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Hundreds of dogs in Norway hit by mystery illness (mattilsynet.no)
268 points by kristofferR 33 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 101 comments

As a dog owner in norway following this, my bet is on an extra bad seasonal outbreak + breaking the threshold of runaway media. Recent news article said there is a spike of dogs dying with these symptoms every spring and autumn. Even now, the majority of affected dogs just end up more or less sick for a couple of days. Not dead. I even suspect my own dog had it. It was bad enough that we would have called the vet if it was'nt the worst time of day and week for getting hold of one. (He's fine, tending his stick collection.) A "dog hotel" owner interviewed on tv said about half of the 17 dogs she took care of got sick, only two got it badly, none died.

If this was only a media fear fest the Norwegian Food Safety Authority wouldn't act as they have. They wouldn't recommend dog owners to avoid dog socialization if they didn't think this was a serious, real threat.

It's clearly a seasonal thing. The autumn weather activates Providencia Alcalifaciens somehow, but how isn't known yet. It's apparently a part of the normal gut flora, but the levels are very elevated in the dead dogs.


This article is really interesting (paywall):


Paywall free article (translated to English): https://translate.google.com/translate?sl=no&tl=en&u=https%3...

The bacterium have apparently killed dogs before in South-Africa.

I don’t know how it is in Norway, but in the States sometimes these organizations like to “get out ahead” of something for fear of being blamed later.

In the US we have an average of 7 cases of EEE (Mosquito born illness) in humans per year, but if you get it it’s often fatal. This year there was an “outbreak” in MA of 7 cases. There are 36 communities which are claimed to be at “critical” risk.

The problem with this nonsense is that they close the town fields and they don’t let the kids outside before school starts or even for recess. This apparently will continue until the first hard frost hits.

It’s tragic that a few people have died. I think it’s insane to respond by effectively canceling fall outdoor sports.

Humans are just really bad at evaluating risks of extremely low probability events.

Norwegian culture is very different to US culture with this sort of thing at many levels. If a Norwegian public body declares an emergency it means there is a problem.

Some examples... There isn't really a blame culture here. People can fuck up massively and face no serious consequences. There isn't really the same aversion to risk. Sick people are told by their doctors to get some exercise and lose weight before the doctors reach for drugs. It would seem alien to an American in many ways.

Those are some of the things I love about Norway. The culture and people seem much more practical, on many levels.

As a Texan with family in Norway, I’ve often admired Norwegian culture... Everything is just so koselig, you know?

There are some downsides. The fact no one is held accountable for failure means incompetent people can waste a lot of resources and time.

I don't think it's _only_ a media fear fest. It's been scary, and still is. If dogs are dying from this seasonaly, and the media frenzy results in things beeing figured out - it's good. Early news coverage said similar incidents had occured in denmark and england.

Also. I certainly don't believe in the food theory. As a population, dogs are fed a variety of food. While individuals are often on a limited diet. Which suggest to me that it would be figured out quickly if it was a factor.

Infections with this is isolate need not be causal, it can also be secondary to some other problem, for example viral or environmental.

On the other hand there may be a newly-significant way of transmission.

> The autumn weather activates Providencia Alcalifaciens somehow, but how isn't known yet.

One way to increase a bacteria is killing all the competition and waiting to the survivors filling the new space available

  extra bad seasonal outbreak
An "outbreak" of what, precisely?

The common dog cold? Dog flu?

What kind of seasonal outbreak affects dogs?

Based on links provided by other commenters, severe or fatal diarrhea, with vomiting. A canine bacterial dysentery provoked by a hostile strain of gut flora that harms dogs, previously detected in South Africa.

The bacteria's species does not have a wikipedia page yet, but here is the genus:


Meanwhile, a Google search for "Seasonal Canine Illness" produced mixed results, none of which says much about digestive problems, upset stomach or incontinence within the veterinary context.


Also seemingly involved is a species of Clostridium, which does have a wikipedia page:


It's mentioned that some dogs showed a presence of both microbes. Maybe it's a harmful interaction between two different bacterial loads, that evolves into a toxic conflict, as each organism tries to kill off the rival population and colonize the environment for themselves?

That the toxin is canine specific is interesting. The contagion incubates for maybe three days before the dog is incapacitated by digestive problems, so you get the sense that after crossing the fecal/oral disease vector (spoiled food, sniffing and licking biofilm surfaces, tracking in vomit/feces contaminated soil after walking dog paths mutually shared by infected animals or carriers) the foreign bacteria might react to quorum sensing once it's gained a foothold in the hospitable gut environment that meets it's needs as a microbe.

Some signal in the canine metabolism sends it into overdrive and it blows up causing tissue damage, and then the animal's body tries to evict everything by retching and dumping out both ends.

If it were so easy to find out, they would probably know already.

Unfortunately, not all the pathogens found in any or many of the cases will be causative. Some pathogens or newer strains thereof may be harder to detect.

To make matters worse, some of the dogs with the same symptoms won't even have the same disease.

Our dog also likely had this in late august. Started with vomiting, then diarrhea every hour or so for a week. Scariest period we have had as dogowners. Dogs were likely getting sick for a while before the media picked it up.

Do you know of some cases before 8 Aug?

I guess virality of news like virality of disease is not good.

I guess it’s come full circle. At one point in time of early social media “virality” took on a positive aspect. I suspect it’s going to tend down, given how sensationalism is becoming a norm in news —at any cost, unfortunately.

Human behavior is viral. It's just a question of how fast such things spread.

Reality is a consensus.

"In most cases where several dogs live in the same animal care, only one dog has become ill. This may indicate that the possible disease is not so contagious from dog to dog. For the time being, the Norwegian Food Safety Authority's advice on restricting close contact between dogs remains valid."

I'm looking forward to seeing what caused this. Really strange (In my non-expert mind) that it hasn't made its way to Sweden.

I wonder if it could be contaminated food/treats similar to the duck treats from China a few years ago.


> Really strange (In my non-expert mind) that it hasn't made its way to Sweden.

Elsethread people are speculating that it might be due to contaminated food. Sweden is in the EU, Norway isn't, and AFAIK the EU doesn't like importing meat and other agricultural products.

Norway likes it even less. One of the arguments for staying out of EU was food safety. Not sure about pet food, though.

While Norway is importing most of its import food from the EU I highly doubt they have much better standards...

And because of certain treaties with the EU they essentially accept most EU regulation in any case.

There is a brand of Norwegian raw dog and cat food that is imported into Sweden. I'm a little bit paranoid about this outbreak even though I have cats and not dogs, so I'm holding off on purchasing it until the cause has been established and food ruled out.

Is interesting that cats don't have it. Points to something that is not present in the outdoors and environment. Cat food have also a lot of salmon and other fish.

> Is interesting that cats don't have it. Points to something that is not present in the outdoors and environment. Cat food have also a lot of salmon and other fish.

If this is an infection, we can draw no such conclusions. If it is food, it still doesn't help much – perhaps excluding some food components.

Many homes have both pets. In those cases cats steal dog food gladly and would be poisoned also. Cats have often lower weight so should be dying more easily than dogs. Is interesting because is not happening (apparently).

Norway is in the EEA and that means they are effectively bound by same rules as the rest of the EU governing trade.

The EEA free trade and common standards have significant exceptions for agricultural and fisheries products. Norway and so on are not subject to the Common Agricultural Policy or Common Fisheries Policy, and can put significant tariffs on EU products in those areas AIUI.

They are not in the Customs Union.

Only from certain countries, eg. The US cattle/meat has too many steroids for getting through food safety.

They would drop the steroids if they cared about the EU market.

EU aside, there must be brands brands that are distributed in Norway but not Sweden.

Maybe the mountains were shadowing Swedden?

> This may indicate that the possible disease is not so contagious from dog to dog

= Is in the digestive, but not in the saliva

Feces are actually a perfectly workable way of pathogen transmission in dogs...


Probably not. Chocolate would cause seizures and cardiac symptoms, vomit and tremors, but not massive gut tissue destruction. And I don't remember any parasite doing this. Clostridum will cause diarrhea, not bleeding.

Is probably a poison, but not chocolate (And I'm including radiation under the "poison label" also. There aren't many things that can wipe the intestinal flora from an animal and replacing it by species that create ultra-resistent spores).

Other option would be food contaminated by spores of Clostridum, pesticides or whatever, but I guess that would be easy to spot the coincidence of a particular brand and batch of dog food in all affected animals.

I thought chocolate was toxic to all dogs.

It is toxic to all dogs.

To be fair, chocolate is not what it was. Many cheap substitutes on the market

Still toxic.

Never give chocolate to dogs! That's poisonous. Or to rabbits. Don't let them eat cake either.

Don't be murderously disservant. It's torture for animals to be served with things that fastly kill them. All of those things do.

More info: https://edition.cnn.com/2019/09/10/europe/norway-dog-disease...

Spain is advising people dog owners to not travel with their dogs to Norway.

There are fears that it might spread to other countries, it spread all over Norway quickly without any logical common cause found.

One possibility is that the disease is carried by humans and affects dogs more heavily.

When I lived in Norway mild flu symptoms would spread through society and quickly, especially when the weather would start to turn cold and dark.

Humans and dogs do not share many diseases. Flu are too different in both species. All the cases would be spatially related in this case. With most cases in a small area instead some animals falling ill here and there.

The carrier doesn't have to get sick with the disease to spread it; most of our insect-transmitted diseases don't affect the insect in any manner after all.

It sounded like you can rule out transmission through insects due to the patterns.

Transmission through latent infection of Humans would also be strange. Dog to Dog would be more probable. Of course, Humans accidentally transfer pathogens from animal to animal all the time.

I really like the tone of their regulator.

Straight up we don't actually know but here is our best known info.

As regulator the temptation is always there to say it's all fine. So saying we don't know is extra hard.

Maybe food. Dogs eat fish normally in norway?

> serious bowel disease, with bloody content in the small intestines. Non transmisible from dog to dog...

Sounds like food poisoning, yup. Or water. I assume that radiation can cause those symptoms of tissue bleeding if ingested via food or drink.

Clostridum happened suspiciously as cause of massive death of 10.000 Saiga just weeks after forests of Chernobyl burned.

Smells like scorched atoms. What do we know about the recent Russian atomic accident?

> What do we know about the recent Russian atomic accident?

That it was notable, but tiny, less than 100x background radiation within close proximity to the release.

Have they looked for Tritium release? It seems that is not picked by common geiger counters (I could be wrong about that point)

Update: Nah, a Virus explains much better some animals falling ill and other in the same place not (affected by the disease before and having developped immunity).

> Salmonella sp. and Campylobacter sp. has not been identified.

Salmonella was my first thought. The CDC in the US just issued a warning to dog owners about pig ears: https://mb.ntd.com/fda-cdc-dont-buy-or-feed-your-dog-any-pig...

Is a good candidate. In this case some people should be falling ill also. I don't know if the same strands of Salmonella in dogs can affect people, but I assume that could happen.

Update: In other source says that Salmonella has been ruled out.

Considering it was a gastro intestinal thing this would have been the first thing they looked for...

  > dozens
Statista (https://www.statista.com/statistics/515533/dog-population-eu...) :

  > The dog population in Norway was measured at approximately 500 thousand in 2017

Dozens are dead over hundreds infected, it doesn’t matter if the whole dog population is 1000 or 1B for the mortality rate.

Every epidemic starts with only a few infected. This may turn out to be a tragic blip for those dogs and their owners, or may become something huge.

The UK population is ~60 million (aprox 100 times norways dog population). If 1000s of people were being affected by something, that would be newsworthy.

That would be a pretty bad thing to jump the species barrier given the proximity of us and our pets and the apparently high mortality. This is the one thing I keep coming back to: we are but one small mutation away from some very bad disease jumping from cows, pigs (very likely due to anatomical resemblance), fowl (chickens) or pets such as cats or dogs to us humans with disastrous consequences. And we'd be about as prepared as a sitting duck is for acute lead poisoning.

Large numbers of cases like these in pets are always scary for that reason. See also 'avian bird flu' for another example of this as well as this one:


Compare the Spanish flu (the 1918 pandemic) to more recent pandemics. The recent pandemics are still scary, but the tools we use against them also clearly work.

The methods to create a global flu pandemic have already been documented. Ferrets are great flu incubators and can serve as hosts to selectively breed deadly, highly transmissible flu. I hope world governments are keeping a close eye on Ron Fouchier, because if I were a Bond supervillain my plan would be to kidnap him and force him to create a superflu.


Note that even though he lost this legal fight, his work was still published - this hearing was solely about whether he required an export license to publish dual-use scientific research.

We are not as close to bioterror as this comment implies - there are still very considerable technical hurdles

> we are but one small mutation away from some very bad disease jumping from cows, pigs (very likely due to anatomical resemblance), fowl (chickens) or pets such as cats or dogs to us humans with disastrous consequences.

If a simple mutation was all it took, this would have happened already. Please stop fear mongering.

Since the main thread is about dogs, most(all?) dog pathogens are very much incompatible with humans.

In other words: there are almost 8 billion humans already. Birds are an even higher number. We have an enormous amount of pigs and all livestock animals you mention, plus pets. Pathogens are multiplying all the time.

The fact that we only have a handful of examples of diseases that jump species and infect humans should tell you how difficult this is.

> The fact that we only have a handful of examples of diseases that jump species and infect humans should tell you how difficult this is.

Actually, no. We have many such examples. There are some lay people digestable books on the subject, the general gist of which is that diseases jumping from one species to another is rather more of a rule than the exception and a big part of the puzzle of why the genetic code for many viruses and bacteria that affect different species is so similar. The keyword to look for is zoonosis.


Choice quote:

"of 1,415 pathogens known to infect humans, 61% were zoonotic."

Many of our worst diseases historically are species-jumpers, including influenza and smallpox. "Bird flu" and "swine flu" are so named because that's where they start.

HIV is believed to have come from monkeys and/or chimps. You can get Ebola from bats and other wild animals.

Just to add up to the list of links to follow up, these are from the Norwegian Veterinary Institute, where they keep posting updates:

- (one) https://www.vetinst.no/en/news/severe-illness-in-dogs-in-nor...

- (update 11 sept) https://www.vetinst.no/en/news/severe-illness-in-dogs-in-nor...

Could it be dog feed/treats from China?

[ For context, this has happened in the United States around 2008 or 2009, with a manufacturer in China putting melamine into food to test higher for detected protein content, falsely. I think the manufacturer was severely prosecuted by China. ]

> I think the manufacturer was severely prosecuted by China

I would like to think that. I would not hold my breath.

How likely is it that those dogs are just being poisoned by someone?

Not very since apparently many dogs were infected, some got very ill, some died.

We would have easily a lot of cats dying also in that case (and maybe rodents).

The Traveling Poisonman Problem.

The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration are quoted on speculating that it may be parvovirus, as it seems to fit the symptoms. I have seen no further reporting or repudiation on that possibility, though.

Or ... maybe it's lupus?

A lot can fit those symptoms, and dogs with some other infection may be affected worse by parvovirus.

The Norwegians probably know more about the details. There are vaccines against Parvo, so it's hard to tell if denial of vaccinations is so bad in Norway, that there is an outbreak with hundreds of dogs...

Fits well but enteric canine parvovirosis is highly contagious and can be transmissible also to cats. If only non vaccinated dogs are falling ill, could explain it. For you dog owners living there: Is parvo vaccine optative in Norway?

... and if is parvo, why is not being caught quickly when there are specific diagnostic tests for it?

This does sound awfully similar to the plot of https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Thing_(1982_film) —- ancient/alien parasitic organism buried in thawing Norwegian permafrost affecting a sled dog ... also reminded me of the recent warnings of bacteria in permafrost e.g. https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-3-540-74335-4_... ... of course this is an idle association and apologies to all the real dog owners whose dogs are ill from this very real disease.

It would be really much more useful if they've bothered to mentioned what are the early symptoms?! If a dog has bloody diarrhea of course you'll take it to the vet...

Is it only affecting dogs that are walked out in public, as opposed to those that stay in kennels or on their owner's property?

Seems light on details of the incidents and timelines. Is there a better source that explains how this all started?

Thanks, this is what I was looking for.

There wasn’t even an incident count in the alert so I was curious.

All those recommendations and they are not advising to let them eat the same food as the owner?

"Preliminary assessment of the responses received so far in the survey, doesn’t show any correlation between the cases that give a clear trace to follow in the investigation. In most cases where several dogs live in the same animal care, only one dog has become ill."

Seems unlikely that dog food is the issue, else they would have caught it by now. Dogs don't take well to quick changes in their diet either (they'd start showing some of the symptoms described), and the list of foods they shouldn't ingest is long. Recommending that people start feeding their pets human food would probably just make the whole situation a lot worse.

If it’s something that is happening simultaneously in all the country while dogs living in the same animal care are not affected seems to push strongly towards contaminated food rather than towards some mysterious non infective disease just appearing all over the country.

Yeah, but it's weird that it's a combination of extremely sudden illness (often less than 24 hours from first sign to death) and a regular stream of new cases every day.

If it were from contaminated food you would expect it to happen more abruptly, then taper out. No common food link has been found either.

The extremely sudden illness seems more compatible with poisoning than with a disease, or more precisely, I’m not aware of any disease capable of killing in less than 24 hours from the early signs, at least in humans, but I’m not anywhere near an expert on dog’s diseases. About the food distribution can be that it’s affecting only some common ingredient used by different dog foods so it will be difficult to pinpoint it. If I were in Norway with a dog I would rather avoid the common dog food until there is more clarity on what’s going on.

Yeah, the dead dogs all have the Providencia alcalifaciens bacterium: https://www.aftenposten.no/norge/i/MRWR00/Har-ventet-i-13-ar...

Algae bloom kills dogs in an hour or two. Numerous cases is Southeastern US this August. All swam in lakes/ponds/stagnant water. Casuses acute kidney or liver failure.

> In most cases where several dogs live in the same animal care, only one dog has become ill

Could it be food allergy?

As Robert Anton Wilson observed, we say dogs are our best friends, but we keep the best food for ourselves. Dogs know this, of course, and love us anyway.

Well, dogs are proper carnivores who can eat raw meat or fish stored at room temperature for days, without any problems.

If they come across enough food, they will eat until they puke, sleep for an hour, then eat their own vomit.

It's no controversial statement that dogs and humans have different preferences in food.

> dogs are proper carnivores

Cats are carnivores. Dogs are opportunistic carnivores. They prefer meat, but can survive on plant material.

> Well, dogs are proper carnivores who can eat raw meat or fish stored at room temperature for days, without any problems.

Yes, but only because they don't know better. Our digestive systems are better than dogs, although dogs are efficient at killing some pathogens(stomach PH is way lower). So they may fare better on not getting infected by stale food, but their systems will still have more problems trying to digest food full of toxins.

There is an enormous list of things that dogs cannot process (or are toxic), but we can. A lot of it is due to our liver. Dog's livers are... dog shit.

If only we were as efficient as dogs when it comes to recycling.

We have two term presidents.

So at the end of the first term, we vomit a president up, and might eat the president again for a second term?

I bet it's the dog food.

Isn’t a mystery disease wiping out dogs (and cats) the cause for the original Planet of the Apes?

It's the impetus for the domestication of apes, who later go on to rise against us, but I'm not sure I'd elevate it to being the cause of the uprising.

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