The Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET), based at the University of Liverpool, has analyzed around 100 samples taken from sick dogs, by vets around the country, and run tests for a number of pathogens.
Alan Radford, Professor of Veterinary Health Informatics, said a “high proportion” of the dogs tested positive for canine enteric coronavirus.
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Canines began falling ill in January, suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea, after visiting beaches in Yorkshire. But cases were then reported across the country and public health experts have ruled out any direct link to the coast.
Dogs began falling ill in January, suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea, after visiting beaches in Yorkshire
SAVSNET researchers confirmed there was “an increase of gastrointestinal disease affecting dogs around the country” after an initial outbreak in Yorkshire.
The team’s research also shows a similar outbreak hit the UK in 2020.
“The evidence shows canine enteric coronavirus is the prime candidate – the chief suspect,” said Professor Radford.
“About half tested positive for canine enteric coronavirus.
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“We’ve sequenced these canine enteric coronavirus samples and we’re seeing what is probably a new variant.
“There was a particular variant in 2020 and it looks likely – although we’ve got quite a bit more work to do – that there’s a new, closely related variant in 2022.”
He added: “It’s important to make the point that as far as we know, this has no significance to Covid and most significance to human health.
“We’ve looked at some of the other potential causes like parvovirus, which causes very similar clinical signs. But I’m pretty sure this peak that we’ve seen this winter is not caused by parvo.”
While the vast majority of dogs made a full recovery after contracting the virus, owners have been warned there could be another outbreak next winter.
Professor Radford added: “There have been vaccines for this virus. But because we thought it really wasn’t a big cause of disease and they were used so little, the vaccine companies actually stopped selling them in the UK.
“But as the evidence builds and we see these winter peaks, if we can prove that it is caused by canine enteric coronavirus then perhaps that vaccine would become available again.”