Specialists from the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) suggest the illness could be linked to Canine Enteric Coronavirus (CEC). Cases were first reported along beaches on the Yorkshire coastline before spreading inland to affect Leeds and Kirklees.
Professor Alan Radford, an expert in veterinary health informatics at the University of Liverpool, confirmed investigations into the cause of the sickness are ongoing, but CEC may be a leading candidate.
He added: “Analysis of real-time data collected by SAVSNET from veterinary practices suggests that in Yorkshire, levels of disease have been statistically higher than we would expect for three weeks – we can therefore call this an outbreak in Yorkshire.
“In other regions, the increases we have seen so far look more like normal seasonal variation.
“However, such signals can change quickly and we will continue to monitor
CEC is distinct from SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19. As a result, it does not pose a risk to anyone who comes into contact with infected dogs.
According to a report by Professor Radford and Dr Jenny Stavisky, CEC was first identified from an outbreak of diarrhoea in dogs used by the military in 1974.
Since then it has been recognized around the world.
As yet there is no specific treatment for CEC with milder cases resolving themselves naturally. Severe cases require aggressive treatment, including intensive care or an intravenous drip.
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There are no CEC vaccines licensed for use in the UK with prevention relevant on managing the risk of the virus spreading.
SAVSNET project coordinator Bethaney Brant said: “Although the cause is unknown it is likely to be infectious.
“It, therefore, makes sense for owners and vets to handle suspect cases carefully and limit contact between affected and unaffected dogs.
“Thankfully, affected dogs usually make a full recovery with appropriate care and there is no known risk to people.
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“Owners of suspect cases should contact their veterinary practice for advice.”
If your dog is showing symptoms of sickness and diarrhoea and the condition persists, or your pet shows signs of distress, seek guidance from your vet.
RSPCA Scarborough told Yorkshire Live that sickness and diarrhea in dogs is common in winter and could be due to viruses, bacteria and parasites as well as unsuitable foods or toxins.
The animal charity said in a statement: “We often don’t get to know the cause since most cases recover within a couple of days without any need for treatment.
“If your dog is vomiting, it is best not to feed them for 12 hours and then if the vomiting stops offer only small amounts of something bland.”
The charity said this could be just their normal food or boiled rice with a little chicken or fish.
This advice can also be applied to diarrhoea management although the RSPCA said owners can often give some food sooner.
Keeping dogs hydrated also helps fight sickness with the RSPCA saying it can be helpful to add a pinch of salt and a heaped teaspoon of sugar to 300ml water.
However, the charity recommends always offering plain water too and never trying to force fluids into your dog.
RSPCA Scarborough’s advice continued: “If they don’t want it then just try again later. You can mix some water to your dogs normal food once they are eating for a couple of days to help keep them hydrated too.”