Warning to dog owners over deadly flesh-eating disease as more pets killed

By Claire Schofield
Friday, 8th April 2022, 10:55 am
Two more dogs have died in the UK after contracting Alabama rot (Photo: Adobe)
Two more dogs have died in the UK after contracting Alabama rot (Photo: Adobe)

Dog owners are being urged to be watchful of their pets after two more cases of Alabama Rot have been confirmed in the UK.

The deadly, flesh-eating virus has now killed five dogs in the UK since the start of his year, with the latest cases occurring in Briston and Kingston, Devon.

Alabama Rot was first found in the UK in 2012 and have mostly been reported by pet owners who walk their dogs in the countryside.

Most cases are reported during winter and spring when the weather is typically colder and wetter, and it is generally much rarer in the summer months.

The two new confirmed cases follow 28 throughout 2021 and 47 in 2020, taking the total number of confirmed cases in the UK to 284.

Experts at Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists in Winchester confirmed the latest two cases and the animal hospital has collating information on all confirmed cases and reports across the UK since 2012.

David Walker, American, RCVS and EBVS European specialist in small animal internal medicine, leads the team at Anderson Moores and is the UK’s foremost authority on the disease.

He said: "We’re very sad to confirm two further cases of CRGV. Unfortunately, we find ourselves in the time of year when cases are most commonly identified.

"It is understandably worrying for dog owners; however, I must stress this disease is still very rare.

"We’re advising dog owners across the country to remain calm but vigilant, and to seek advice from their local vets if their dog develops unexplained skin lesions."

What is Alabama Rot?

Alabama rot, otherwise known as Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy (CRGV), is a disease that affects dogs.

It damages the blood vessels in the skin and kidneys, which causes visible sores on the skin and can lead to severe organ dysfunction and kidney failure.

The disease has a 90% mortality rate but the cause of the disease is still unknown, and unfortunately signs are often detected too late.

What are the symptoms?

The first sign of the disease is often a sore on the skin which will usually appear below the knee or elbow, and occasionally on the face or at the bottom of the chest or abdomen. It can cause the skin to become red and the sore may look like an open ulcer.

The RSPCA recommends looking for the following symptoms:

- Skin sores, visible swelling, red patch or skin defects not caused by a known injury- Changes in appetite, including reduced appetite, drinking more, vomiting and lethargy

The majority of visible skin lesions will not be caused by Alabama rot disease, and most cases of kidney failure will be a result of another cause, but if you are concerned your dog is suffering, you should seek advice from your vet as early detection is key.

Should I be worried about my dog getting Alabama rot?

Cases of Alabama rot in the UK are extremely low, so dog owners should not be too worried about their pet falling ill.

The illness seems to affect dogs that have been walking in muddy, woodland areas, and it first appeared among Greyhounds in Alabama, USA in the 1980s.

Mr Walker said the best chance of recovery lies with early and intensive veterinary care which may be best provided at a specialist facility.

He explained: "We have been at the forefront of research into CRGV for almost a decade and have witnessed first-hand the often-devastating effects of the disease.

"Treatment largely revolves around intensive management of the sudden onset kidney failure and, sadly, with our current understanding of the disease, is only successful in around 10% of cases."

Mr Walker hopes that Anderson Moores’ new dedicated CRGV website will be a useful tool in raising awareness of the disease and providing information to dog owners.

He added: "In launching this new website, we aim to give pet owners as much information as possible about CRGV.

“We hope the confirmed case map will also prove useful. Although an environmental trigger has not been definitively proven, the seasonality of the disease makes it eminently possible and the map allows everyone to see the location of confirmed cases."