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  • Jo De Klerk

    What is Seasonal Canine Illness?

    There’s a seasonal disease doing the rounds, and it’s a rather scary one. Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI) was first recognised in 2010, and it’s dramatically on the rise. It is still very rare, and so it is not the time to panic. But being aware of it is important for your dog’s health during the Autumn.

    The cause of Seasonal Canine Illness is still a bit of a mystery. Ongoing research is being conducted, but hypothesised causes include harvest mites, poisons, contaminated water, fungi, allergic reactions, agro-chemicals, algae and natural gastrointestinal flora. It can affect any dog, of any age, gender and breed, and is more prevalent between August and November. Most dogs which contract SCI have been walked in a woodland area recently, and become very unwell 24-72 hours later.

    What are the symptoms of Seasonal Canine Illness?

    The most common symptoms are:

    • Lethargy
    • Vomiting
    • Diarrhoea
    • Inappetence
    • Abdominal pain
    • Muscle tremors
    • High Temperature

    These symptoms frequently look like a bad case of gastroenteritis, but Seasonal Canine Illness can rapidly progress to being fatal, which is why it is important to take it seriously. It is easy to confuse SCI for your dog having eaten something unpleasant on a walk, and therefore being vigilant about it will ensure that you are not misled.

    What can be done?

    If you think your dog might be demonstrating symptoms of SCI, it is important to immediately take them to your veterinarian. Since there is no known cause, it can be difficult to treat directly, but your veterinarian will focus treatment on combating the symptoms. He may also wish to carry out tests to rule out other causes, such as X-rays, ultrasound scans, blood tests and faecal examinations.

    Vomiting and diarrhoea can lead to extremely serious dehydration, so intravenous fluid therapy will be initiated. This will involve a hospital stay of a few days while your dog is attached to a drip. In addition to that, most vets will start antibiotic and anti-emetic medications, to help combat anything infectious and improve the appetite and general wellbeing of your dog. Most dogs will make a full recovery in seven to 10 days.

    Even though SCI is on the rise and can be fatal, the number of deaths from suspected cases have dramatically decreased. According to the Animal Health Trust, in 2010, roughly 20% of suspected SCI cases passed away, whereas by 2012, only 2% deteriorated to that level. Now, we are several years later, and veterinary therapies have advanced even further, enabling your dog to be provided with the best care possible.

    What areas is it most common?

    Seasonal Canine Illness can be found anywhere in the UK, however, over the years, there has been a higher number of cases reported in Nottinghamshire (Sherwood Forest and Clumber Park), Lincolnshire, Norfolk (Thetford Forest and Sandringham), Suffolk (Rendlesham forest), and the New Forest.

    Woodland areas in these geographical locations are particularly at risk, and therefore if you walk your dog in these areas between August and November, you should be vigilant for symptoms associated with SCI.

    How can you keep your dog safe?

    Apart from either avoiding high risk areas or monitoring your dog closely after going for a walk, there are some things you can do to minimise the chances of your dog contracting SCI. These include:

    1. Use ecto-parasite prevention. There is no product licenced for harvest mites for dogs, however, research has shown that fipronil-based products may be effective.
    2. Ensure your dog stays well hydrated at all times.
    3. Immediately visit your vet if you have walked in a wooded area within the last three days and your dog is displaying any of the SCI associated symptoms.
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    Jo De Klerk

    Jo is a graduate of the Royal Veterinary College, London. She has a Masters degree in Tropical Animal Health, and has spent most of her career working in mixed veterinary practice.

    Recently, she has become involved in one of the UK’s fastest growing veterinary telemedicine services for dogs and cats.

    She is a published author of several books, and enjoys working as a freelance veterinary writer around her clinical work.

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