A worrying and potential fatal new canine disease has been identified within the UK, which has already been responsible for the death of thirteen dogs. The source of the disease and precisely how dogs contract it is unknown, but it is thought to be very similar to the condition known as “Alabama rot,” which is present in America but not within the UK.
Alabama rot is a bacterial condition that was identified in America in the 1980’s. The condition in America affected only Greyhounds, although it is not thought to be strictly breed specific. The condition is caused by the presence of bacteria such as E coli, which causes a build up of toxins within the body and ultimately leads to renal failure, which is fatal in around 25% of cases. The first indicators to the dog owner that something is amiss is the development of lesions of the skin, usually on the face, chest, legs and abdomen of the affected dog.
Over the last few months, veterinary surgeons in the UK have seen various presentations of dogs with skin lesions on the face, chest, legs and abdomen, which are often overlooked or left to develop before veterinary attention is sought. However, some dogs affected by the lesions then go on to quickly develop renal failure, which is ultimately fatal in a large number of cases. Thirteen dogs within the UK have died so far as a result of renal failure associated with the onset of skin lesions.
Testing on affected dogs has determined that the condition as it stands within the UK is not identical to Alabama rot, and the presence of E coli has not been detected. However, the action of the disease and the end result is the same, and so it is treated in a similar manner. The ultimate bacterial agent causing the condition in the UK is not definitively known.
Currently, the condition seems to be affecting local areas in pockets, and has not spread across the whole of the UK. Cases so far have been identified in Surrey, Cornwall, Worcestershire and County Durham, but the majority of cases so far have occurred in the area of the New Forest.
The Environment Agency has tested water supplies within the New Forest area in order to rule out the possibility of water contamination, and it is not yet known why or how the mystery agent of transmission is prevalent in this area. The Forestry Commission has now erected signs in areas popular with dog walkers, warning them of the condition and advising them of the signs and symptoms to be on the lookout for.
While the mystery condition currently appears to be localised to certain hot spot areas of the UK, dog owners all across the country should be aware of the condition and alert to its signs and symptoms. Unlike Alabama rot, the condition within the UK has affected various different breeds of dog, and is not limited to only Greyhounds and other sighthounds.
The first indication that something is amiss with any given dog is likely to be the acute onset of lesions, generally on the legs, face, chest and abdomen. Lesions are sores or wounds on the skin, which may appear to be raw, sore, inflamed or red. They are not connected to injuries or any other conditions.
It is important to keep a close eye on your dog, and particularly if they are longhaired, give them a quick once over once a day to make sure that there are no marks or sores on the skin, which may be indicative of the condition. If you do happen to find a sore, mark or lesion on the skin that you cannot explain the origins of, it is vitally important to take your dog to the vet right away for inspection, and not just monitor the condition to see if it progresses. The condition within the UK has proven to be fatal, as renal failure develops within 24-48 hours of the lesions appearing on the skin, and so time is of the essence to get your dog to the vet and begin treating the condition before the kidneys begin to fail and shut down.
Fast veterinary attention is the key to successful treatment, and if you spot skin lesions or have any concerns about your dog’s health, it is important that you call the vet as a matter of urgency. Treatment once the condition has been identified involves renal support, and potentially haemodialysis, to process the body’s toxins when the kidneys are unable to. The body requires a significant amount of intensive support during the treatment of the condition, in order to allow the kidneys time to heal.
The condition is not thought to be transmissible from dog to dog, and the lesions caused by the condition are not thought to be infectious, although the exact means of transmission is as yet unknown.