Veterinary experts say there have now been 48 fatal victims this year – more than a quarter of all reports since the disease was first discovered in Britain six years ago. Over the past three years the number of cases spread nationwide has risen rapidly from 19 in 2016, 40 in 2017 to the latest record figure. Yet it is the way the disease is concentrated over the winter months and centred on certain areas of the country which will hopefully give scientists clues to its cause and an eventual cure.
The two new fatal cases have been confirmed today by veterinary specialists Anderson Moores and were in Keighley, West Yorkshire and Minehead, Somerset.
“This brings the total number of confirmed cases to 171 since 2012, with 48 cases in 2018,” the practice said in a statement. “As we come into the time of year when historically we have identified more cases of CRGV, we continue to advise owners to be vigilant and to seek advice from their local vet if their dog develops unexplained skin lesions/sores. Although an environmental trigger for this disease is possible, this has not been proven.”
Known clinically as idiopathic cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV), the first signs of infection leave a dog with open sores and lesions on the paws and legs before developing into a devastating kidney disease with a high mortality rate.
A nationwide map has been produced by researchers to highlight the major clusters of Alabama Rot incidence. The Greater Manchester area and Hampshire are the worst affected, with other cases concentrated along the Severn Valley and Surrey. East Anglia and the North Sea coastal counties from North Yorkshire to Kent are virtually unscathed.
Kennel Club produces video highlighting the dangers of Alabama Rot (Image: PA)
Map shows the westerly bias of Alabama Rot cases (Image: Vets for Pets)
With the time-scale of cases showing a distinctive winter trend – the period from December through to March is responsible for 70 per cent of all confirmed incidents – the Kennel Club is warning owners to be vigilant while out walking their pets and has produced a video to help owners understand more about the disease.
Kennel Club Secretary Caroline Kisko said: “Although the disease is very rare, affecting an extremely low percentage of dogs in the UK, the condition is very serious and potentially life-threatening. It is therefore vital that owners understand and recognise the warning signs, especially as time plays a significant part in successfully treating the disease.
“We are asking owners to look out for any signs of Alabama Rot during the winter months and to remember to take action right away. Any dogs with unexplained or concerning skin lesions which typically look like sores, ulcers, or red, swollen, bruised areas, commonly with an infected appearance should be taken to their vet as soon as possible.
“These skin changes are usually found on their paws or lower legs, but may also appear on their head, face or lower body. Dogs who have contracted the disease may also become tired, disinterested in food, or present other signs of illness like vomiting or diarrhoea. Although these signs may not necessarily mean your dog has Alabama Rot, acting quickly and speaking to a vet to determine what is wrong is the best course of action to protect your pet’s health.”
Beloved pet Paris the Shih Tzu who had to be put to sleep (Image: PA)
Tragic Paris showing telltale Alabama Rot lesion (Image: PA)
The speed with which an Alabama Rot case can become fatal is highlighted by tragic Paris the four year old Shih Tzu who died earlier this year only days after being walked in Moses Gate, Farnworth, Greater Manchester. Owner Shannon Wilson, 23, took her pet to the PDSA Pet Hospital in Stretford for a check-up but within a week a wound became inflamed and swollen and blood tests revealed kidney failure. Despite the vets’ best efforts, Paris could not be saved and was put to sleep just two weeks after first showing symptoms of the disease.
Research funded by the New Forest Dog Owners Group, one of the worst affected parts of the country, and the charity, Alabama Rot Research Fund, has allowed vets to have new insights into the illness.
Dr Huw Stacey, vet and director of clinical services at Vets4Pets, has been supporting research on the condition for a number of years and says recent findings may help provide a “stepping stone” to unravelling the cause of the disease.
He 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.
“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.”
Anyone concerned about the disease should visit www.vets4pets.com/stop-alabama-rot/ for advice and a map of confirmed cases.”