Our favourite decay detection dog is finally feeling better.

Sika is our principal arboricultural consultant’s decay detection dog. She is specially trained to assist with detecting tree-decay fungi on arboricultural surveys and is especially useful on woodland management surveys and tree surveys on rural estates.

Raised on the steep slopes of the South Pennines, Sika is used to all sorts of rugged terrain but in the middle of last year she was out with a friend and chased a ball over a low cliff, dislocating her hip and giving everyone a fright.


Sika crown tree consultants tree decay detection dog recovering

The vet tried to relocate her hip (two times) but, unfortunately, it wouldn’t stay in the socket. Skip a few sentences if you’re feeling squeamish, but read on to hear how our amazing canine decay detector recovered in time for Christmas…

Poor old Sika had to have what’s called a Femoral Head Ostectomy. In this operation, the vet chopped off the top of the very top bit of her femur – the whole of her leg was not attached to the pelvis anymore. It’s pretty scary-sounding stuff, but dogs are amazing healers. At first, the muscles of the dog’s leg hold the femur in place, the socket scabs over, and then over time scar tissue creates a cushion in the empty joint socket. Eventually, the combination results in pain-free mobility for most dogs who have this surgery. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing getting Sika back to health.

Ivan Button explains:

It took several months of rehabilitation and incredibly slow walking at a snail’s pace to encourage Sika to put her leg down on the ground and at first she was very reluctant, she was holding it in the air – but every time she touched the ground we would reward her with a bit of cheese and every time she lifted it off the ground we would stop walking…she soon got the hang of it and started to put weight on the leg, strengthening the muscles bite by bite.”

A few months later she started getting back to business. In October she was waking and running just like before and spent some time out brushing up on her decay scenting skills. This year she is looking forward to joining arboricultural consultants on their surveys again (when invited!) and we are looking forward to sharing more information with everyone about how Ivan actually trained Sika in the first place.

Sika can sniff out a wide range of UK tree decay-inducing pathogens, including Kretzschmaria deusta and Meripilus Giganteus. She can also sniff out a whole host more than those two, as you can see from the last shot in the video below. If you’ve not seen Sika’s arboricultural survey skills in action before then do check out the video now. There is music on this video so please mute your speakers or turn your sound down if you prefer not to hear it. The fullscreen button is located next to the volume icon.


If you have spotted a funny-looking fungus on a tree you own, get it inspected by a professional arboricultural consultant. It might be nothing to worry about – some trees form symbiotic relationships with fungi that endure decades – however, some fungi cause heart rot meaning the tree is decaying inside despite appearing intact on the exterior. A qualified consultant can assess the extent of the decay using a Resi Drill.

A Resi Drill is used to help determine the extent of internal decay present throughout the stem or buttress roots of a tree. The device measures the resistance that the wood offers while drilling. The measurement profile recorded whilst drilling provides information about the internal condition of the wood and decayed zones. We’re going to delve into this a little deeper next week sharing another case study, this time from a housing estate we surveyed in November.

If you’d like to keep up to date with what Sika gets up to, why not sign up for our quarterly newsletter? We keep it strictly trees and dogs – just pop your email in the box below and hit enter to subscribe. If you don’t fancy a newsletter but want to keep up with Sika’s adventures anyway, follow our Twitter page where she will be posting regularly about decay fungi throughout 2023.

If you have any queries about trees with possible decay, please do not hesitate to contact us using the form or telephone 08000 141 330 – Sika will be patiently waiting to take your call!

Sika crown tree consultants tree decay detection dog takes calls at office

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