Dogs showing tell-tale skin sore signs of Alabama Rot (Image: Solent)
Specialist vets confirmed the death was the 185th fatality since the disease was first record in the UK seven years ago. To date, 185 dogs have now died from the disease which has no cure and is still confounding scientists over its origin. Yet the way there has only been one case during a lengthy period of dry, spring weather may give scientists vital clues to its origins.
The latest case was recorded in Leeds, West Yorkshire, the 38th county to have witnessed a fatality from the disease officially known as cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV). It became known as Alabama Rot in the 1980s after striking greyhounds in the southern US state, but did not cross the Atlantic for three decades.
In recent years there has been a marked increase in cases, with 52 dogs dying last year, although these were mainly recorded during the wet, winter periods.
Another distinctive features is the geographical spread in the UK, with most cases centred around the New Forest, Surrey and Greater Manchester areas, with dogs being walked through damp woodlands a possible common link. The disease does not discriminate between breeds, age or gender.
This year seemed to be following a similar pattern, with nine cases in the first eight weeks, although extensive dry spells in the latter part of February iinto March could well be connected to the downturn in cases this month.
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.
The late spring and summer are seen as the quietest periods for infections, with only 6.5 per cent of cases reported between June and October.
Skin lesion on leg is usually the first sign of disease (Image: Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists)
Veterinary specialists Anderson Moores, who are based in Winchester, Hampshire, and confirmed the latest case, have previously stated: “Although an environmental trigger for this disease is possible, this has not been proven.”
The disease gets its name from the way that it is first noticed from unexplained skin lesions and sores appearing on dogs, particularly the legs, before developing into signs of kidney failure with vomiting, tiredness and reduced hunger.
Vets stress it is still a very rare condition.
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. Seewww.vets4pets.com/stop-alabama-rot
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.
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Map shows the cluster of Alabama Rot cases (Image: Vets4Pets)
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 10 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.”