A disease which ‘eats’ the flesh of pets has killed a dog in the Midlands as experts warn of a potential epidemic.
This winter’s bitter weather could see a huge surge in dog deaths due to the deadly Alabama Rot, which has already killed hundreds of dogs in the last few years.
The Bilton Veterinary Centre in Rugby, Warwickshire, confirmed: ‘Sadly we have had a confirmed case of CRGV/Alabama Rot in a dog at our practice. The dog has sadly died as a result of this illness.’
Experts warn the disease reaches a peak between November and February, especially in ice-cold Arctic conditions.
Dog owners have been told to ‘take great care’ when walking their dogs where there are stagnant pools of water, as it is thought the germs thrive in bushy, boggy ground in the winter months.
London’s Royal Veterinary College say only 15 to 20% survive and all breeds are at risk.
Vets at Winchester-based Anderson Moores, who have been spearheading research in this country, said: ‘It is possible that there is an environmental ‘trigger’.
‘It is up to each individual dog walker to decide whether to avoid certain types of terrain, or certain areas.’
Most cases have occurred in Hampshire, Dorset, and Greater Manchester.
It causes damage to blood vessels of the skin and kidney.
An early sign is unexplained redness, sores or swelling of the skin – particularly on the paws or legs – but they can also be found on the body, face, tongue or mouth.
The disease can cause fatal kidney failure and signs include vomiting, reduced hunger and tiredness.
David Walker, head of medicine at Anderson Moores, said: ‘The suspicion is that whatever causes this disease is ingested orally.
‘The signs to look out for are often 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.
‘It can’t not help to wash down your dog after a walk.’
An Animal Health Trust spokeswoman said: ‘Access vets as soon as you see signs of sickness, diarrhea and lethargy.
‘Dogs that visit their vet quickly tend to recover.’
A Forestry Commission spokesman said: ‘Be aware of anything dogs may pick up, chew or eat in a woodland area.’
A spokesman for Vets4Pets said: ‘The concern is that the disease does not seem to target any specific breed, age, sex or weight of dog.’
A spokesman at Purton Veterinary Group in Swindon, Wilts, said: ‘Don’t walk in woodland and always wash the mud off your dog after a walk.
‘But I don’t want dog owners to panic and think they can never let their dogs out. Dogs need to be out and about and have a full and active life.’
An owner whose cocker spaniel died after walking in West Woods, Marlborough, Wilts, in December 2015 said: ‘Overnight, lesions started to appear on their legs.
‘It was heartbreaking but there was no other decision we could make. She was two and a half years old and had been as fit as a fiddle.
‘I just want to make sure that other dog owners are aware of the situation.’