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Dogs left fighting for life after woodland walk

Linda and Terry Wenn with their dogs Scruffy (left) and Charlie who nearly died from Seasonal Canine Illness.
Linda and Terry Wenn with their dogs Scruffy (left) and Charlie who nearly died from Seasonal Canine Illness.

A Fenland dog owner is considering writing to the Queen after his two dogs nearly died following a walk in Her Majesty’s Sandringham Woods.

Terry Wenn wants to see signs warning fellow owners of the risk of dogs catching Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI) at the Norfolk beauty spot after the disease left his pets fighting for their lives.

The mystery condition causes dogs to suddenly become very ill after being walked in woodland. It usually occurs in autumn, and can prove fatal if not treated quickly.

Despite investigations by the Animal Health Trust charity, the cause of SCI is not yet known, but a common theme identified in dogs affected has been an infestation of harvest mites.

That was the case with Mr Wenn’s dogs Scruffy, a cross border terrier, and Charlie, a Dachshund, who were both covered with the microscopic parasite.

Mr Wenn and his wife Linda, of School Road, Walpole Highway, went to the woods to take the dogs for a walk just over a week ago.

“We were there for about 45 minutes,” he said. “That evening one of the dogs suffered with severe pain. He was being sick and was very weak.

“The next day we took him to the vets and they said he had SCI from harvest mites. The next day my other dog had the same symptoms.”

Scruffy and Charlie were in intensive care at Terrington Veterinary Centre, Terrington St Clement, for four days, but luckily they pulled through and were allowed home after about a week.

Mr Wenn said: “It didn’t look very good, we thought we were going to lose both of them. The vets did a great job, but it cost us £700 in bills.

“I think everybody should know what is lurking in the woods ready to kill your dogs,” he said. “I am thinking of writing to the Queen, as owner of the land, to ask if warning signs can be put up.”

Clare Odwyer, head nurse at Terrington Veterinary Centre, said cases of SCI usually occur between August and November, but Mr and Mrs Wenn’s dogs were the first they have treated for the illness this year.

She said posters from the Animal Health Trust (AHT) warning dog owners about the symptoms of SCI have now been put up in the centre.

The AHT, which fights disease and injury in animals, says the most common signs of SCI are sickness, diarrhoea and lethargy within 72 hours of walking in woodland.

It advises dog owners to seek immediate veterinary advice if they see these signs in their dog following a woodland walk.

In 2013, the AHT carried out a pilot study at Sandringham linked to its investigations into a possible association between SCI and harvest mites.

During the study, owners were asked to treat their dogs with topical insecticide spray, fipronil, before walking in the woods on the estate.

The study indicated that it would be feasible to provide dog owners with access to complimentary fipronil, but due to the limited numbers taking part, the AHT was not able to make valid conclusions as to whether the spray protected against harvest mites, or whether the mites had a direct correlati0n to SCI.

The charity is hoping to secure further funding in future to progress the study on a much larger, perhaps nationwide, scale.

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