ian Futter, Chief Vetinary Officer at SSPCA, urged people not to buy puppies from these dealers.

He said: “It’s stressful enough being a puppy and when you’re a puppy on a puppy farm there can be hundreds of other dogs under the same roof. This increases the spread of infection which results in these puppies becoming unwell very quickly, usually within the first week or two of rehoming.

“This is because the stress of a new environment can put pressure onto their immune system so any underlying infection starts to surface and cause real health problems. This leaves new owners with a very sick puppy who needs to go to the vet quickly.”

The Scottish Government has backed the campaign

Roseanna Cunningham, Environment Secretary, said, “I know it is easy to fall in love with a cute puppy advertised on-line, but people should think very carefully before buying a pet this way.

“The arrival of a new puppy should be a happy time but irresponsible and illegal breeding can lead to hefty vets’ bills and even heartbreak for owners.

“Those involved in puppy dealing or illegal breeding can earn thousands of pounds from a single litter but while they count their cash, the dogs which they are exploiting inevitably suffer.”

SSPCA have listed some warning signs to look out for to spot if a puppy offered for sale is from a ‘puppy farm’

The advices states: “They may try to fob you off by saying that the puppy’s mother is at the vets, asleep or out for a walk. If the mum isn’t there, then the puppy wasn’t bred there.”

It warns to beware of deliveries, adding: “They might offer to deliver a puppy to you or meet you somewhere random - like a car park.”