Norfolk mystery dog illness 'not caused by plants'

A mystery illness which has affected dogs walked in woods in Norfolk is not caused by plants, researchers believe.

Since 2009, Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI) has caused vomiting and diarrhoea in several dogs walked on the Sandringham estate. Eleven dogs in Nottinghamshire have died of SCI.

Animal Health Trust (AHT) visited the Sandringham to look at possible causes.

Botanist Dr Mark Spencer saw no obvious evidence of plants which would cause SCI through contact alone, AHT said.

'Process of elimination'

Dr Spencer was confident there was nothing unusual in the woodland and that all plants would probably have been growing there for more than 50 years, it added.

Dr Richard Newton of AHT said: "As with any investigation, this is a process of elimination.

"Whilst we're not ruling plants and these other toxic causes out completely, we are now focusing our efforts on looking at other natural sources, such as animal related factors."

AHT is now enlisting the help of other specialist scientists to help track down the cause of SCI.

Dr Newton added: "We have had more cases of SCI reported to us in September 2011 than we had in September 2010.

"We believe this is because people are more aware of the illness and our investigation."

Cases have also been reported in Thetford Forest in Norfolk and Clumber Park and Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire.

In the past week, Rendlesham Forest, near Woodbridge in Suffolk, has been added to the list of investigation sites, with a questionnaire available for dog walkers.

The AHT said it did not believe dogs were at any greater risk walking in these areas than in any other woodland.

A boxer dog walked in woodland in Clipstone, Nottinghamshire, died of SCI last month.

Twenty-six other cases have been reported to ACT but all recovered.

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