Mysterious canine disease spreads in Latvia

Every month veterinary clinics in Latvia admit about eight dogs with a damaged oesophagus. Veterinarians have tried to find out why the dogs are getting sick for half a year now, failing however to find out the exact causes of the disease. 

One thing common to these cases is that the dogs were fed with Dogo food of the Tukuma Straume company, which is quick to deny any cause-and-effect between dogs eating the company's food and getting sick, reported Latvian Radio Friday.

"One of the dogs has been put to sleep, while another has become disabled," dog owner Ina Forande told Latvian Radio.

The eight-year-old Odrija, a dog of Ina's relative, started vomiting its food and after a few torturous weeks the animal had to be put to sleep. Ina's dog got sick after a few weeks too.

The dogs' symptoms were very similar, and they had one extra thing in common - what they ate. The two were fed with the Dogo label food produced by the Tukuma Straume company.

Ina said that she called the veterinarian when she realized the connection and asked whether food could be behind the disease. The veterinarian contacted other dog owners to inquire about what their dogs ate. Ina started giving different food to her dog, and her dog eventually got better.

In May veterinarians responded, asking to start research on the disease, and the Agriculture Ministry gave to the BIOR institute €10,000 for the task. A research force led by Ilze Matīse set to work, however, according to Matīse, about eight dogs enter veterinary hospitals with similar symptoms.

The exact causes of the disease haven't been found out yet. BIOR is also reluctant to name the Dogo food as the cause of the disease.

"One of the risk factors is dog food of a particular brand. 94% of the dogs with the symptoms ate that food. We are checking the food, however we haven't found anything that could allow finding out the cause of the disease in it. Still, 94% is a very high number," she said, without naming the brand.

In order to ascertain the causes, researchers use groups of control dogs in an inquiry that should have ended in December.

Next week BIOR representatives and Agriculture Ministry officials will meet to discuss further research into the disease.

Tukuma Straume is adamant in denying any link between the disease and their food. When in May veterinarian Gatis Krūmiņš asked his Twitter followers not to feed their dogs with the Dogo brand food, the company allegedly called him, saying they'll take him to court.

"The talk was not a nice one. They said that it's libel and that I will be paying my whole life for these words. [..] They complained to the Ethics Committee of the Veterinarians' Association. I gave an explanation and it ended there," Krūmiņš said.

Tukuma Straume wrote Latvian Radio that Krūmiņš had engaged in defamation against the company. They wrote that some could be envious of the success of the Dogo brand, which is fed to some 12 to 20 percent of all Latvian dogs.

The Agriculture Ministry will decide whether to continue research on the disease next week. However, the Latvian Veterinarians' Association will still continue the register and describe the disease-stricken dogs.

The symptoms are vomiting during or right after food ingestion, changes in the dog's voice, as well as breathing problems. Turn to a veterinarian in case your dog has any of these symptoms. 

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