Dogs falling ill with ‘mystery’ vomiting bug - the signs to watch out for

The number of dogs falling ill from gastroenteritis-like symptoms in several parts of Yorkshire and North East England has recently increased.

There has been speculation the illness could be linked to visiting local beaches.

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However, a statement issued by the British Veterinary Association (BVA) said there is not enough evidence to link it to beaches or environmental factors at the moment, advising owners not to panic.

What is the vomiting bug in dogs?

Owners have reported cases of dogs being struck by a sickness bug, with symptoms including frequent vomiting - more than is usually seen in canine gastroenteritis cases.

Other symptoms can include diarrhoea, anorexia and lethargy.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme on Friday (14 January), BVA President Justine Shotton said: “With gastroenteritis, most cases are mild, but some dogs may need hospitalisation with a drip.

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“In the worst situations, it can become haemorrhagic leading to secondary complications or even death, but that is very rare.”

Are cases linked to beaches?

Dr Shotton said: “At this time, we can’t speculate on what might be causing the symptoms, and there is currently no evidence to suggest a direct link between the illness and the dogs visiting the beaches.”

“We’ve heard reports from vets in the area who are really far inland and they are also seeing an increase in these kinds of cases in dogs that have never been to the beach, so I’m not sure yet if we have enough information to make that link,” she added.

What could be the cause?

Dr Shotton suggested that there could be a seasonal link to dogs falling ill with this illness.

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She said: “While pet owners are understandably worried, the cases may be part of a normal increase in gastroenteritis that vets see during the colder months.

“We saw saw something similar a couple of years ago, and the latest data from the University of Liverpool’s veterinary surveillance database points to the spike being part of normal seasonal variation at the moment.”

What should concerned owners do?

Dr Shotton advised owners to not panic and talk to their vet if they have any concerns.

She also encouraged veterinary practices to report any cases to help researchers in their investigations.

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She said:“Our advice to concerned owners is to contact their local vet for prompt treatment if their dog shows any signs of illness, such as vomiting and diarrhoea.

“BVA is asking vets to report any gastroenteritis-like cases to SAVSNET to help researchers build a clearer picture of the outbreak and to investigate if the spike is part of normal seasonal variation or if a specific virus or bacteria is at play.”

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