Alabama Rot victims showing the sores that are first sign of disease (Image: Solent)
Details of the new cases released by experts today show the horrific disease is not relenting. A total of nine dogs have died in the first few weeks of 2019 which means the disease has now been recorded in 38 counties and struck 35 different breeds since it was first recorded in the UK seven years ago. Veterinary experts are reassuring dog owners that the disease remains rare and they are continuing to build a greater picture of its cause with hopes that this will bring about a cure.
Veterinary specialists Anderson Moores say the latest cases were recorded in Atherton, Greater Manchester, and Redhill and Woldingham in Surrey. Both these areas have seen previous dog deaths from the disease which is known officially as cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV).
These latest fatalities are following the same one-a-week trend as last year, when 52 cases were recorded. Prior to 2018, there had only been 123 deaths spread over six years.
In a statement, Anderson Moores, who are based in Winchester, Hampshire, close to one of the major hotspots for cases, said: “We are in the time of year when historically we have identified more cases of CRGV and although this disease remains rare, we continue to advise owners to be vigilant and to seek advice from their local vet if their dog develops unexplained skin lesions and sores.
“Although an environmental trigger for this disease is possible, this has not been proven.”
Knowing the signs of Alabama Rot and getting urgent treat is vital for saving a pet (Image: GETTY)
Leading veterinary chain Vets4Pets has produced an online interactive map to help owners chart where confirmed cases have occurred as well as detailing the signs that could indicate if a dog has been stricken. See www.vets4pets.com/stop-alabama-rot
It is the way that cases have been clustered geographically with a bias towards the western parts of the country as well as hot spots in Greater Manchester, the New Forest area and Surrey which could provide clues to the cause.
Alabama Rot derives its name from the original outbreak among racing dogs in the United State in the early 1980s, although the first case in Britain was only confirmed in 2012.
Scientific studies funded by the New Forest Dog Owners Group and the charity, Alabama Rot Research Fund, have been looking at the seasonal trends – 70 per cent of cases have occurred between December through to March – as well as the geographical spread.
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David Walker, the UK’s leading expert on the condition who is based with Anderson Moores said: “A distinct seasonal pattern is suggested, with the vast majority of cases occurring between November and March, and limited cases over the summer months – just 6.5 per cent of cases have been confirmed from June to October.
“In the scientific world a lot of research is not earth-shattering, but it all builds together and little by little we make progress. This information is good in terms of how we manage the next stage of research, however we need to be careful and not jump to any conclusions at this point.”
Vets4Pets' map shows Alabama Rot cases across UK (Image: Vets4Pets)
A major conference on Alabama Rot was convened in May 2017 and experts across the veterinary field have a greater understanding of the disease but continue to seek its cause and cure.
Dr Huw Stacey, vet and director of clinical services at Vets4Pets and who has been supporting research on the condition for a number of years, said: “We know how the disease presents and how it affects dogs internally, and this research adds some interesting information that may help to increase vets’ index of the suspicion for the disease.
“The information on climate and ground type will help us further explore possible triggers for the disease, but at the moment we can’t say if any breeds are more likely to develop the disease.
“The first sign of the disease that is normally seen is a skin sore or lesion that isn’t caused by a known injury. Most commonly these sores are found on the lower half of the leg and appear as a distinct swelling, a patch of red skin or are open and ulcer-like.
“With 52 cases in 2018 and nine in 2019, it is understandably very worrying for dog owners, but we think the increase in cases is partially due to an increased awareness of the disease.
“However, this disease is still very rare, so we’re advising dog owners to remain calm but vigilant, and seek advice from their local vet if their dog develops unexplained skin lesions.
“While this research may be a stepping stone to finding the cause of Alabama Rot, there is currently no known way to prevent a dog from contracting the disease.”