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Seasonal Canine Illness: Is Your Dog Suffering?

Author: Emila Smith
Header photo credit: REGINE THOLEN on Unsplash

Seasonal Canine Illness: Is Your Dog Suffering?

Service dog owners and pet owners all know that dogs are at risk of many different conditions, but not everyone realizes how those risks come and go throughout the seasons. Being aware of what the risks are at any particular time of year will be the best protection pool for your dog.

One such condition that many owners have never heard of before is a sickness known as seasonal canine illness. This illness has been very limited in where it occurs in the world thus far, but being informed about its symptoms and risks is still a good idea for pet owners everywhere.

What Is Seasonal Canine Illness?

Seasonal canine illness, often abbreviated as SCI, is a rare disease that has affected dogs from August through November. Cases of this illness were first reported in the United Kingdom in large numbers in 2018. While cases have declined since that time, there are still some occurrences every year.

In many ways, SCI is a mystery illness. It has affected dogs of many breeds, sizes, shapes, physical activity levels, and genders. The only real commonality between cases has been that dogs tend to have been in a wooded area a few days before becoming unwell. 

Seasonal canine illness earned its name because it tends to occur during a specific season of the year: autumn.

Symptoms of Seasonal Canine Illness

The symptoms of SCI overlap with the symptoms caused by many other illnesses, and many veterinarians believe that is why it was not identified as a unique condition until recent years.

In most cases, symptoms are seen within three days of being in heavily wooded areas. For example, someone might take their dog and chainsaw into the woods for the day to collect firewood, or they might simply go for a short walk.

SCI symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Lethargy
  • Appetite loss
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Rash on limbs
  • Rash on abdomen
  • High temperatures
  • Abdominal sensitivity

When one of these symptoms appears individually, it might not alert you too severely. When three or more of these symptoms all affect your dog at one time, however, it might be time to take action. Even if seasonal canine illness isn’t the culprit, it’s clear that your dog is suffering and should be given treatment as soon as possible.

What Causes Seasonal Canine Illness?

At this time, there is no official cause of seasonal canine illness. When a few dogs in the UK became sick with this illness in the same region, officials tested water sources and fungi to determine if they could be potential causes. However, no conclusive evidence of a cause was found.

The leading opinion on the cause of SCI at this time is mites. Mites show up seasonally, suggesting that they could be part of the cause. However, until more research is done, it’s unlikely an official cause can be determined.

What Should I Do If I Suspect Seasonal Canine Illness?

cartoon image of Arrow the dog walking towards a sign with a V on it. There are 3 exclamation marks above Arrow's head. Arrow has a frown.

If you and your service dog visit a wooded area and then your dog becomes ill with SCI-like symptoms in the next few days, it’s crucial to get help quickly.

Contacting your vet as soon as possible helps your dog to recover most effectively, even if the condition ends up being something other than seasonal canine illness. Act fast to ensure that your dog gets the treatment they need to remain healthy.

As mentioned, SCI has no specific cause. This also means that there is no particular cure or treatment plan, but vets will be able to counteract the symptoms in a way that allows your dog’s body to recover. Since SCI often causes dogs to need hospitalization, you want to head to the vet’s office as soon as you notice SCI symptoms.

Most treatment plans will involve the following:

  • Antimicrobial medications
  • IV fluid therapy to keep the dog hydrated
  • Anti-sickness medications to prevent vomiting and diarrhea
  • If mites are present, sprays or spot treatments may be applied

How Can I Prevent Seasonal Canine Illness?

Dr Hannah Godfrey MRCVS of The Vets, explains that, “Looking out for hidden dangers is consistently one of the best ways to protect your dog from illnesses likely caused by the environment.” 

While the cause of SCI has not yet been determined, something in the wooded areas is probably the issue. Avoiding these areas during peak infection months is one method of ensuring your dog isn’t affected.

Just as keeping cool in the summer is essential for all pets, you want to make sure that your dog is being protected in ways that aren’t only specific to SCI:

  • Always make sure your dog is well hydrated.
  • Consider using protection sprays or spot treatments to reduce the risk of mites and other arthropods causing any illnesses.
  • If your dog is acting abnormally, monitor its symptoms and contact a vet as soon as possible for further guidance.

Dogs rely on their owners to remain healthy; prevention tactics are vital in ensuring their long-term health, comfort, and happiness.

a golden retriever in a bathtub being washed by someone.

About Atlas Assistance Dogs

Atlas Assistance Dogs is a non-profit organization that fundamentally expands access to assistance dogs. We support people with disabilities to train and certify their own service dog using positive, ethical training methods. At Atlas, we believe anyone who would benefit from a qualified assistance dog should be able to have one. 

We work with people with a wide range of disabilities who wish to train their own service dog and offer a comprehensive Academy for professional trainers wanting to become service dog trainers. For more information about Atlas’ Client Certification program or other training services, please visit www.atlasdog.org or contact info@atlasdog.org

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About The Author

Emila Smith is a freelance journalist and blogger with a love for those with four legs! She has grown up around animals and pets and wants to use her knowledge on pet behavior, training and lifestyle tips to help other pet parents live the best possible life with their furry friend.

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