Dog owners warned as killer bug returns

RESEARCHERS are urging pet owners to stay vigilant after more cases of a deadly illness were reported in Thetford Forest.

Scores of dogs have been afflicted with Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI), including several deaths, during the autumns of 2009, 2010 and 2011.

This summer, experts at the Animal Health Trust (AHT) said they feared the pattern would continue this year and of 200 responses to a survey sent out in late August, 14 new cases of SCI have already been identified.

Dr Richard Newton, of the AHT, said: “Our SCI investigation has been ongoing since we were first alerted to the illness in the autumn of 2010.

“Since then we have had more and more cases reported to us each autumn, but thankfully the number of dogs which are surviving has increased.”

Clinical signs of the illness are common and non-specific, according to the AHT, and include vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy.

The illness comes on quickly, usually within 24 to 72 hours of dogs walking in woodland.

In previous years, cases have been localised at five sites, including Thetford Forest and the Sandringham Estate.

The 14 new cases have been spread across the sites, with all affected.

Farrah Stevens, spokeswoman for AHT, said: “We still advise dog owners to stay vigilant and to seek veterinary advice if they see any of the clinical signs of SCI in their dog.”

Dog owners who have walked at any of the five sites are asked to complete an online questionnaire at www.aht.org.uk/sci