An epidemiological investigation of an idiopathic myopathy in hunting dogs in New Zealand

AIM: To conduct an epidemiological investigation of an idiopathic myopathy, known as “Go Slow” (GSM), which was initially recognised in dogs used for pig hunting. A secondary aim was to describe the hunting activities, diet and health of dogs used for pig hunting in New Zealand.

METHODS: A retrospective cohort study was conducted between June 2014–June 2017. Cases of GSM in dogs were diagnosed by veterinarians using a combination of clinical history, physical examination findings, serum biochemistry and/or skeletal muscle histology. A telephone interview was conducted with the owner or primary veterinarian to provide information regarding the dog’s diet and exercise over the 7 days preceding the onset of clinical signs. In August 2015, a separate online survey of owners of dogs used for pig hunting was conducted to characterise the normal hunting activities, diet and health of these dogs.

RESULTS: A total of 86 cases of GSM were recruited, of which 58 (67%) were pig hunting dogs, 16 (19%) pet dogs and 12 (14%) working farm dogs. Cases were most commonly reported in the upper North Island, and 65 (76 (95% CI=67–85)%) were from the Northland region. Processed commercial dog food had been fed to 93 (95% CI=88–98)% of affected dogs. Ingestion of raw, frozen or cooked wild pig in the preceding week was reported for 76 (88 (95% CI=82–95)%) dogs with the myopathy. In the survey of owners of healthy pig hunting dogs, 203 eligible responses were received; pig hunting was reported to most commonly occur in Northland (20.2%), Waikato (22.3%) and Bay of Plenty (23.2%) regions. Commercial dog food was fed to 172 (85 (95% CI=80–90)%) of the dogs included in this survey, and 55 (27 (95% CI=20–33)%) had eaten wild pig in the preceding week. The most common reported health problem in pig hunting dogs was traumatic wounds.

CONCLUSIONS: Cases of GSM were most commonly recognised in dogs used for pig hunting, but also occurred in pet and working farm dogs. The disease was most frequently reported in the upper North Island of New Zealand and ingestion of wild pig was a consistent feature in cases of this myopathy.

CLINICAL RELEVANCE: To minimise the risk of dogs developing this myopathy, it would seem prudent to avoid feeding any tissues from wild pigs to dogs in areas where the disease is known to occur.