More autopsies due as more dogs die

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Norwegian veterinarians kept struggling over the weekend to find out why so many dogs around Norway have been infected with a potentially fatal illness. Authorities said at least 23 dogs had died as of Sunday and “we must examine more to find out how this (the illness) has spread.”

There was a noticeable absence of dogs running free outdoors over the weekend. Some ventured out with their pets, like here in Lier west of Oslo, but on a leash. Dog owners have been warned to keep their pets at a distance from others until authorities find out how a mysterious and potentially fatal dog illness keeps spreading. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Dr Jorun Jarp of the state veterinarian institute said at a press conference Sunday afternoon that the same bacteria (Providencia alcalifaciens and Clostridium perfringens) had been found in several dogs sent in for autopsy and in the feces of an ill dog that was still alive. She said that all dogs examined have suffered similar, serious intestinal infection. The bacteria detected so far can cause the diarrhea that suddenly has plagued otherwise healthy dogs of all types. There’s no signs, though, of any humans in turn being infected by sick dogs.

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She said that cases of sick dogs have now been registered “over major parts of the country.” What initially seemed to be contained mostly to the Oslo metropolitan area spread initially to eastern and central Norway, and now to Nordland in the north and Sørlandet in the south. The veterinarian institute reported that 14 of Norway’s 19 counties were affected. The number of cases has swelled from the roughly 30-40 initially registered late last week in Østlandet (eastern Norway) alone, to many more around the country.

‘Norwegian national phenomenon’
Jarp told Norwegian Broadasting (NRK) that neither the veterinarian institute nor Norway’s food safety authority Mattilsynet had received official reports of similar illness among dogs in neighbouring countries. She said the officials were thus viewing the illness as “a Norwegian national phenomenon” that’s being followed up closely.

While officials in Iceland have decided to ban entry of dogs from Norway, there’s been no official entry ban imposed by EU authorities. Officials in other Nordic countries are concerned, however, with NRK reporting over the weekend that one dog in Gothenburg was ill with similar symptoms (bloody vomiting and diarrhea) after being at a dog show in Trondheim. The Norwegian Kennel Club cancelled all of its events over the weekend and for the next 14 days.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported that kennel clubs in Sweden, Denmark and Finland have banned Norwegian dogs from all dog shows and competitions until further notice. The Swedish Kennel Club has also warned Swedish dog owners against taking their dogs over the border into Norway.

No evidence of contaminated dog food
Norwegian officials don’t believe the dogs have been poisoned nor have any types of dog food been found to be a culprit, after they determined that ill and dead dogs had eaten many different brands. Mattilsynet, the veterinarian institute and Norway’s major veterinary university NMBU have now sent out additional questionnaires to all animal clinics in Norway to better coordinate information coming in from owners of sick dogs.

They’re all being asked for a detailed overview of what their dogs have eaten over the past 14 days, including lists of both dry and moist dog food, any treats and drinks. They’re also being asked to recall and chart all contact with other dogs, where the dogs have been and any other information “that can be meaningful.”

Experts are also charting dogs’ access to water, wild mushrooms or other edible items while outdoors, along with any contact with possible sources of parasites, bacteria or viruses. Mattilsynet stressed that there’s no evidence so far that any types of dog food have sickened the dogs.

‘Dramatic’
“We’ve seen individual cases of this type of diarrhea earlier, but never to such an extent as now,” Helene Wisløff, a pathologist at the state veterinarian institute, told NRK. “Nor have we ever seen so many dogs ill at the same time or with such an intense, dramatic onset.”

In one case, two pups born to a setter in Oslo last spring have both died, at their new homes far from one another. Other dogs have survived the disease including Choco, a 11-year-old Irish setter who lives in the Holmenkollen area of Oslo. He underwent two days of antibiotic treatment after suddenly becoming ill last Thursday.

Authorities claimed they were working as quickly and as much as they could to determine the cause of the mysterious illness. “But the bacteria samples have to grow and this takes time,” one researcher told NRK.

This week’s start of hunting season was posing huge dilemmas for both dog owners and authorities. Not only are other countries concerned about Norwegian dogs entering the country, grouse hunters in Norway’s northernmost county of Finnmark fear the traditional arrival of as many as 1,000 dogs from around the country. Landowners issuing hunting rights hadn’t set any bans, however, at least as of Monday.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund