Dog owners are being warned to stay vigilant for the signs of a mystery and potentially fatal dog illness.
Cases of the illness, known as SCI, are usually seen from August to November with dogs showing signs of vomiting, diarrhoea and/or lethargy within 24 to 72 hours of walking in woodland. Dog owners are advised to seek immediate veterinary advice should they see these signs in their dog following a woodland walk.
The Animal Health Trust (AHT) at Kentford has been investigating SCI since the end of 2010 at five sites across Norfolk, Nottinghamshire and Suffolk.
Research co-ordinator Charlotte Robin said: “We’ve had a fantastic response to our request for information from dog owners who have walked at our study sites, but unfortunately this information doesn’t yet point to a definitive cause.
“We’re delighted that since our investigation started fewer dogs have died from SCI. We hope this is due to increased awareness of the condition and that dog owners now know to contact a vet for advice if they spot any of the clinical signs. Information provided to us certainly shows that if dogs get veterinary treatment quickly for SCI signs, they tend to recover within seven to 10 days”.
Despite no definite cause being recognised, the AHT has identified a number of common themes which may increase a dog’s susceptibility to SCI including infestation by harvest mites.
As a result dog owners planning to visit woodlands this autumn are being advised to make sure their pets are up-to-date with preventive treatments for external parasites.
“We cannot say for definite that travel or harvest mites are associated with causing SCI, but ensuring your dog has access to clean water and is protected from external parasites is all part of good dog ownership,” said Charlotte. The trust is asking dog owners who walk their dogs at any of the five study sites Sandringham Estate or Thetford Forest, Norfolk, Clumber Park or Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire or Rendlesham Forest, Suffolk, to complete its online questionnaire at www.aht.org.uk/sci
“We desperately need information from dogs which have been walked at any of our study sites, even if they did not become ill.
“The information we can glean from owners of dogs who walked at the sites and didn’t show clinical signs of SCI is just as important to our investigation, as information from affected dogs,” she said.