Published: 05/02/2014 16:01:29
CONCLUSIONS FROM OUR SEASONAL CANINE ILLNESS PILOT STUDY
We have concluded a small pilot study, funded by the Kennel Club Charitable Trust, linked to the investigation of a possible association between seasonal canine illness (SCI) and harvest mites.
SCI is a mystery illness which can make dogs walked in woodlands suddenly become ill. In 2013 there were 143 cases reported to the AHT from across its five study sites in Nottinghamshire and East Anglia.
Cases of SCI are usually seen from August to November, with dogs showing clinical 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.
Despite no definitive cause being identified, we recognised a common finding which may be linked to the development of SCI. A number of cases had an obvious infestation of harvest mites, which may also be present, but not as obvious, in other animals.
There are currently no products specifically licensed to prevent infestation by harvest mites. However sprays containing fipronil that are licensed against fleas and ticks on cats and dogs are believed to be effective against several different mites.
To investigate the possible link between SCI and harvest mites, during the 2013 SCI season we advised dog owners to treat their dogs with fipronil spray before walking in woodlands during high risk autumn months. We advised owners to speak to their own veterinary surgeons before treating their dog using a spray containing fipronil as these products are only available on prescription from veterinary surgeons.
We also worked with the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk and a manufacturer of one type of fipronil spray, to conduct a small pilot study. The study aimed to evaluate whether dog owners would comfortably access complimentary fipronil spray from their vets and treat their animals prior to walking in woods on the estate.
As fipronil spray is a prescription only medicine, we issued vouchers to dog owners which they could redeem for fipronil spray through their local vet practice. The aim of this pilot was to check whether this was a feasible method of providing the spray to dog owners.
Twenty-four dog owners signed up to take part in the study, and those eligible were provided with fipronil spray. Conclusions from the pilot study reveal that all participating owners found it easy to enrol and take part in the study. The owners also thought the simple process of being able to claim the spray from their veterinary practice the best method of receiving the product.
Through evaluating our pilot study we are confident that a larger, perhaps nationwide, study would be useful in further testing the possible association between harvest mites and SCI.
However, due to the size of the pilot study, we are not able to make valid conclusions as to whether fipronil spray protects against harvest mites. This in turn obviously means we cannot confirm or deny whether harvest mites have a direct correlation to SCI.
Through the pilot study we have devised an effective way of providing dog owners with fipronil spray at an appropriate time and we would love the opportunity to be able to develop this study to be able to confirm or deny whether harvest mites are a contributing factor to SCI, should sufficient funding be available.
Due to the success of the pilot study in indicating that it is feasible to provide dog owners access to complimentary fipronil, we are currently exploring funding opportunities to progress the study in 2014.
If you are interested in funding future investigations into SCI, please contact Dr. Richard Newton on 01638 555399.
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