What clinical signs are associated with Seasonal Canine Illness?
The most common clinical signs reported by dog owners are vomiting (sickness), diarrhoea (which can vary from watery to bloody), abdominal (stomach) pain, lethargy (or reluctance to move), loss of appetite, shaking or trembling, and in some cases high temperature (fever). These signs can appear quickly, between 24 and 72 hours of having walked in a woodland area. For more information on clinical signs, please click here.
What should I do if my dog experiences any of the clinical signs associated with Seasonal Canine Illness?
Contact your vet immediately so that your dog receives treatment as soon as possible.
If my dog has experienced signs of Seasonal Canine Illness but not in one of the study areas, can I still complete a questionnaire?
If your dog experienced clinical signs of Seasonal Canine Illness (vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy) after walking in woodland areas other than the five main study areas, you can still complete a questionnaire. The data provided may not be analysed, however the Animal Health Trust are trying to gather as much information as possible about Seasonal Canine Illness, therefore any additional information is always very useful.
What should I do if I have walked in one of the study areas and my dog has not been affected?
Please still complete our questionnaire. Information about dogs that haven’t been affected is just as important as information from dogs that have.
Can it be passed to other dogs?
There is no evidence at the moment that Seasonal Canine Illness can be passed from dog to dog. In some cases dog owners with more than one dog have only had one case, even when all the dogs walked together. In other cases, all dogs that have been walked together have been affected. However, until the cause is found the possibility that the disease is contagious cannot be ruled out.
What is the risk of my dog being affected?
At the moment, it is difficult to assess the risk of dogs being affected as the cause of Seasonal Canine Illness remains unknown. The risk is probably lower in winter and spring with very few cases being reported between the end of November and the end of August. The majority of cases are reported in September and October, however it is important to remember that even during these months only a small proportion of dogs walking in woodland areas are affected.
Where have the majority of deaths occurred?
In the two years the Animal Health Trust has been investigating Seasonal Canine Illness, just under nine per cent of dogs affected have died. The majority of these were in 2010 in Norfolk.
What are the likely causes?
There are a number of theories regarding the cause of Seasonal Canine Illness; none of them have been confirmed. The research carried out at the Animal Health Trust and the information gathered will help to build a list of risk factors in affected dogs and compare them to those in non-affected dogs. Hopefully, this should help find the cause of the disease.
Have investigations ruled anything out?
Following the Animal Health Trust’s investigations, certain theories about the cause of Seasonal Canine Illness are now believed to be less likely although they haven’t been completely ruled out. These include manufactured poisons (pesticides, herbicides, and organophosphates), naturally occurring toxins (from poisonous plants and fungi) and bracken spores.
What is being done in the way of testing?
The Environment Agency tested natural water sources in some affected areas for the presence of blue-green algae. The test results were negative.
Natural England tested samples in some affected areas in Nottinghamshire and ruled out manufactured poisons (carbamates, metaldehyde, organophosphates, paraquat, diquat, rodenticides and strychnine).
The Animal Health Trust is archiving samples of blood and gastrointestinal tract contents (vomit, diarrhoea) for future diagnostic testing. Samples cannot be accepted directly from dog owners, and must be sent via a veterinary surgeon.
What advice is being given about walking with dogs in woodland areas?
The advice is to be vigilant and if you have any concerns, contact your vet immediately. Although the evidence suggests it is a seasonal illness it is best to stay vigilant at all times of the year. The Animal Health Trust is not in a position where to advise you where you should or shouldn’t be walking your dogs, but it is trying to alert dog owners to this potential risk so you can make a better informed decision. If you are worried you may wish to walk your dog on a lead so you know exactly where it is at all times. Alternatively contact your local vet to see if any cases have been reported or seen by them in your local area.