Alabama rot dog disease - what you need to know

An outbreak of a disease similar to Alabama rot has killed 17 dogs. 

21st January 2014
Border collie

An outbreak of a mystery disease similar to Alabama rot has killed 17 dogs in recent months.

Seven of the cases broke out in the New Forest between December 2012 and March 2013, with two more confirmed in that area this month. Areas such as Surrey, Cornwall, Worcestershire and County Durham have also seen dogs affected.

The disease – which is currently unknown – is most likely to be Alabama Rot, which was first recorded in America during the 1980s.


What is Alabama Rot?

Alabama Rot is a disease that has been associated with greyhounds, but in recent years has affected a variety of breeds. The earliest and most noticeable sign of the disease is skin lesions – an abnormality in the tissue of an organism, which begin as a slow-healing ulcer. Kidney failure is also a key component of the mystery illness, which has no known cause or cure.

What are the signs to look out for?

Dog owners are advised to look out for wounds or lesions on the limbs or face of their dog, which will not heal. Affected dogs will also develop signs of severe depression, loss of appetite and vomiting, quickly accompanied by acute injury to the kidneys.  

The notices tells owners they should take their dog to a vet even if the lesions appear a week after a walk.

What is the source?

The source of the disease is unknown, with the Environment Agency ruling out any chemical contamination in water supplies. Experts believe the disease is “very similar” to Alabama Rot, thought to be related to a toxin produced by E. Coli bacteria. However, no evidence of this has been found after no signs were shown on the infected dogs.

Signs will be put up in the New Forest by The Forestry Commission following the deaths, advising owners to take their dog to the vets if it develops any lesions on its legs, paws or face.  

BVA President and vet Robin Hargreaves said: “Dog owners in these regions will feel understandably anxious about the recent cases but it seems that only a very small proportion of the dogs walked in these areas each day have been affected. Owners should make sure they are aware of the signs and symptoms and contact their vet immediately if they have any concerns. We are keeping our members informed about the ongoing situation.”

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