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Extremely virulent illness affecting dogs across the UK; cause unknown

Black and white image of sick dog dog-serious
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An animal hospital in County Durham, renowned for its life-saving treatments and surgeries, has reported a rise in the number of dogs suffering a deadly mystery illness.

By Nick Whittle , 19 Nov 2019

Writes The Mirror about the recent case of Roker: a one-year-old miniature Schnauzer. Roker soon fell ill after a walk with his owners Gareth and Joanne Devine.

Last month the couple from Hurworth-on-Tees noticed how poorly Roker was becoming. Very soon the dog was vomiting and suffering with diarrhoea. Roker’s owners took him to four vets, none of whom could identify the cause of the dog's illness.

Meanwhile Roker's health was worsening.

Mr Devine told The Mirror, “At the start, no-one realised the severity of Roker’s condition. He was seen by four different vets from two different practices, six visits over a period of 11 days.

“We were so shocked that we could lose Roker to something so common-place and seemingly benign as sickness and diarrhoea but he’d become so poorly we were prepared for the worst.”

Wear Hospital

After eight weeks of surgery visits the Devines took Roker to Wear Referrals in Bradbury, near Sedgefield. By this time the dog was dehydrated and had sepsis.

Vets at the hospital found Roker’s bowel to be ulcerated. The walls of the bowel were critically thin.

Roker received a plasma transfusion, along with intravenous antibiotics and analgesia,” said the hospital’s spokesperson, “as well a fluid resuscitation and supportive medication for ulceration and nausea.

Within 48 hours he was eating again. A second scan documented his bowel wall was recovering and he was finally discharged from the hospital four days after admission.

He is continuing to improve and is nearly back to normal but he could very easily have died from this condition, as he was at high risk of bowel perforation.

Mystery illness

The causes of the illness are yet to be determined, but the hospital’s manager Darren Stubbs said he thought it may be caused by the ingestion of a toxic substance.

It’s worth saying that a number of these cases had been treated for vomiting and/or diarrhoea prior to referral to us,” Mr Stubbs told The Mirror.

They’d appeared to show an initial improvement at first, but then rapidly deteriorated.

This may mean there’s a novel viral agent, such as the vesivirus,” he added, “which was identified in an outbreak in Virginia in 2015, or a toxic agent such as mushrooms which have been suggested to be involved in a recent outbreak of acute haemorrhagic diarrhoea in Norway.”

Fortunately, Roker made a full recovery.

The hospital says other dog owners should remain vigilant of their dog’s health. A dog’s persistent diarrhoea and vomiting is worthy of a trip to the vet.