Why are our dogs falling ill after park/beach walks?

Kori Boy is recovering after contracting the virus
Kori Boy is recovering after contracting the virus

Dog owners in Fife are urging local vets to help discover the source of a deadly virus which has been striking down pets.

After several deaths and many other dogs falling seriously ill with severe vomiting and diarrhoea over the past few weeks, many owners have been avoiding the Ravenscraig Park and beach area, as well as Seafield beach and picnic area.

Seafield beach

Seafield beach

Local vets have advised owners to be vigilant for signs of the virus, which attacks the animal’s organs and can kill.

The Press has received reports from several distraught dog owners whose pets have been affected by the deadly virus, while social media has been inundated with warnings of dogs suffering.

Local vets say that, although there is no evidence of the virus in the areas highlighted, they advise avoiding them until a cause has been established. The new virus, similar to parvovirus, is not related to a recent outbreak of Alabama Rot elsewhere in the UK.

One Kirkcaldy family which lost its beloved labrador said it struck very suddenly, with the dog suffering severe symptoms within hours of walking at Seafield beach.

I would avoid walking in the aforementioned areas for some time until we can establish more facts

Graham Dodds, vet

She died eight hours later, although an underlying medical problem was said to have exacerbated the situation.

Karen Purves (43), from Main Street, West Wemyss, also told the Press her dog Kori Boy had had “a very lucky escape” after contracting the virus.

He had been walked at Ravenscraig Park and the coastal path at West Wemyss before falling ill on the Tuesday night.

“I took him to the vet, who put him on antibiotics and tablets. Over the next few days, it was really touch and go and he was very poorly, but eventually he began to improve. The vet gave me some nutritional supplement which I had to syringe into his mouth as often as possible.

“He is still very weak and walking around like a dog twice his age, but he is on the mend. I think we are lucky to still have him. I would urge dog owners to keep an eye out for any symptoms and contact their vet as soon as possible. Even if it’s just an upset tummy, it’s better to be safe than sorry.’’

Grant Ward, head of area services with Fife Council, added: “We have been made aware of at least one dog dying and others becoming ill after being walked in the Ravenscraig/Dysart area but we’ve had no information about the cause of the problem.

“There is no obvious source for us to investigate but we will continue to monitor the situation.”

Vets’ warning but ‘no common demoninator’

Graham Dodds, a vet with Albavet, which has a branch in Kirkcaldy, said: “The reports we have received are very irregular and, unfortunately there is, as yet, no consistent thread or common denominator that positively links the areas mentioned with the disease.

“It would be impossible to base a diagnosis of any illness simply on the exposure of a patient to a geographic location, and I would be reluctant to say that taking your dog to these areas will definitely result in illness.

“There are some highly pathogenic viruses circulating in the canine population. We are witnessing an uprise in canine parvovirus, which causes very sudden onset diarrhoea and vomiting, extreme lethargy, and very often results in death.

“It’s a disease that can be prevented by vaccination, so if dogs have missed booster vaccinations or have never been vaccinated, they are at much greater risk. Successful treatment relies on immediate veterinary attention and even then, the chances of survival are low.

“In the face of being unable to link recent cases with any specific pathogen or poison as yet, I would strongly recommend making sure dogs are up to date with vaccination, and I would avoid walking in the aforementioned areas for some time until we can establish more facts.”

St Clair Veterinary Clincs Ltd added: “We have not seen any increase in cases over the weekend. That doesn’t mean others haven’t, but hopefully that is a positive sign.

“Sensible advice would be still to avoid these areas until the authorities have had the chance to investigate.

“We will continue to monitor should any new cases be admitted and, if any clients have any concerns about their pet becoming unwell, they should contact their vet and seek medical advice.”