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What Is Alabama Rot? Dog Alert In UK
It’s feared an outbreak of Alabama Rot – sometimes referred to as the ‘black death’ disease – is gaining ground across the country as a Cocker Spaniel died after being walked in the New Forest.
What is Alabama Rot?
Alabama Rot, or cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV), has only recently been recognised in dogs in Britain after first being identified in the US in the 1980s.
It causes lesions on the skin and occasionally in the mouth, which can look like bites, sores, wounds or stings, and some dogs go on to develop life-threatening kidney failure.
The disease is fatal in 9 out of 10 cases and dogs of any age, sex, or breed can be subject to the disease.
Between November 2012 and May 2015 there were 56 confirmed cases in the UK.
Alamba Rot causes tiny blood clots to form in the blood vessels which blocks them and can ultimately lead to damage of the affected tissue.
This causes ulceration in the skin but, in the kidney, it can lead to severe organ dysfunction (kidney failure).
If untreated, dogs can develop a raging fever and will eventually die.
What are the symptoms of Alabama Rot?
The first symptoms of Alabama Rot are skin lesions, ulcers or sores, not caused by any known injury, according to AlabamaRot.co.uk.
These sores appear on the legs, body, mouth or tongue.
The dog may start to lick their foot or leg – and it might not be clear initially that the problem is underneath the fur.
Over the course of one to nine days, dogs develop symptoms of acute kidney injury, which include vomiting, lack of appetite or unusual tiredness.
Less than a fifth of dogs have symptoms jaundice, fever, diarrhoea, petechiae, seizures or blood in stools.
The cause isn’t known but one theory is that the bug multiplies in wet warm weather because it collects in pools of water, especially in boggy woodland areas.
The puddles become host to a slimy, blue-green algae which is perfect for the bacteria, turning into a death trap for thirsty dogs out for walks with their owners.
How can I protect my pet from the flesh-eating disease?
As the exact cause of Alabama Rot is unknown it’s not clear on how to prevent dogs from getting it.
Dog owners are advised to bathe any area of their pet if they become wet or muddy on a walk, although there’s no evidence to suggest this is of any necessary benefit.
A vaccine is yet to be developed for Alabama Rot.
Vets advice taking dogs to a clinic if they are spotted licking any skin lesions, ulcers or sores not caused by a known injury.
A practitioner can then take blood or urine and samples to determine whether it is Alabama Rot.
They can then be treated with antibiotics or the area can be covered and painkillers can be given.
If the dog has developed kidney failure, they will need to be referred to a specialist and if it’s been caught early it may be treated.
David Walker, head of medicine at Winchester-based Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists, explained what warning signs to look out for.
He said to pay attention to: “Little lesions below the knee or elbow and circular or like an ulcer. The hair will fall off which will get the dog’s attention and they may start licking it.
“However, the difficulty is not all the lesions will look the same. Be vigilant and if people are worried they should go to their local vets.”
A Forestry Commission spokesman said: “Owners should always keep their dogs under close control and be aware of anything they may pick up, chew or eat in a woodland area.”
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