England on Alert for Mysterious Illness Killing Dogs

Sep 6, 2011 | Sumiko Mekaru |

For the past two autumns, dogs have been dying mysteriously after walking through woodlands in the East of England Region. In 2009 and 2010, Canine Seasonal Illness (CSI) affected over 50 dogs, killing several of them.  With the end of summer, dog-owners and researchers worry new cases will emerge soon.

The Forestry Commission reports that affected dogs may experience vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and trembling within 24 hours of spending time in the woodlands. The Veterinary Poisons Information Service has said that testing appears to have ruled out man-made poisons. The symptoms, their timing, and the negative test results suggest a naturally occurring toxin that may appear only seasonally. Proposed causes include ants, acorns, bracken poisoning, and viruses, but there is no prime suspect to date.

The near-by veterinary school at University of Nottingham is working on a test for a toxin, and the Animal Health Trust has been gathering epidemiological information through questionnaires to help in the search for a cause. The Environment Agency is monitoring local water for the presence of blue-green algae, as some types can release toxins. In the meantime, the British Veterinary Association is calling for greater awareness of CSI among vets and requesting they display the Animal Health Trust’s questionnaire prominently at their place of business to encourage greater information gathering.

Identification of the agent responsible for CSI will help answer questions like why did it emerge in the past couple years, has it been present but undiagnosed in the past, and how can owners protect their dogs. For now, owners are cautioned to seek veterinary treatment if their dogs show any signs of CSI after walking in the woods.

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