The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has issued a statement following a spate of recent media reports about dogs presenting with gastroenteritis-like symptoms in parts of North East England and Yorkshire, prompting speculation that they could be linked to visits to local beaches.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s PM programme on Friday (14 January), BVA President Justine Shotton mentioned that there was not enough evidence at present to speculate on the reasons for the spike in cases or any possible links to beaches or other environmental factors. She advised owners not to panic and to talk to their vet in case of any concerns.
Dr Shotton said:
“We are aware of a recent spike in cases of dogs falling ill from gastroenteritis-like symptoms in several parts of Yorkshire and North East England. Vets see gastroenteritis cases relatively commonly in practice, but numbers seem to be increasing and more widespread than usual.
“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.
“With gastroenteritis, most cases are mild, but some dogs may need hospitalisation with a drip. In the worst situations, it can become haemorrhagic leading to secondary complications or even death, but that is very rare.”
Pointing to a possible seasonal link to the cases, she added:
“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 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.
“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.”
Dr Shotton also encouraged veterinary practices to report any cases to help researchers in their investigations:
“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.”
BVA continues to be in touch with local vets and researchers to keep an eye on the data.
See SAVSNET for the latest surveillance data.