Vets today warned dog owners to remain on the alert for signs of a mystery illness which can kill dogs walked in woodland.

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"Unfortunately we are looking for a small needle in a very large hay stack"

Dr Richard Newton, of the Animal Health Trust

Scientists from the Newmarket-based Animal Health Trust (AHT) launched an investigation in 2010, after dogs became ill after being walked in wooded areas including Sandringham, Thetford Forest and Rendlesham.

Today they warned that they are expecting cases of so - called SCI - Seasonal Canine Illness - to begin reccuring towards the end of this month and continue into the autumn.

Symptoms usually appear within 24 to 72 hours of dogs walking in woodland in autumn. They includevomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy.

The AHT is advising any dog owners who see these signs in their pet to access veterinary treatment immediately.

Today Dr Richard Newton, of the AHT, said: “Our SCI investigation has been ongoing since we were first alerted to the illness in the autumn of 2010. Since then we have had more and more cases reported to us each autumn, but thankfully the number of dogs which are surviving has increased.

“We hope this is due to more owners being aware of the signs of SCI and accessing veterinary help as soon as possible.

“We want to arm dog owners with as much information as we can. Unfortunately we are looking for a small needle in a very large hay stack but information gleaned in 2011 has helped us to narrow this search area.”

As part of its investigation the AHT has visited one of the study sites, Sandringham Estate, with experts from the Natural History Museum and the Institute of Zoology.

Both visits were designed to identify any changes in flora or fauna that could be occurring at this particular site in the run up to, and at the time of cases occurring.

Owners who have walked their dogs at Sandringham, Thetford Forest and Rendlesham are bring asked to complete an online questionnaire on the AHT’s website.

Dr Newton, said: “We desperately need information from dogs who have been walked at any of our study sites, even if they did not become ill.

“The information we can glean from owners of dogs who walked at the sites and didn’t show clinical signs of SCI is just as important to our investigation, as information from affected dogs.”

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