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Alabama rot: How can you protect your pet?

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Dog owners are being warned to look out for symptoms of a potentially fatal flesh-eating disease in their pets after a surge of cases in the UK.

Known as Alabama Rot, symptoms begin with skin lesions on the paws or legs, which has led vets to advise that owners wash their pets after muddy walks.

There's been a number of warnings in recent years with outbreaks in Hampshire, Dorset, Surrey and Wiltshire.

Dog owners are being warned about the disease

Cases of Alabama Rot, which first appeared in the late 1980s in greyhounds in America, has spread to England in the last four years and is affecting all breeds, with eight recently confirmed cases in the Dorset area.

The skin disease, clinically known as idiopathic cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy, can lead to kidney failure.

WHAT CAUSES ALABAMA ROT?

  • The actual cause of Alabama rot is not known. Some reports in the US suggest it is linked to the bacteria E.coli, but there is no evidence for this in cases seen in the UK.
  • It can affect any dog of any breed, age, or size.
  • The majority of dogs who have been treated for Alabama rot in the UK have been walked in muddy and/or woodland areas.
  • More cases are reported between November and May than between June and October, which suggests the dogs are more likely to be affected in winter and spring.

WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?

  • The first signs you may notice if your dog has contracted Alabama rot are lesions or ulcers on the skin. These could appear as a patch of red skin, or as an open ulcer or sore. In many cases, the lesions will look out of the ordinary to vets.
  • These sores are most commonly found on a dog’s paws or lower legs, but they can also be found on a dog’s face, mouth or tongue, or on their lower body.
  • Signs of kidney failure include loss of appetite, tiredness and vomiting.
  • If your dog is showing signs of sore skin or ulcers on an area of their body that is close to the floor (and you know these have not been caused by an injury) it’s a good idea to contact your vet.
  • On average, dogs suffer from kidney failure about three days after lesions begin to show on the skin, however the time between sores appearing and kidney failure can be between one and 10 days.
  • The earlier this disease is caught and treated by a vet, the higher the chances of recovery.

HOW CAN YOU PREVENT THE DISEASE SPREADING TO YOUR DOG?

  • As the source of Alabama rot is unknown, there is no way of making sure you stay away from the cause – but there are things you can do to prevent your dog from being affected.
  • Checking your dog’s body once a day for lumps and bumps is a good habit for all dog owners to get in to, and checking them regularly for the signs listed above will help lower the risk of your dog dying from Alabama rot.
  • Sadly, dogs have contracted Alabama rot in many places across the UK over the past couple of years, with cases reported in Berkshire, Cornwall, County Durham, the New Forest, Nottinghamshire, Norfolk, Surrey, Wiltshire, Worcestershire and Northern Ireland.
  • Thankfully, the disease is not always fatal and the earlier it is caught, the greater your dog’s chances of survival.
  • Dogs cannot be vaccinated against Alabama rot.
  • If you are in doubt, give your vet a call. It’s better to be safe than sorry.