Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI) is a potentially fatal illness occurring from August to November, most commonly seen after walking in woodlands. The first case of SCI was diagnosed in autumn 2009.
The cause still remains unknown, but harvest mites (which are also seasonal) have been suggested as a trigger or involved in transmitting the disease. These mites can be seen by the naked eye (if your eyesight is good) as little orange dots, usually between the toes or on the tummy. Most dogs who get harvest mites remain perfectly well, though some react to their presence and find them profoundly itchy, but they can be treated with a fipronil spray if you, or your pet, are worried.
SCI is an uncommon condition, but it is useful to know the presenting signs as, if caught early, it can be simple to treat.
Signs of Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI)
The symptoms occur within 1-3 days of walking in woodland.
These symptoms can be related to hundreds of other conditions, which makes diagnosis difficult. We recommend seeking urgent veterinary attention if any of the main symptoms are present, especially if there is a history of walking in woodlands within the last 72 hours.
Whilst there is a potential for dogs to contract SCI anywhere, woodland is the most commonly visited place of the dogs which have been studied. Studies conducted at the Animal Health Trust showed that certain woodlands have an increased prevalence of SCI; these include Nottinghamshire (Sherwood Forest and Clumber Park), Lincolnshire, Norfolk (Thetford Forest and Sandringham), Suffolk (Rendlesham forest) and the New Forest. There may be notice information boards in the woodland warning about SCI; we would suggest monitoring dogs carefully after trips to these locations. Animals with suspicious symptoms should receive veterinary care as soon as possible.
Fluid replacement therapy by an intravenous drip is the most common therapy, which will involve a short stay in hospital for your pet.
Fipronil spray for harvest mites when present.If the patient has a fever and signs of an infection, antibiotics might be prescribed.
Recovery is usually within 7-10 days. the condition can potentially be fatal and when first discovered, up to 1 in 5 affected dogs died. However, that figure is much, much lower now as the syndrome has become recognised and prompt treatment is given.
As the cause is unknown there is no real preventative action. However, these steps may help:
Spray feet with veterinary recommended harvest mite spray immediately before a walk.
Always allow access to fresh clean water – take some with you on long walks.
Walk on a lead in woodland, or avoid woods completely during August to November.
The key to a successful outcome is the early recognition of the problem and prompt treatment.
If you have any concerns regarding your dog, or are suspicious of Seasonal Canine Illness, please contact your veterinary surgeon as soon as possible.