Toby the dog loses brave fight for life after mystery illness

He won the hearts of the country as he bravely battled a mystery illness picked up on a walk in Belfast.

But Toby the Dachshund died today in his family’s arms after eight days being treated in intensive care. He was just one year and one day old.

His owner Niamh Gilligan told DogsLive: “Toby passed away today at 11.30am. He passed in my arms while he was cuddled into my neck with Chris giving him gentlest head scratches and his whole family around him.

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“He wasn’t in any pain and passed very peacefully. I know a lot of people have really cared about Toby since they got to hear about him, and although this is a very sad update, we just wanted to let people know and thank them for their support, thoughts and prayers.

“Toby had a rough night last night and the vets were concerned that he could leave us at any time. His wee body had just taken enough. We didn’t want Toby to be alone when he left, so Chris and I decided we would rather he go peacefully with his family all around him.



Toby as a tiny pup when he arrived into the lives of Chris and Niamh

“We had his feeding tube removed to make him more comfortable and he moved himself over to rest on me. He placed his head into my neck and cuddled in. It was always his favorite spot to cuddle into in the mornings. He was very peaceful and passed quickly without any pain.

“Toby fought so hard, the vets tried everything but it was just too much. This horrible disease was just too hard on his body, he was such a small and young dog. If his willpower had been enough, if his bravery had been enough , he’d be here.

“I knew it was time when he cuddled into me and got comfortable, I knew he was ready to leave and we had to let him. We had asked so much of him and we couldn’t ask another thing. We are, quite simply, heartbroken.”



Toby, the last cuddle, the last picture
Toby, the last cuddle, the last picture

Long haired dachshund Toby took sick 18 days ago after his usual walk in Ormeau Park, South Belfast. Initially he presented with vomiting and lethargy but after 10 days with no improvement he was admitted to the specialist Earlswood Veterinary Hospital in East Belfast.

And yesterday, on March 29, in a last ditch attempt to give his body a chance to rest and recover, he was given a plasma transfusion in what owner Chris Greenlee described as a “last roll of the dice”.

The couple waited for news with overwhelming hope but just 24 hours later it was all over for Toby, leaving his family dealing with distress and heartache and a vet bill running to almost £10,000.



Toby's a snuggler - pictured with Niamh
Toby’s a snuggler – pictured with Niamh

Chris had previously said: “Whatever happens we will fight as long as he can. We will find the money. Money can be earned again, it can be replaced. Our boy, our Toby cannot.”

Chris and Niamh sacrificed the savings they had gathered to buy a house to meet as much as the medical costs as possible and they set up a funding page in case they needed back up.

Chris explained: “When we get dogs, we know that someday the day will come when we have to say our goodbyes. For some that day is a long time away, with lots of happy memories, cuddles and a long happy life. For us , unfortunately that time has come far too soon.

“Today we had to say goodbye to our wee man. A day after his first birthday. Words just can’t describe the pain and heartbreak right now. I already miss him so much.

The moment Toby walked into our lives it made not only our lives complete but our family. All Toby did was give us his unconditional love. He wasn’t just a dog, he was the third member of our little family.



Toby had been through enough
Toby had been through enough

“Toby was our everything. He gave us the best nine months of happiness anyone could have asked for. Waking us up every morning to a mass amount of kisses to the point we could barely breathe.

“The hardest part of all this is all we wanted was to give you a long happy life with lots of adventures, happy memories and love. Unfortunately that has been cut far too short

I never thought I would be able to love something as much as I loved Toby. I don’t think I’ll ever get over losing him There’s no worse feeling than holding the thing you love the most and having to say goodbye, but we couldn’t let him suffer anymore.”

On March 22, Vets diagnosed Toby with Acute Haemorrhagic Diarrhoea Syndrome and pancreatitis caused by its symptoms but they still do not know the origins of the disease, where or how it is picked up or if there is a curative treatment.

Now Niamh has urged dog lovers to help find out what is causing the disease and how to fight it, to give other families a fighting chance of having their pet survive.

A study is ongoing at Liverpool University and the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network to try to identify, stamp out and take measures to prevent this potentially deadly disease.



Toby had his own Instagram account called Toby's Travels
Toby had his own Instagram account called Toby’s Travels

And there is a suggestion from data so far that it may be linked to a coronavirus that affects the intestines, called canine enteric coronavirus.

Owners can take part in the investigating study by simply permitting their vet to send about their pet’s medical records to SAVSNET who are the disease.

Professor Alan Radford said: “Colleagues at University of Lincoln led by Dr Simon Clegg, have tested some samples from affected animals, and as we found in 2020, canine enteric coronavirus was found in many of them. We have also found the same in samples submitted to SAVSNET.”

Toby’s Timeline

  • Sat March 12 morning: Toby starts vomiting, unwilling to eat and unable to drink without being sick.
  • Sat March 12 lunchtime: Toby given a nausea shot to curb vomiting
  • Sun March 13: Toby sick again and given antibiotic and anti-reflux medication
  • Sun March 13, evening: Condition deteriorates and is taken to emergency vets and stays overnight
  • Mon March 14: Toby returns home but goes back to emergency vets for anti nausea shot, sent home again
  • Saturday March 19: Toby rapidly deteriorates, rushed to vets for abdominal investigation to find cause
  • Monday March 21: Toby goes to his own vet, is admitted to specialist vet clinic for more intensive treatment
  • Tues march 22: Toby admitted to Earlswood Veterinary Hospital diagnosed with Acute Haemorrhagic Diarrhoea Syndrome and pancreatitis.
  • Friday, March 25, Chris and Niamh get to cuddle Toby to help stimulate his mood.
  • Saturday March 26: Toby remains in intensive care.
  • Sunday March 27: Toby starts to be sick.
  • Tuesday March 29: Vets consult external expert, change pain meds and set up plasma transfusion
  • Wednesday March 30: Toby passes away peacefully with his family by his side aged one year and one day.


Toby was allowed to see his mum and dad for a few minutes on Friday night in the hope it would help him pick up
Toby was allowed to see his mum and dad for a few minutes on Friday night in the hope he would pick up

In January 2022 SAVSNET began investigating reports of acute gastrointestinal disease including vomiting and diarrhea in dogs in various parts of the UK, with the most severe cases in Yorkshire.

Statistics showed gastrointestinal disease cases in dogs was increasing over what would be considered normal at the time of year and the team mounted a suspected outbreak investigation response.

A spokesperson for SAVSNET said: “Early analyzes of questionnaires from owners and vets managing cases suggests that thankfully, affected dogs usually make a full recovery in seven to 14 days with appropriate care. There is no known risk to people.”



Chris and Toby relaxing at home
Chris and Toby relaxing at home

Advice to owners from SAVSNET

Acute Gastro Intestinal disease such as the one suffered by Toby is always unpleasant regardless of the cause, and regardless of whether it affects an individual dog or many.

In severe cases, especially if left untreated, it can be life threatening. If you are an owner concerned about the health of your pet, please contact your own veterinary surgeon who is best placed to offer advice, and treatment if necessary.



Regardless of whether the pattern of disease in your area is normal or not, if your dog does have vomit and/or diarrhoea, it makes sense to keep it away from other dogs at least whilst they are ill and preferably a few days longer just in case they are infectious.



Toby loving life
Toby loving life

And if your dog does defecate or vomit in a public place, then it is even more important to clear up after them, washing your own hands carefully afterwards. Close contact with affected dogs, and their vomit and diarrhea are likely to be the main ways that gastro intestinal bugs are transmitted.



Toby before he got sick weighed just 7kg - now his weight has plummeted
Toby before he got sick weighed just 7kg – now his weight has plummeted

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