A new variant of coronavirus is believed to have caused the outbreak of a mysterious canine disease in Yorkshire

The Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET), based at the University of Liverpool, analyzed around 100 samples taken from sick dogs, by vets across the country, and carried out tests for a number of pathogens .

Alan Radford, professor of veterinary health informatics, said a “high proportion” of dogs tested positive for canine enteric coronavirus.

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The dogs started falling ill in January, suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea, after visiting beaches in Yorkshire. But cases were then reported across the country and public health experts have ruled out any direct link to the coast.

Dogs started falling ill in January, suffering from vomiting and diarrhoea, after visiting Yorkshire beaches

SAVSNET researchers have confirmed that there is “an increase in gastrointestinal illness affecting dogs across the country” after an initial outbreak in Yorkshire.

The team’s research also shows that a similar outbreak hit the UK in 2020.

“The evidence shows that canine enteric coronavirus is the prime candidate – the prime suspect,” Prof Radford said.

“About half tested positive for canine enteric coronavirus.

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“We sequenced these canine enteric coronavirus samples and we see what is likely a new variant.

“There was one particular variant in 2020 and it seems likely – although we still have some work to do – that there will be a new, closely related variant in 2022.”

He added: “It is important to emphasize that to our knowledge this has no significance for Covid and especially for human health.

“We looked at some of the other potential causes like parvovirus, which causes very similar clinical signs. But I’m pretty sure that this spike we saw this winter is not caused by parvo.

While the vast majority of dogs have fully recovered after contracting the virus, owners have been warned there could be another outbreak next winter.

Professor Radford added: “There have been vaccines against this virus. But because we thought it really wasn’t a big cause of illness and they were so little used, vaccine makers actually stopped selling them in the UK.

“But as the evidence mounts and we see these winter spikes, if we can prove it’s caused by canine enteric coronavirus, then maybe that vaccine will become available again.”

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