DOG owners have been warned to be on the look-out for symptoms of a deadly disease that has claimed the lives of a number of dogs in the New Forest.
The Kennel Club, the largest UK organisation devoted to dog health, welfare and training, has sounded the alarm publicly over Alabama Rot as it reaches the time of year when it is most often seen.
Officially known as cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy, or CRGV, it was first detected in the UK in 2012. Research has established it is most prevalent from November until May, with 95% of cases happening during that six-month period.
Over the past six years 16 dogs have died or fallen seriously ill from kidney failure after being taken for walks in the New Forest, although the most recent of those was in 2015.
The UK has now seen 169 confirmed cases across 38 counties since 2012. This year has been the worst yet with 46 cases nationally so far.
Kennel Club secretary Caroline Kisko said: “Although the disease is very rare, affecting an extremely low percentage of dogs in the UK, the condition is very serious and potentially life-threatening.
“It is therefore vital that owners understand and recognise the warning signs, especially as time plays a significant part in successfully treating the disease.”
Only appearing to affect dogs, the condition can affect any breed or age and a proportion can go on to develop severe, acute kidney failure, which is often fatal.
“We are asking owners to look out for any signs of Alabama Rot during the winter months and to remember to take action right away,” Ms Kisko continued.
“Any dogs with unexplained or concerning skin lesions which typically look like sores, ulcers, or red, swollen, bruised areas, commonly with an infected appearance should be taken to their vet as soon as possible.
“These skin changes are usually found on their paws or lower legs, but may also appear on their head, face or lower body. Dogs who have contracted the disease may also become tired, disinterested in food, or present other signs of illness like vomiting or diarrhoea.”
She added: “Although these signs may not necessarily mean your dog has Alabama Rot, acting quickly and speaking to a vet to determine what is wrong is the best course of action to protect your pet’s health.”
While extensive research has been carried out over the last six years, the cause of the disease remains unknown. As yet, no evidence has been found to suggest that CRGV is caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi, toxins, or radiation.
There is speculation it is related to mud or water, due to the higher prevalence in winter and spring, and relatively low case numbers seen in the summer.
Ms Kisko continued: “To lower any risk of your dog contracting Alabama rot, it’s also advisable to keep your dog away from very muddy areas, wash wet or muddy dogs straight after a walk and regularly check your dog’s body for anything that’s different.
“While a distinct seasonal pattern is suggested, we must continue to research this deadly disease and ensure all dog owners are aware of the signs and symptoms so they are able to seek veterinary advice immediately.”
As reported by the A&T, research into CRGV, part-funded by the New Forest Dog Owners Group (NFDOG), is being carried out by the Royal Veterinary College and Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists in Winchester.
Hopes of a breakthrough were raised in October when it was found the worst afflicted areas with CRGV were in western and southern parts of England.
But while NFDOG chair Heather Gould welcomed the news she added it was “wishful thinking” that an answer would be found in a short space of time.
An Anderson Moores spokesperson said:“Since 2012 the months of November to May have seen the most cases, so if that pattern was to continue then an increase in confirmed cases can be expected in the next four to six months.”
As also reported in the A&T, New Forest vet Fiona MacDonald has claimed her own research points to the problem being caused by a bacteria that thrives in the kind of cold rivers and wetland found around the New Forest.
Anderson Moores has stressed cases of Alabama Rot in the UK are still extremely rare. On its website it revealed the latest confirmed CRGV case was in Cossington, Somerset.
It added: “As we come into the time of year when historically we have identified more cases of CRGV, we continue to advise owners to be vigilant and to seek advice from their local vet if their dog develops unexplained skin lesions/sores.
“Although an environmental trigger for this disease is possible, this has not been proven.
“For help recognising some of the signs and to see a map of confirmed cases, please visit www.vets4pets.com/stop-alabama-rot/” it adds.
The Kennel Club has made a video about Alabama Rot at https://youtu.be/PSvsWNKaHeU and provided information at www.thekennelclub.org.uk/health/for-owners/alabama-rot/