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Animal Health Trust continues its investigation into Seasonal Canine Illness

Dog Owners Warned To Stay Alert As Season For Mystery Dog Illness Approaches

A leading veterinary charity is issuing an alert to dog owners across the county, asking them to stay vigilant for signs of a mystery illness which can kill dogs.

During autumn 2009 and 2010, several dogs which had been walked in woodlands suddenly became ill. In some cases, dogs didn’t recover. Responding to this, the Animal Health Trust (AHT) launched an investigation into the illness, which it has named ‘Seasonal Canine Illness’ (SCI).

Richard Newton of the AHT, said: “We want to arm dog owners with as much information as we can. Unfortunately we are looking for a small needle in a very large hay stack so this could take some time.

“We know that if cases reoccur this year we’re mostly likely to see them from August to November. We also know that if a dog is affected clinical signs come on very quickly and the dog owner should seek veterinary help as soon as possible.”

Although clinical signs of SCI, which include vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy are fairly common and non-specific, it is their onset within only a few hours of dogs walking in woodlands that is distinctive.

For the purpose of its investigation the AHT is focussing its data collection on four previously affected sites: Sandringham Estate and Thetford Forest in Norfolk and Clumber Park and Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire.

Richard Newton, added: “We do not believe that dogs are at any more risk walking at the four sites we’re investigating than at any other woodland site. We simply need to limit our investigation area in order to get the most useful data.

“Nearly 400 people completed questionnaires last autumn after walking dogs in these areas but we were also alerted to other areas, across the whole of the UK, where dog owners believe cases had occurred.”

The AHT is asking dog owners who have walked their dogs at any of the four study sites since 1 August 2011 to complete and return the relevant questionnaire. Even if your dog has not been taken ill your information will be invaluable to the investigation. Questionnaires, and further information, are available from the website: www.aht.org.uk

Richard Newton, said: “We don’t want to alarm people. There’s every chance that cases of SCI may not reoccur in 2011. However if they do we want dog owners to be able to spot the signs quickly and get the necessary help.”

For further information, please contact:

Farrah Stevens, AHT press office, 01638 555602

Additional notes:

  • The Animal Health Trust (AHT) is an independent charity, employing over 200 scientists, vets and support workers. It aims to improve the health and welfare of horses, dogs and cats through research. It also provides specialist referral services and continuous education to vets. Visit the website at www.aht.org.uk
  • In September 2010, the AHT was asked by the Sandringham Estate to investigate the illness on its site. Since the investigation began, more cases have been identified across Norfolk and Nottinghamshire and the AHT has been working with the National Trust and the Forestry Commission on this investigation. The Caravan Club and the Environment Agency have also assisted the investigation.
  • The AHT advises any dog owner who is concerned about their dog’s health, or if their dog is experiencing vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy to contact their vet immediately.