Vets believe harvest mites are the cause of a mystery illness which has affected nearly 150 dogs last year.
Veterinary charity Animal Health Trust has been working with the Sandringham estate on a pilot study to find the causes of seasonal canine illness (SCI).
More than eight dogs were struck down with the illness after walking on the estate’s woodland between August and November last year. Despite no definitive cause being identified, a number of these cases had an obvious mite infestation.
A total of 24 dog owners took part in the pilot study and treated their pets with a fipronil spray before walking in the woodland .
None of the dogs were affected by SCI while the trust say the results are encouraging and would like to conduct a wider trial but stressed that no firm conclusions can be drawn.
Dr Richard Newton, head of epidemiology and disease surveillance, said: “Through evaluating our pilot study we are confident that a larger, perhaps nationwide, study would be useful in further testing the possible association between harvest mites and SCI. However, due to the size of the pilot study, we are not able to make valid conclusions as to whether fipronil spray protects against harvest mites. This in turn obviously means we cannot confirm or deny whether harvest mites have a direct correlation to SCI.
“Through the pilot study we have devised an effective way of providing dog owners with fipronil spray at an appropriate time and we would love the opportunity to be able to develop this study to be able to confirm or deny whether harvest mites are a contributing factor to SCI, should sufficient funding be available.”
Paul Scheggia has welcomed the findings after his dogs, Gino and Luigi, both collapsed after a walk in the woods in October.
Mr Scheggia said: “It is a relief if that it is the cause. Our vet did say at the time he thought it might be harvest mites.”
As reported in the Lynn News, biologist Steve Lane was bitten 80 times by harvest mites while conducting a field study in Petney last October.