What is Seasonal Canine Illness?
Seasonal canine illness (SCI) is a rare and relatively new condition, first reported in 2010. It typically affects dogs during the autumn months. Symptoms usually appear 1-3 days after being walked in woodland areas and progress rapidly. There have been regional ‘hotspots’ associated with Sherwood Forest and Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire, Thetford Forest and Sandringham Estate in Norfolk, Rendlesham Forest in Suffolk and also the New Forest.
What are the symptoms of Seasonal Canine Illness?
- Abdominal pain (affected dogs may adopt a ‘prayer position’ and/or stretch their back legs in discomfort)
- Muscular tremors
- High temperature
What causes it?
The cause is still unknown. Previous theories involving fungi and algae have been disproven. However, many affected dogs are found to have harvest mites – small, pinhead-sized bright orange mites found in clusters, usually in the fur around the toes, feet and ears. Research is ongoing into exactly how the mites may cause or transmit disease.
How can I tell if my dog has it?
Vomiting and diarrhoea have many potential causes in dogs and are usually due to much more common complaints like gastrointestinal upset. SCI is a thankfully rare condition. However, if your dog was walking in woodland 1-3 days preceding rapid onset of diarrhoea and vomiting, please call your vet for advice.
If a dog is suspected of having SCI, their toes, feet and ears should be examined closely for signs of harvest mites that may be associated with the condition.
How is it treated?
Most patients require hospitalisation for supportive treatment of their symptoms including anti-sickness medication, pain relief and fluid replacement therapy. If harvest mites are found then a spray-on treatment is used to kill the mites.
Happily, the prognosis is good for dogs which are treated early. In 2010 when the Animal Health Trust first started its research as many as 20% of cases were fatal; due to increased awareness and prompt treatment this rate is now down to 2%. Most affected dogs make a full recovery after 7-10 days of treatment.
Is there anything I can do to prevent Seasonal Canine Illness?
Be vigilant; monitor your dog’s health in the hours and days after a woodland walk, particularly if this is an area you have not walked your dog in before (e.g when on holiday). Check your dog’s feet after each walk for the presence of harvest mites. Help to spread awareness of SCI by sharing this article with other dog owners
Carlie McMillan MRCVS
Severn Edge Vets, Much Wenlock