A case of the deadly dog disease Alabama Rot has been confirmed in Derbyshire.
Four new cases have just been confirmed in total across the UK, in Chapel-en-le-Frith, Huddersfield, St Austell and Chorley, according to Vets4Pets, who have created an online map showing the location of any confirmed cases of the disease.
In total, the UK has now seen 181 confirmed cases across 38 counties since 2012, with 52 cases in 2018 and 6 in 2019.
And new research by the Royal Veterinary College and Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists has found that almost 95 per cent of confirmed cases of Alabama Rot have occurred between November and May.
However, vets are stressing that cases of the disease are still extremely rare and that further research is needed to establish more details on how dogs develop the disease.
Dr Huw Stacey, vet and director of clinical services at Vets4Pets, said: “Since we held the first Alabama Rot conference in May 2017, vets and relevant professionals have been working hard to understand more about the condition.
“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 6 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.”
The highest number of cases have been seen in West Sussex, Dorset, southern Hampshire, Greater Manchester and Monmouthshire.
February has seen the highest number of cases, with December to March having 70.50% of overall confirmed cases.
David Walker, the UK’s leading expert on the condition and co-author of the research, from Anderson Moores, said: “Of course dog owners, particularly those in the areas with higher numbers of cases, may be nervous about Alabama Rot, but it’s still an extremely rare disease and we’d encourage owners to continue exercising their pet as normal.
“We’ve seen cases of dogs walked with other dogs, in the same place every day, developing the disease, while the other dogs remained completely unaffected.
“If a dog becomes affected, the best chance of recovery lies with early and intensive veterinary care at a specialist facility such as Anderson Moores or the Royal Veterinary College.
“Any dog owners who are worried that their pet might have Alabama Rot should contact their veterinary practice immediately.
“This will help build knowledge about the disease and also give a dog the best chance of survival.
“Research will continue and, in time, we all hope the cause will be identified.”
What are the symptoms?
The flesh-eating conditions, scientifically known as cutaneous and renal glomerular vaculopathy (CRGV), can affect any age or breed of dog, although breeds which have been most affected include:
English Springer Spaniels
The first sign of the disease is often a sore on the skin, usually found under a dog’s elbow or knee.
The skin can become red and the sore may look like an open ulcer.
Other symptoms can include extreme fatigue, vomiting, bloody diarrhoea, loss of appetite and drooling.
After a few days, the dog will start showing signs of kidney failure.
According to Vets4Pets, which is tracking the spread of the disease, around only 30 per cent of dogs survive once diagnosed with the condition.
What do vets advise?
The exact cause of the disease is unknown, although many vets believe dogs can contract the infection from mud on their paws and legs.
Vet Fiona MacDonald told The Sunday Times: “Walking dogs on muddy ground seems to be the common factor.
“Owners who have been in such areas should hose their dogs down with cold water after every such walk.
“They won’t like it, but it might save them.”
While experts are still searching for a cure for Alabama Rot, vets say there is a chance of survival if the condition is diagnosed early.
Vets will first treat skin sores and kidney failure, but could refer your pet to a specialist hospital.