Dog owners were urged to avoid Yorkshire beaches earlier last month, as a mysterious illness continues to sweep across the local dog community. Now, owners are being urged to keep an eye on their dogs inland, too, as cases begin to rise in areas such as Sheffield, Hebden Bridge and York.
Hundreds of dogs have been struck down with the virus so far, and it appears it is continuing to spread like wildfire, with numerous vets reporting tons of cases within their practices and dogs picking up the illness on beaches, by canals, and even just on the streets.
When the virus first struck, Yorkshire Coast Pet Care issued an urgent warning on Facebook, advising dog owners to avoid “the beach for the foreseeable future”.
The sickness includes symptoms such as sickness and diarrhoea, with no known cause upon veterinary testing.
Now, after over a month of the virus sweeping Yorkshire, it’s believed over 1000 animals have been affected.
What have experts said?
Veterinary experts are still investigating the mystery illness, however, according to the Yorkshire Post, experts believe that Canine Enteric Coronavirus (CEC) is “one of the top candidates”. CEC is very different to COVID-19, and does not cause illness in humans.
CEC is believed to be a seasonal illness in dogs, just like humans with the flu, and recently caused an outbreak much bigger than the current one in 2020.
David McCreadie, a former senior lecturer in marine biology and oceanography believes that “dredging” could be to blame, a process that could have released tons of toxins into the waters, killing sea life and making dogs who visit sick.
Investigations have already ruled out dredging as the cause for the illness, however, McCreadie has called on Defra to run more samples. Sewage, chemical pollution and undersea cabling activity have also been ruled out as the cause.
British Veterinary Association President Justine Shotton said of the virus: “We are aware of a spike in cases of dogs falling ill from gastroenteritis-like symptoms in several parts of Yorkshire and the North East.
“At this time, we can’t speculate on what might be at play in this situation, and there is currently no evidence to suggest a direct link between the illness and the dogs visiting the beaches.”
The University of Liverpool’s Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network have had their say on the virus, too, suggesting that it “could be caused by a range of infectious and non-infectious agents including parvovirus and canine enteric coronavirus”.
Have tests been run?
Following tests run by East Riding of Yorkshire Council’s coastal services team, the council has said that “nothing unusual” has been uncovered, indicating no “direct links” with Yorkshire’s beaches – something that cases initially appeared to have in common.
Kirsty Salisbury, general manager of the council’s coastal services, said: “From reports from local veterinary surgeries, the illness they are seeing within dogs and the tests carried out have not provided any direct links with the use of beaches.
“We regularly inspect the beaches for signs of any irregular occurrences and at present there is nothing unusual; however, this will continue to be monitored and action will be taken, if and when necessary.”
Yorkshire Coast Pet Care’s warning last week read: “I work within several practices up and down the North East coast and we have recently been inundated with dogs coming off the beaches with vomiting and diarrhoea.
“Personally until the local authorities have got to the bottom of it I would not recommend taking your pets on the beach for the foreseeable future.
“I have been in touch with governing bodies and they are currently looking into it.”
One dog owner and their pet spent six days in the vets after a visit to Fraisthorpe beach, the BBC reports. Other owners have also reported that symptoms began to show the day after visiting the coast.
Yorkshire Coast Pet Care adds: “dogs/birds etc will likely spread the problem in their faeces etc so I wouldn’t be surprised to see pets catching this just being near the beach ie the lines or cliffs etc – its hard to avoid all these places its more about being careful and vigilant with your pets.”
“If your dog is showing symptoms please let the local authorities aware as well as seeking veterinary attention should your pet need it.”