Vets issue advice following widespread reports of dogs struck by vomiting bug

Date published: 12 February 2020

Advice for worried dog owners has been issued by vets following reports of dogs being struck by a vomiting bug in many parts of the country, including Rochdale.

Vets, as well as owners, have reported cases of dogs being struck by a vomiting bug, with symptoms including more frequent vomiting than is usually seen in canine gastroenteritis cases, accompanied in a few instances by diarrhoea, anorexia and lethargy.

Over 470 such reports had been recorded via a dedicated University of Liverpool veterinary surveillance database, called SAVSNET, since it went live on 30 January 2020. Most cases are confined to England and Wales, with one in Northern Ireland.

Researchers looking into the cases report that affected dogs usually make a full recovery following prompt veterinary care to treat the symptoms. However, a small number of deaths have been reported, but it is currently not clear if these are linked to the condition under investigation.

Professor Alan Radford, who is helping to coordinate the SAVSNET-University of Liverpool response, confirmed some cases have been reported in the Rochdale borough.

He told Rochdale Online: “We are looking into the geographical distribution of this at the moment.

“Until we know the cause, we can’t be sure all of these relate to the same condition.

“Data from vets in practices suggests that gastroenteric disease is unusually increasing, starting from around November 2019. When we receive samples (faeces, vomit, saliva) from dogs that meet our case definition of five or more vomiting episodes in a 12-hour period, we will be looking to identify any evidence of an infectious cause.”

Professor Radford added: “We know about lots of viruses and bacteria than can make dogs vomit, but what is being seen now seems different. The good news is that whilst affected dogs are unwell, the vast majority make an uneventful recovery with routine veterinary care. If owners are worried about the health of their dog, they should contact their veterinary practice for advice.”

The University of Liverpool is working alongside the Universities of Bristol, Lancaster and Manchester as well as the Animal Health Trust and Dogs Trust to better understand the scale and cause of the illness. 

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has issued advice for worried dog owners following a spike in the number of acute gastroenteritis cases being reported in many parts of the country.

Responding to the reports, British Veterinary Association President Daniella Dos Santos said: “We are aware of a spike in cases of prolific vomiting in dogs being reported by vets in several parts of the country. While pet owners are understandably worried, the cases may be part of a normal increase in gastroenteritis that vets usually see during the colder months.

“Our advice to owners is to call their local vet for advice in the first instance if their dog shows any of these symptoms. If your dog is ill, we’d encourage minimising contact with other dogs in the vicinity until veterinary advice has been sought.

“BVA is also asking vets to report any cases and controls via a questionnaire on the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) website, 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 in play.”

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