Dog owners have been left worried by reports of a mystery canine illness spreading like ‘wildfire’ across the UK.
The first incidents of sick animals were seen in the North Yorkshire coast – sparking theories it could be linked to beaches – but the same symptoms have also now been detected inland.
The British Veterinary Association (BVA) says the bug is causing ‘uncommonly violent gastroenteritis-like symptoms, while the vet who first reported the illness says she has been ‘inundated with cases’.
Here’s everything we know so far about the mystery illness…
What are the symptoms?
The main symptoms of the illness so far are:
- severe vomiting
- server diarrhea
- significant dehydration and weakness.
While these symptoms are common and usually go away without treatment, if they persist or your pet is showing increasing signs of distress, it is important to seek prompt veterinary care so that they can be supported with medication and fluids if needed.
Where has it been seen?
Latest figures from the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) show that in Yorkshire, levels of disease have been statistically higher over three weeks and therefore the spike in cases can be termed an outbreak in this region.
British Veterinary Association President Justine Shotton believes the illness is not connected to the coast and instead caused by a virus.
She said: “We are aware of a spike in cases of dogs falling ill from gastroenteritis-like symptoms in several parts of Yorkshire and the North East.
“At this time, we can’t speculate on what might be at play in this situation, and there is currently no evidence to suggest a direct link between the illness and the dogs visiting the beaches.”
Cases have also been reported elsewhere in the country – inland as well as on the coast – but so far these correspond to normal seasonal variation, according to SAVSNET.
How fast has it been spreading?
The vet who first reported dogs falling ill after walks along the Yorkshire coast says the mystery illness is ‘spreading like wildfire’ two weeks later.
Brogan-Alexandra Proud first sounded the alarm about the illness on January 10 when she warned dog walkers that she was “inundated with dogs coming off the beaches with vomiting and diarrhoea”
Miss Proud – who runs Yorkshire Coast Pet Care – says she still receives a constant flow of ill animals, though the numbers seem to be easing off since she warned walkers not to go on the beach.
“It’s still much the same. The situation has not changed,” she said. “It’s still rapidly spreading. Whatever it is it’s spreading like wildfire.”
Why is it unusual?
Dr Danielle Greenberg, from SAVSNET, says the bug is unusual due to the acute symptoms it creates:
- Prolific vomiting of 5 or more episodes in a 12 hour period which can stop for a period (such as overnight) and then starts again
- Dogs are often unable to keep water down at peak vomiting stage
- Anorexia and lethargy for 2-5 days
- Diarrhea: Most dogs have ‘gravy-like’ diarrhea
There is no suggestion that the illness is transmissible to humans.
What action should you take if your dog shows symptoms?
The advice is not to panic and to talk to your vet. In the vast majority of cases, dogs will make a full recovery.
Dr Shotton said: “With gastroenteritis, most cases are mild, but some dogs may need hospitalization with a drip. In the worst situations, it can become haemorrhagic leading to secondary complications or even death, but that is very rare.”