Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI)

For the past four or five years there has been a growing new danger to dogs in the UK in the form of an illness dubbed Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI).

Cases of this mystery illness are generally seen between August and November and can affect dogs of any size and age after being walked in woodland. The most common signs are sickness, diarrhoea and lethargy, and dogs appear to become very ill, very quickly – usually between 24 and 72 hours. Possible suspects that could be causing the illness include blue-green algae, non-native plants, bracken or fern spores and fungi or even harvest mites or other external parasites but, so far, this has not been confirmed.

The Animal Health Trust has been investigating Seasonal Canine Illness since September 2010. The first phase of their research has now come to an end and in, July 2014, they hosted a workshop that included leading vets, forestry owners and the Kennel Club. The hope is that this will lead to a further phase of research with the aim of pinpointing the causes and identifying possible prevention methods and treatments.

The AHT website not only provides loads of valuable information, but you can also sign up for email alerts about this mystery illness: Animal Health Trust – Seasonal Canine Illness

Remember: if you walk your dog in any woodland between August and November and (s)he shows any signs of sickness/diarrhoea/lethargy within 72 hours, seek veterinary help immediately.

Celebrating Our Pets

This month is National Pet Month. The 25th National Pet Month, as a matter of fact and, as they have for the past 24 years, across the UK thousands of animal lovers are already busy raising and giving money in support of their favourite animal charities in a variety of innovative and fun-filled ways.

As always, the aims of National Pet Month are to:

  • Promote responsible pet ownership
  • make people aware of the mutual benefits of living with pets
  • increase public awareness of the role of pet care specialists
  • raise awareness of the value of working and assistance companion animals

If you haven’t already done so, check out the NPM website for ideas on how you can get involved and, if you are organising an event in or around Berkshire, don’t forget to send us the details too so we can add them to our What’s On page.

By the way, this year the central theme is ‘Celebrating Our Pets’ so go on, go celebrate!
Celebrating Pets

Cats and Bovine TB – Should we worry?

While it may have been surprising and also a little worrying to hear that two people in Berkshire have contracted a form of TB from their cats, it is also important to keep things in perspective.

It appears that for whatever reason, a small cluster of cats in the Berkshire area sadly contracted Bovine TB sometime last year, probably from hunting infected rodents, and that one cat seemingly transmitted the illness to two people. However, not only is Bovine TB very rare in cats, this is also the first documented cased of cat-to-human transmission and Public Health England assesses the chances of more people becoming ill as extremely low. As Blue Cross have pointed out: ‘by far the greatest TB risk to people is spending time with infected people. Keeping a pet is far more likely to improve the well-being of their owner than cause them any problems with their health.’

If you are still concerned you can find more advice here and also read an information link from DEFRA.

Pet Theft Awareness Week

Pet Theft Awareness 2014This week, March 14th to 21st, is Pet Theft Awareness Week.

Why do we need one? well, because sadly, more and more of our pets are being stolen every day, as many as 3 cats and 3 dogs per day across the UK this year according to recent Police data, and that’s only the thefts that actually get reported!

What happens to these stolen pets? Whilst many are sold on to new owners and some may be lucky enough to get a reasonable new home, others are not so fortunate and can end up dumped or even used as ‘bait’ for training in dog fighting, a fate no owner would ever want to contemplate for their pet.

Please don’t let you pet fall prey to this awful crime. Read the information and advice provided on the Pet Theft Awareness website, support their initiative by telling everyone you can about it and make sure you never leave your pets unattended and vulnerable in cars and gardens or tied up outside shops. Also be aware that dogs are sometimes snatched from owners when out walking, so be wary if you are approached by anyone you don’t know who seems to be taking too much interest in your pet – better to be a little unfriendly to a genuinely innocent passer-by than to lose your precious dog to a callous thief.

Microchip ownership laws

What a sad situation reported recently by Bruce Forsyth’s Vets Get Scanning site about a Berkshire cat that went missing last November.

Apparently, in January this year, about 2 months after the cat disappeared from his home in Hungerford, the owners heard from their microchip database company Anibase that he had been found safe around 50 miles away!

Delight, however, quickly changed to despair when they also heard that the people who had found him were applying for a change of ownership and did not want to give him back. The microchip company cannot give out their contact information due to the Data Protection Act and, to date, the police seem to be less than interested in resolving this issue.

Hopefully, that will change, and the cat will eventually be returned to his owners but, particularly with microchipping soon to become compulsory for dogs, clearly there are some further changes required somewhere to ensure that once a chipped pet has been identified as not being with the owners to whom he is registered, there is a sensible process in place to get him back home.

This is a sad case because, obviously, the people who have found this cat and have taken him in and cared for him when he needed it, have also become fond of him. However, his original owners love him too and they have already suffered not only his loss but also to have the joy of hearing he was found taken away from them by the shock of learning they cannot get him back.

A petition has been set up to ask for action to review the laws with regards to scanning and re-registration of pets so, if you agree things need to change, please add your name to those who have already signed: ePetition on Compulsory Microchip Scanning Laws

Time for change!

Another year is almost over and, as we head into 2014, I find myself wondering how many more ‘found’ dogs I am going to be posting in the coming months, many of which, I suspect, will not be claimed because they were actually dumped rather than lost.

‘Please tell your readers there is a better way,’ is a comment I often see and, of course, no one should ever feel they have no other option than to abandon a pet. Indeed, most of us cannot contemplate any reason that could ever make us even consider doing such a dreadful thing. Yet, still, it happens, and not always because the owners are thoroughly despicable human beings.

You would be surprised at the number of emails we get from people who truly feel that they can no longer keep their cats and/or dogs and who also feel they have tried everything and have nowhere left to turn. There are all sorts of reasons why this happens and I think we need to look beyond merely criticising these owners to see what can be done to stop it from happening in the first place.

For me, this needs to start with ensuring people really understand the commitment they are making when they take on a pet, particularly a dog. This needs to include appreciating the financial requirements as well as the time and effort involved for anything up to 16+ years, no matter what! Some of us might not like the idea of having to ‘prove’ we are going to be responsible owners before we are allowed to have a pet but, maybe it’s at least something worth considering?

As a nation, we all also need to become a lot more responsible about how we breed dogs and cats. Although some cats do live wild in the UK, in the main, most dogs and cats rely completely on us in order to survive and only exist because we choose to breed them. In which case, it is totally our responsibility to ensure that we do not breed an excess to requirement, and no one should ever see breeding and selling puppies and kittens as a way to make a ‘quick profit’.

To everyone who works so hard to rescue abandoned pets, fight extreme cruelty, stop puppy and kitten farming and educate owners and potential owners about their responsibilities – ‘thank you’ and may 2014 prove to be a year for change for the better.

Happy New Year one and all!