Veterinary experts believe a coronavirus may be causing a mysterious dog illness

Veterinary experts investigating a mysterious illness affecting dogs across Yorkshire believe it may be caused by a coronavirus.

Alan Radford, Professor of Veterinary Health Informatics at the University of Liverpool, said the investigation is ongoing but Canine Enteric Coronavirus (CEC) is “one of the top candidates”.

He also said the virus is different to SARS-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, and it does not pose a risk to humans.

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Professor Radford is part of the university’s Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET), which is working with veterinary practices and laboratories to figure out what has caused hundreds of dogs to fall ill with gastroenteritis and suffer vomiting and diarrhea in recent weeks.

Dozens of owners said their dogs were suffering with vomiting and diarrhoea last month after visiting the Yorkshire coast

Last month canines began falling ill after visiting beaches in Yorkshire but cases were then reported across the country and public health experts have ruled out any direct link to the coast.

Professor Radford said: “At the moment, our working hypothesis is that CEC is certainly one of the top candidates for what's going on here. Our focus at the moment is to collect samples from affected animals.

“We know there was a national outbreak of vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs in 2020 that was actually bigger than the current one. We did a lot of work on that outbreak and were able to show that it was indeed associated with CEC.

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“I think CEC is seasonal and in some years it causes more of a problem than others.”

He added: “Coronaviruses are a family of viruses. It’s a very big and very diverse family, and these viruses (CEC and Covid-19) are both in that family.”

Tests are also being conducted for a range of other bacterium, viruses and microorganisms, which are collectively known as pathogens, but Professor Radford said the vomiting bug parvovirus is not believed to be the cause.

Vets across the country are advising owners to withhold food for 24 hours, if their dog begins vomiting or suffering with diarrhea, but offer small amounts of water throughout the day to prevent dehydration.

They are also being urged to contact their vet if they become concerned and keep their dog away from other canines.

The vast majority of dogs make a full recovery after contracting the mysterious illness, but many require veterinary care.

SAVSNET is still gathering information about the illness and now asking owners of dogs, which have been affected by the illness, to fill out an online questionnaire.