A 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 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 ongoing 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 mites.
Mr Wenn, of School Road, Walpole Highway, went to Sandringham Woods with his wife Linda to take the dogs for a walk just over a week ago.
“We were in the woods for about 45 mins,” he said. “That evening one of the dogs starting suffering 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 both pulled through and were allowed home after about a week.
Mr Wenn said: “They were both on a drip and it took a while for them to recover.
“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.”
Mr Wenn said when the dogs were first taken to the vets, a scraping from their nose and ears revealed hundreds of harvest mites under a microscope.
“I think everybody should know what is lurking in the woods ready to kill your dogs,” he said. “I was thinking of writing to The Queen, as owner of the woods, to put up warning signs.”
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 correlation to SCI.
The charity is hoping to secure further funding in future to progress the study on a much larger, perhaps nationwide, scale.