Dr Julian Norton explains prominent dog sickness bug spreading among canine population

There’s been a rise in reports of a mystery illness among the canine population recently. Rumoured to have begun on the coast before spreading inland, symptoms of this peculiar bug include sickness and diarrhoea.

One dog food company whose mission it is to inspire a healthier world for pets, Pure Pet Food, caught up with star of popular vet TV show based in Yorkshire and friend of Pure, Julian Norton to find out more.

Pure is a deliciously complete dog food that’s bursting with goodness to help your dog live a long, happy, healthy life. It’s a great way to help them stay fighting fit from the inside out.

  • The most common symptom is sickness, which can lead to diarrhoea.
  • Many cases resolve on their own, however some require veterinary assistance, particularly if dogs show signs of dehydration.
  • Affected dogs should stay indoors until recovered to reduce the spread.

Pure: What is this virus that’s going around and where has it come from?

Julian: Well, that’s a good question. It seems to be non-specific pathogens: as far as I know there hasn’t been a specific virus, bacteria or parasite identified as the cause. Gastroenteritis is a common problem in dogs, but it’s fair to say we see many more cases during the winter months when there seems to be more mud, dirt and general bugs everywhere!

Of course, dogs live near the ground, lick their feet (and other bits), drink from dirty puddles and eat all sorts of grubby things in hedgerows. They love sniffing other dogs and never use antiseptic washes for their paws, so it’s probably no surprise that they are exposed to a wide range of potentially nasty pathogens. A dog’s digestive system is pretty robust and the strong acid in their stomach is an excellent first-line protective mechanism, although it doesn’t always work!

It’s not clear from exactly where the cases come. Initially, there were media reports of cases from the coast, but we’ve seen plenty of vomiting and diarrhoea in dogs who have been nowhere near the beach. At my practices in Yorkshire we’ve been seeing about ten cases a day, which is a lot more than usual.

Pure: How does it affect dogs and what are the main clinical signs?

Julian: The cases we have seen have generally followed a similar pattern. Initially vomiting, which can be serious but typically, I would say, lasts for a couple of days. Severe gastritis can cause vomiting ten or more times in a day, which can rapidly lead to dehydration. The recent cases seem to cause a relatively mild vomiting- once or twice per day and always associated with a reduced appetite and a dog which is “just not quite right.”

Next, as the pathogens move through the gastrointestinal system, diarrhoea develops. This seems to be very watery and profuse and seems to last for several days. It appears to be infectious from dog to dog, but not always. One poor lady I saw recently had three dogs all suffering at the same time. The dogs seemed quite happy, but her house was a mess, apparently!

Pure: How can I prevent my dog from catching it?

Julian: Another good question! Obviously, as with the isolation that we all endured with COVID, staying away from at-risk places might well reduce the chances of becoming affected. However, plenty of dogs and owners (me and Emmy included) have been carrying on life as normal without any problems. I think the best advice would be to try and keep affected dogs away from public places if possible. Affected dogs seem to be lethargic and don’t want to go out for many walks, so that isn’t so difficult. They’ll be happy to stay in the garden!

Pure: How can I help my dog if I suspect they have it?

Julian: A good idea is to withhold food for 24 hours. This gives the stomach and intestines a rest and should help. Make sure water is available, although you should offer in smaller amounts if there is vomiting. Many cases will resolve without medical intervention over a few days, but of course veterinary assistance may be required.

Pure: So, do dogs make a full recovery?

 Julian: So far, all the cases I have seen have responded to treatment. Various treatments can help, including antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and anti-emetic drugs. Probiotics and electrolytes can all help. If there is serious vomiting and intractable diarrhoea can require intravenous fluid therapy as well.

Pure: My dog has existing health issues; should I limit their walks/interactions with other dogs to be safe?

Julian: Possibly. It depends on the nature of the other illness. Obviously, something like osteoarthritis (the most common form of arthritis in dogs) wouldn’t have any impact on a gastro-intestinal bug, although there would be relevance if your dog was taking any medication. If you’re worried it would be a good idea to chat with your vet, who will know your pet’s individual circumstances.

Pure: How can I boost my dog’s immune system to give them the best chance of fighting it off?

Julian: There is no need to do anything to provide an “immune boost”. If your dog has concurrent illness (for example Cushing’s disease or pre-exiting gastro-intestinal illness) or is taking immunosuppressive medication (e.g. anti-cancer therapy or steroids), then it would be a good idea to take precautions, based on advice from your vet. Old or young dogs may be at increased risk as well, as there is often a reduced immunity in these dogs.


About Julian

Julian Nortion MA VetMB GPcertSAP MRCVS, Partner

Julian qualified from the University of Cambridge in 1996, is passionate about health and nutrition and understands the importance of natural ingredients for optimal health. Julian is a founding partner at Sandbeck vets in Wetherby and Thirsk Veterinary Centre. You may have also seen him on a popular vet TV show based in Yorkshire.

About Pure Pet Food

At Pure, our dogs are a part of the family, so we believe they should eat like one too. We’re all about kicking the confusing, sketchy ingredients commonly found on dog food labels, and feeding our four-legged best friends the deliciously healthy diet they deserve.

Pure is a convenient way to feed a highly nutritious food without compromising on quality, risking bacteria or giving up freezer space. It’s healthy and convenient, uses real ingredients, and perhaps most importantly, tastes delicious for our dogs.