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I was wondering whether seasonal canine illness is still about? As I am a teacher, I have hired a cottage in Norfolk for the half-term holiday, and I’m looking forward to a week of peace and quiet, walking my dogs before the busy weeks leading up to Christmas. I know that Thetford Forest was one of the hotspots when this disease first appeared. Are there any precautions I can take to keep my dogs well?

Alison Logan advises…

The causal agent of seasonal canine illness (SCI) and how it is spread have not yet been identified. There appears to be a link to the harvest mite, which has been found on affected dogs, so the advice is to spray dogs’ paws, legs and the undersides of their bodies with a suitable product before walking them in areas where cases of SCI have occurred.

Originally, when this disease first appeared in 2010, it was seen in specific forests, but cases have occurred in subsequent years after walking in other areas of the country, between August and November with a peak incidence in September. Research is ongoing into this worrying illness.

The illness manifests as vomiting, often with diarrhoea and lethargy, about three days after walking in a forest or wooded area. It can quickly escalate and, for some patients, sadly results in death.

The general advice is to keep dogs on a lead when walking in woodland so that they are supervised at all times. Offer water before setting off on your walk, especially if you have travelled a distance by car to reach the area, as well as during and after the walk. This is because being well hydrated can help improve your dog’s chances if he or she subsequently develops SCI.

Prompt veterinary treatment is vital if signs of the illness become apparent, so you must seek professional advice if you have any cause for concern.

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