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26th Jan 2022

Why dogs are getting sick and symptoms owners should look out for

April Curtin

Classic FM playing relaxing music for pets

Dogs have been falling ill across the UK and naturally many owners are panicking

Dogs across the country have been suffering for the past few weeks and there has been much speculation amongst owners, vets and animal-related organisations as to why.

Anecdotal reports – cited in places like Chronicle Live – suggested that the number of affected animals in Yorkshire and the North East alone has topped 1,000 – and that was a week ago.

While some vets have said that they think this is purely down to a specific type of virus, other organisations have been cautious to confirm their beliefs until further data is available.

Whatever it may be – it is causing a significant problem.

So, why exactly are dogs getting ill – and what should owners do to protect them?

Why are dogs getting sick?

Some vets have been cautious to label a specific cause of illness at this stage. However this morning, a vet in Huddersfield said a highly-infectious disease known as ‘parvovirus’ is spreading among dogs in Yorkshire.

‘Parvovirus’ is spread through direct contact with a contaminated dog or their faeces and affects the stomach and small intestine. Left untreated, it can be particularly dangerous – and even deadly.

Martin Paterson, director at Donaldson’s Vets, told Yorkshire Live that a “significant number” of dogs have tested positive for the virus.

While he said there is often an “upswing” in the number of dogs experiencing such symptoms at this time of year, he added that his practices are seeing a “higher level than has been the case previously.”

Paterson continued to say that a lot of the dogs his practices have seen are “very ill and need quite a lot of intensive, inpatient management to be able to turn them around.”

Currently, specialists at the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) are monitoring data to determine whether this is a “possible increase in gastronomical disease in dogs.”

Is it to do with the beach?

A number of dog owners have also reported their pets falling ill after visiting the beach.

In social media posts shared earlier in January, two Yorkshire-based pages expressed concerns about hundreds of dogs that had reportedly become unwell following a visit to the coast.

Brogan Proud, a veterinary nurse who runs the Yorkshire Coast Pet Care, told Yorkshire Live that several practices he works in up and down the North East coast were “inundated” with dogs coming off the beaches with illness.

“Personally until the local authorities have got to the bottom of it I would not recommend taking your pets on the beach for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Local authorities in Yorkshire are currently carrying out investigations along the coast to find out if anything on the beaches or in the water is causing sickness.

For now, many vets are keen to avoid speculation until there is evidence to suggest a link to anything concrete.

British Veterinary Association President Justine Shotton said: “At this time, we can’t speculate on what might be at play in this situation, and there is currently no evidence to suggest a direct link between the illness and the dogs visiting the beaches.”

When did it start happening?

The virus is believed to have started spreading around January 7, according to The Friendly Animal Clinic in Halifax.

It was around this time that dog owners reported their pets falling ill after visiting the beach.

However cases of the virus have now also been detected in areas such as the Midlands.

One vet surgery in the Midlands, Churchcroft, told Birmingham Live that experts “are seeing a higher than usual occurrence of gastroenteritis in dogs”.

A rise in cases in the Midlands “is fitting with a wider phenomenon as reported by The Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET),” the surgery said.

Is it lethal?

Many dogs have required treatment for the virus, with some being hospitalised.

However Churchcroft vet surgery said: “So far we have found that the cases we have seen – whilst clearly being poorly – have responded well to treatment.

“The British Veterinary Association (BVA) advise that, with prompt veterinary treatment, almost all dogs make a full recovery from this uncommonly violent gastric bug.”

Of course, this is sadly not the case for all. One set of heartbroken dog owners told Chronicle Live how their four-and-a-half-year-old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Duke fell victim to the virus and died earlier this month.

Still, it is at least reassuring to know that, according to experts, most dogs pull through.