Dog owners have warned their canine friends have fallen seriously ill with nausea and diarrhea after walks, with the first case reported on the Yorkshire coast.
The bug then spread inland to other parts of England, including Leeds and Kirklees, and leading infectious disease experts now think they know why.
What causes the disease in dogs?
It is believed that the sudden surge in cases could be caused by a type of coronavirus, with Canine Enteric Coronavirus (CEC) being one of the top contenders for infection.
Professor Alan Radford, an expert in veterinary health informatics at the University of Liverpool, has studied the unusually high rates of illness and diarrhea in dogs.
He has been working as part of a team of specialists led by the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) that unveiled new data that could point to a possible cause.
Although CEC is believed to be the most likely cause of the disease, investigations are ongoing.
Professor Radford told Yorkshire Live: “Analysis of real-time data collected by SAVSNET from veterinary practices suggests that disease levels in Yorkshire were statistically higher than we would expect for three weeks – we can therefore label this as the Yorkshire outbreak .
“In other regions, the increases we’ve seen so far look more like normal seasonal variations.
“However, such signals can change rapidly and we will continue to monitor the situation.”
Is the infection the same as Covid-19?
Despite its name, CEC is not linked to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, and poses no risk to dog owners or those who might come into contact with infected pooches.
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious illnesses.
The types of coronaviruses may not have any other similarities other than being part of the same extended family.
CEC has been around much longer than Covid-19, a new strain that has not previously been identified in humans and has historically caused only relatively mild disease in dogs, although it affects several thousand a year worldwide.
What should I do if my dog gets sick?
Owners have been advised to limit contact with other dogs if their pet is showing symptoms of illness and diarrhea.
The disease usually goes away on its own and affected dogs should make a full recovery.
However, if symptoms worsen, the condition persists, or dogs show signs of distress, owners are advised to seek advice from a veterinarian.