Thousands of puppy buyers in East Anglia are being duped into buying unhealthy pets by "cute" pictures on social media, new research shows. 

The Kennel Club, the UK's largest dog welfare organisation, has warned platforms such as Instagram and TikTok are giving "unscrupulous" breeders easy access to a mass market, with Norfolk buyers four times more likely to use social media compared to five years ago.

Further research shows that one in four puppies advertised on social media get sick or die before their first birthday, with over half of prospective buyers facing unexpectedly high financial costs. 

READ MORE: Village anger over 10 MONTH roadworks saga held up by BADGERS

Furthermore, more than a fifth of buyers admitted their puppy had behavioural issues they were not expecting and one in five regretted the way they purchased their dog.

Eastern Daily Press: Dogs Trust has advised potential buyers to make considerations when look at puppiesDogs Trust has advised potential buyers to make considerations when look at puppies (Image: Newsquest)

Mark Beazley, chief executive at The Kennel Club, said: "In today's curated digital world, enticing photos are the lifeblood of social media and pictures of puppies grab attention – so there is an obvious appeal to buying and selling puppies using these platforms.

"It's down to the puppy buyer to make sure that they ask the right questions, see the puppy with their mum and in their home environment, and step back if things don't feel right.

READ MORE: Locals flocking to Norfolk pub to try new 'farm-to-fork' Sunday roasts

"Failing to do so can lead to a world of heartache for puppy buyers and keeps rogue breeders in business, whilst puppies continue to suffer the consequences, as this research shows."

Paula Boyden, veterinary director at Dogs Trust, added: "With the PDSA Paw Report 2023 highlighting growth in people buying their pet via online adverts and social media, it's more important than ever that buyers spend time asking the right questions to avoid untrustworthy sellers.

"It's also imperative that prospective pet owners seriously consider whether a particular pet is a suitable choice for them."