A gastrointestinal illness outbreak is currently sweeping through dogs in the United Kingdom – and experts suspect a coronavirus might be to blame. The illness, which is not the novel COVID-19 coronavirus we’ve all come to know and despise, has been increasingly reported since early 2022.
With cases on the rise, the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) at the University of Liverpool decided to investigate. They were able to confirm with veterinarians that symptoms like diarrhea and vomiting were indeed showing up in dogs across the country, supporting claims on social media that dogs were getting sick.
The outbreak's source isn't known for certain yet, but early investigations appear to indicate that it began in Yorkshire, a county in the north of England. While much about the mysterious illness remains unclear, SAVSNET has pinned down a few details pertaining to its symptoms and contagiousness.
“The most common clinical signs reported were [lack of appetite], and vomiting and diarrhea both without blood,” said SAVSNET in a statement.
“The majority (56) of the 88 owners who had more than one dog reported that other dogs in the household had also shown similar signs possibly suggesting in infectious cause. The good news is the majority of dogs seem to recover within 7-14 days, although over 60% required treatment of some form.”
Almost all affected dogs had received their vaccinations within the last three years. They also hadn’t visited a beach prior to falling ill, quieting early suspicions that the outbreak might be linked to the sea.
One culprit under consideration is canine enteric coronavirus (CECoV), a pathogen that caused a similar outbreak in the UK from 2019 to 2020. In case the mention of a circulating coronavirus has your heart rate sky-rocketing, it’s important to note that while CECoV sits in the same family as SARS-CoV-2, it’s a very different virus and not one that is thought to be able to spread to humans.
While dogs do get sick from CECoV, which is highly infectious among canines, many who are infected are asymptomatic or only have mild symptoms. It’s also easily neutralized with household cleaning products (so please don’t resort to accidentally making chlorine gas, again).
If you suspect your dog may have fallen victim to the UK outbreak, SASNET is asking owners to complete this questionnaire and hold onto poop samples for investigation, with hopes the exact cause can be identified. You can find further information and advice here.