Seasonal Canine Illness Q&A with our vet

There’s something nasty in the woods that can strike down a healthy dog within hours. Our in-house vet DR SUZANNE MOYES explains why you should be aware of Seasonal Canine Illness, which is also known as Alabama Rot.

Posted: 10 September 2017

Seasonal Canine Illness Q&A with our vet


Q: What is Seasonal Canine Illness?

A: It’s a mysterious condition that causes dogs that have been walking in woodland areas between August and November to suddenly become seriously ill. Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI), also known as Alabama Rot and referred to by vets as cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy was first identified in 2009 after similar cases of an unknown illness were reported in Norfolk (the Sandringham Estate and Thetford Forest), Nottinghamshire (Sherwood Forest and Clumber Park) and Suffolk (Rendlesham Forest). To add to the mystery, Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI) doesn’t affect all dogs and the cause has yet to be formerly identified.

Q: What are the symptoms?

A: Generally, symptoms of SCI appear around 24 to 72 hours after a woodland walk. These may include:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhoea
  • Lethargy
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • High temperature
  • Trembling
  • Fever
  • Rash over the abdomen and limbs

If your dog suffers from any of these symptoms, take them to your vet immediately. Currently, there is no specific test to confirm a diagnosis of SCI, but your vet will be able to treat the symptoms your dog is presenting. Prompt action is essential as left untreated, SCI can be fatal. With the correct treatment, which may require a combination of an intravenous drip, anti-sickness medication and antimicrobials, most dogs will make a full recovery within seven to 10 days.


In 2010, 20% of dogs who developed SCI died as a result of the disease. In 2012, this was reduced to 2%, thanks to increased awareness and prompt veterinary treatment.

Q: What do the experts believe the cause could be?

A: The University of Nottingham, the Forestry Commission and the Animal Health Trust have all put initiatives in place with the aim of establishing the cause of SCI. It is thought that a likely candidate could be a naturally occurring toxin, released from a plant, fungi or algae blooms. Man-made toxins, such as pesticides, have been ruled out by testing. There have been suggestions that harvest mites could be a possible cause as many affected dogs have been found to have had mites. However, British harvest mites are not known to carry or transmit any known diseases, so, as yet, no formal link has been proved. The latest research is looking for clues at a cellular level.

Q: What can I do to protect my dog?

A: Given the possible link to harvest mites (which look like small, orangey red specks on the surface of the skin and make dogs very itchy), it’s vital to examine your pet closely around the ears and between paws after a woodland walk. If you spot any mites, seek veterinary treatment immediately. Ask your vet about topical sprays you apply prior to a woodland walk that will kill any mites.

Small breed dogs have been reported as most at risk of developing SCI, although at this time, risk factors for different breeds have not been identified.

Evidence suggests that a seasonal factor may be at play, as 90% of confirmed cases occurred between the colder months of November to May, with February and March being the peak months.

As cases are sporadic and spread across the country, it shouldn’t stop you from enjoying the pleasure of autumnal forest walks with your dog. The best advice is to be aware of SCI, know the signs to look out for and seek immediate veterinary treatment if your dog displays any potential SCI symptoms.