A SICKNESS bug spreading rapidly among dogs could be a canine coronavirus, experts have found.
Owners around the country have told how their pets are becoming seriously ill after going on walks.
Cases were first reported on the North Yorkshire coastline but it is thought the virus has now spread to pooches inland.
Alan Radford, a Professor of Veterinary Health Informatics at the University of Liverpool, said his team have confirmed an outbreak has happened.
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He said it could be linked to a canine coronavirus.
Data patterns analyzed by SAVSNET, the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network, may have identified a possible cause of the sickness and diarrhoea in dogs.
Professor Radford said: “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 the situation.”
Investigations are ongoing, but the Northern Echo understands one of the top candidates for the infection may be Canine Enteric Coronavirus (CEC).
It bears no relation to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19 and does not pose a risk to owners or family members that may come into contact with infected dogs.
The CEC virus has been around far longer than Covid-19 and normally affects several thousand a year globally.
Bethaney Brant, SAVSNET project coordinator, 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.”
SAVSNET said from January 29 and 31 details of 208 cases were submitted by vets and owners.
The most common clinical signs reported were inappetence, and vomiting and diarrhea both without blood.
The majority (79 per cent) of dogs had NOT visited the beach prior to becoming ill and many cases were reported away from the coast.
The vast majority of cases (94 per cent) had been vaccinated in the last three years.
The majority (56) of the 88 owners who had more than one dog reported that other dogs in the household had also shown similar signs possibly suggesting an infectious cause.
The majority of dogs seem to recover within seven-14 days, although over 60 per cent required treatment of some form.
A spokesperson for SAVSNET said: “There have been recent concerns about an increased number of cases of vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs that first started in Yorkshire.
“By analyzing routinely collected data from vets in practice SAVSNET has been able to show this increase is indeed of a size and duration that allows us to call it an outbreak.
“We are now conducting further investigations into the outbreak to ascertain case details, determine risk factors and to try and identify the cause based on questionnaire responses.”
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