One Victoria Police specialist canine dog is dead and another eight have fallen ill with suspected food poisoning, with contaminated dog food under investigation as a possible cause.
Victoria Police Dog Squad Inspector Jon Woodyatt told Melbourne radio station 3AW said there were a “number of common factors” which may have contributed to the dogs’ contracting megaesophagus – an enlargement of the oesophagus.
“At this stage, we’re told there was a number of common factors which we are looking at,” Inspector Woodyatt told 3AW Radio on Friday morning.
“One of them does include the food that we are feeding the dogs.”
“We are told having this number of dogs in one population is pretty much unheard of in veterinarian circles.”
“In extreme cases the dogs can actually inhale food which can lead to bouts of pneumonia,” Inspector Woodyatt said.
On Friday afternoon the Herald Sun was reporting a further two dogs would have to be euthanised.
A team of specialist vets, Melbourne University staff and police are investigating the cause of the spate of megaesophagus cases, which first emerged in December.
According to the Victoria Police website, the dog squad has at least 30 highly trained dogs – German Shepherds and labradors – at its disposal 24 hours a day for “general purpose, finding drugs or explosives during searches with many enjoying long working relationships with their handlers”.
“The dogs are a very important asset to Victoria Police because their natural instincts and nose ability cannot be copied by science”, it read.
It is “extremely rare and unheard of in veterinary circles” for a group of dogs from the same area to fall ill, a police statement read, especially across the force’s two breeds, German shepherds and labradors.