Henlow Stadium has taken the decision to suspend racing on Friday, 19th April 2019 to instigate a deep cleaning of the race kennels, paddock and surrounding areas as a precautionary measure, following the sudden death of two greyhounds at the kennels of trainers attached to Henlow Stadium.

GBGB is aware of a recent increase in cases of haemorrhagic gastroenteritis (kennel sickness), and more importantly, the diagnosis of Clostridia perfringens type A in greyhounds– which can be fatal. 

Racecourses will shortly be distributing effective disinfectant to all attached and unattached trainers to assist with bio-security at kennels; while GBGB asks all trainers, racecourses and veterinarians to remain extra vigilant at this time and refer to the latest news section on the GBGB website for more information. 

Severe Kennel Sickness in Greyhounds

In the past 10 days there have been some deaths in racing greyhounds due to kennel sickness. Kennel sickness is not normally a fatal condition. The veterinary name for kennel sickness is haemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE).

Kennel sickness is a recognised condition, so why is it different now?

Kennel sickness is a general term (like kennel cough). Diagnosis of the actual cause has always been troublesome but recent advances have enabled a diagnosis to be made. Initial results strongly indicate that the cause is Clostridia perfringens type A. This is a known cause of food poisoning in humans and can be fatal.

What are the symptoms?

In mild cases, the dogs will be off colour with diarrhoea. In severe cases they collapse and can die with a few hours. The disease is caused by a nasty toxin produced by Clostridia perfringens.

Can humans infect dogs?

As far as we can tell there have been no cases of ill humans causing HGE in dogs.

Can kennel sickness pass to humans?

Mild kennel sickness presents little risk to humans. In severe kennel sickness there is a risk that the Clostridia could pass to humans and cause food poisoning signs (stomach cramps, diarrhoea). The actual risk is not known, so good personal hygiene is recommended as a barrier to the disease.

Can dogs infect other dogs?

With usual kennel sickness it is thought infection can pass between dogs. The severe kennel sickness probably cannot pass dog to dog, based on studies in humans and other animals. This is because the bacteria is picked up from the environment and therefore why having a clean kennels is so important.

Is this just a bad case of kennel sickness or a different disease?

It is difficult to say whether severe kennel sickness is part of the usual kennel sickness syndrome or whether it is a new disease.

Why is it difficult to diagnose the cause of kennel sickness?

The gut is full of different bacteria, some of which are Clostridia. After a bout of diarrhoea or after death the bacteria grow at different rates, so the lab scientists cannot tell what the original state of the bacteria was like.

How has a diagnosis been made this time?

Due to the speed at which the GBGB organised the post-mortem examinations and the extra laboratory tests available nowadays it has been possible to confirm the diagnosis of Clostridium perfringens type A. The new tests look for the toxin produced by the bacteria.

How is this form of kennel sickness spread?

Research is lacking here. In humans it is via undercooked food, or food which has been kept warm for an extended period, hence it is labelled as a food poisoning rather than a gut infection. In greyhounds it is possibly spread by coming into contact with diarrhoea. Problems restricted to one kennel are possibly due to faults in food preparation as it is in humans, but this has not been proven.

Where has the Clostridia come from?

The bacteria is present all around, in the soil, in our guts, in dogs’ guts. In cases of human food poisoning the bacteria has grown in food that has been kept warm (40-50 C) which allows rapid growth and production of a toxin. It is the toxin which causes the disease.

How quickly can a greyhound die from severe kennel sickness?

Unfortunately there are few warning signs, but sudden collapse with diarrhoea is not to be ignored as the dog can die within 2-3 hours. Emergency medical treatment at a veterinary practice is needed, but often there is not time act.

Can a dog be infected with Clostridia and survive?

Information on this is lacking due to the early stages of the investigation, but it seems that within a kennel with severe kennel sickness only one or two dogs might die. In a group of dogs some will have diarrhoea and be off colour, whereas others will have the more severe form.

Can it be treated?

Mild cases of kennel sickness self-cure, but may need some supportive therapy. Cases of collapse due to severe kennel sickness have a poor outlook. Emergency medical treatment at a veterinary practice is needed, but often there is not time act.

How do I prevent kennel sickness from spreading?

The usual guidelines of cleansing and disinfection apply. The GBGB is distributing a special disinfectant to trainers and stadia which kills the Clostridia spores.