Deadly Alabama rot: what dog owners need to know

With three cases of fatal Alabama Rot in Sussex, what do dog owners need to know about the fatal disease?

Gavin Balchin's dog Lola died after contracting Alabama Rot
Gavin Balchin's dog Lola died after contracting Alabama Rot

Three animals in Sussex are now thought to have died after contracting Alabama Rot – the first a suspected case earlier this month, in Battle, and two other confirmed cases this week, in Littlehampton and Angmering.

Alabama Rot, or cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV), is a relatively new condition in dogs in the UK. It was first recognised here in 2012. Dogs which contract the disease can suffer serious skin lesions and kidney damage. It is often fatal.

The cause of the disease is not yet known, but there is a possible link with walking dogs in woodland – it is thought the first dog to die in Sussex may have picked up the disease in Battle Great Woods, the second in Patching Woods, near Worthing, and the third at the Angmering Park Estate.

Nick Cornford's dog Dash died after contracting the disease

The mysterious illness first appeared in the United States in the late 1980s, affecting greyhounds. It has now spread to about 20 counties in England, with scores of cases now confirmed. Unlike the disease reported in the USA, in the UK it does not appear to target any particular breed.

Last week, Nicky Cornford, from Littlehampton, took her dog, Dash, a springer spaniel, for a walk in Patching Wood, but three days later she noticed a sore had developed on the animal’s stomach. Nicky said: “I just really want awareness to be out there and for his death not to be in vain, so other people can try to avoid it.”

And Gavin Balchin, from Angmering, said his dog, Lola, a flat-coated retriever, started showing symptoms after a walk on the Angmering Park Estate, a little over a week ago. He had also been walking a number of dogs, for relatives, and only Lola was affected. He said: “It’s worth making the point that it could happen to anyone.”

Symptoms of Alabama Rot include skin lesions on the stomach and paws, lack of appetite, tiredness and vomiting. The cause remains unknown and there is no known way to prevent a dog from contracting the disease.

How a sore caused by Alabama Rot can look (file picture)

David Walker of veterinary specialists, Anderson Moores, said the latest cases in Sussex could be the tip of the iceberg.

He added: “What is always difficult to know is what these dogs were exposed to and how many cases have there already been. This is still a rare disease, but people should be vigilant. If they see skin lesions they should go to their local vets.”

Vets4Pets has created an online, interactive guide to offer dog owners information on Alabama Rot – it can be viewed by clicking here.

Dr Huw Stacey, head of clinical services at Vets4Pets, said: “The concern among vets in the UK is that, unlike the Alabama Rot that affected greyhounds in America, the disease in the UK does not seem to target any specific breed, age, sex or weight of dog. “There is currently no known way to prevent a dog from contracting the disease. The first sign that is normally seen is a skin sore that isn’t caused by a known injury. Most commonly these sores are found below the elbow or knee and appear as a distinct swelling, a patch of red skin or are open and ulcer-like. If a dog becomes infected the best outcome will come from early and intensive veterinary care, which has resulted in some dogs successfully recovering. Any dog owners who think their pet has Alabama Rot symptoms should contact their nearest vet immediately. This will help build knowledge about the spread of the disease and also give a dog the best chance of survival.”

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