What is seasonal canine illness?
Seasonal canine illness (SCI) is a very serious and potentially life-threatening illness. It generally affects dogs which have been walked in woodland areas 1 – 3 days prior to becoming unwell.
Seasonal canine illness was first found back in 2009 in dogs which had been walked at the Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. Shortly afterwards dogs which had been walked in Thetford, Sherwood and Rendlesham Forest and Clumber Park were also reported to have shown similar signs of seasonal canine illness.
Generally, cases of the illness are seen between the months of August through to November, with the highest figures in September.
What causes seasonal canine illness?
As yet the cause of seasonal canine illness is unknown. Suggestions have been made that harvest mite could play a role in causing the disease as quite a large number of the dogs affected had been found to have harvest mites. The season in which the disease generally is seen is also consistent with the high numbers of larvae in the environment. However, British harvest mites, are not currently known to carry or transmit any known diseases, hence no formal links have been proven at this stage.
Toxins which occur naturally in plants and fungi were also thought to be possible causes. However, a lot of these toxins have also been excluded.
Work is still going on to try to better understand this disease and the causes.
What are the symptoms of the disease?
Symptoms generally include vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy. There are many potential causes of vomiting, diarrhoea and also lethargy, so it is hard to be sure if SCI is present, and suspicion is greatest if other causes of illness have already been ruled out. As the cause is unknown, there is no test at present which can confirm a diagnosis for SCI.
How important is it to take action immediately
Prompt action is important with all unwell dogs. Increased awareness of SCI and prompter treatments has to lead to more good outcomes for dogs which have been affected. Many affected dogs have made recoveries with treatment in 7 to 10 days.
How is the illness treated?
Making a diagnosis of seasonal canine illness is quite challenging. Diagnosis is based on the elimination of other causes of the signs and treatment is essentially symptomatic.
Some dogs may require in-hospital treatment which generally consists of intravenous fluid therapy and anti-sickness medications, with symptomatic treatment of diarrhoea. If signs are not severe they may just need symptomatic treatment at home. If there are signs of harvest mites then you may be advised treatment for these also.
Can I prevent my dog from getting seasonal canine illness?
The important thing to remember is that it is an uncommon disease. With us not knowing the exact cause its difficult to give advice for the prevention.
With the possibility that it could be related to harvest mites, it is important to examine your dog especially around the ears and between the paws for any signs. Harvest mites are small reddish-orange specks found on the surface of your dog’s skin.
As there is an association with harvest mites, use of an anti-parasitic product which targets than would possibly be useful prior to walking in woodland areas. Small breed dogs have been reported to be most at risk, but the true risk factors for different breeds are not known at this time.
Be vigilant and closely monitor your dog’s health after a woodland walk, especially if you are in known affected areas.
Do not hesitate to contact us immediately if you think they have any signs of SCI. Prompt attention could be the difference between life and death.
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