Veterinary experts investigating a mysterious illness affecting dogs along the Yorkshire coast and further afield believe it may have been caused by a coronavirus.
Alan Radford, Professor of Veterinary Health Informatics at the University of Liverpool, said the investigation is ongoing but Canine Enteric Coronavirus is “one of the candidates”.
He said the coronavirus is different to SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, and it does not pose a risk to humans.
Prof Radford is working with the university’s Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) to determine what has caused hundreds of dogs to fall ill with gastroenteritis and suffer vomiting and diarrhoea in recent weeks.
The illness first came to light in January when dozens of owners said their dogs were suffering with vomiting and diarrhoea after visiting the Yorkshire coast.
However, it became clear that dogs that had not visited the coast were also falling ill with similar symptoms.
Cases have been reported across the country and a number of vets in Yorkshire say the dogs are suffering with gastroenteritis after contracting a virus.
Prof Radford also confirmed in the research that the mystery illness in Yorkshire can be classed as an ‘outbreak’ due to the number of cases reported.
The research stresses that although it is tempting to speculate on a role for Canine Enteric Coronavirus in the current outbreak, this is premature based on current data.
Prof 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.”
Bethaney Brant, SAVSNET project coordinator, added: “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. Owners of suspect cases should contact their veterinary practice for advice.”
Go to www.liverpool.ac.uk/savsnet/dog-gi-investigation to find out more about the mystery illness investigation.