According to a report published in the Veterinary Record Journal, 30 dogs who recently died in the U.K. suffered from Alabama rot, a deadly disease which causes skin lesions, kidney failure and in 90 per cent of all cases, death.
Despite what killed the dogs, it is still unclear where the disease originated, with almost 71 potential cases having developed in the U.K alone between November 2012 and March 2014.
Geographically speaking, the disease has been limited to a few cities in the U.K. including Northamptonshire, Yorkshire, Dorset, Shropshire, Surrey, Cornwall, Worcestershire, County Durham and Monmouthshire. It is unclear why more cases have not developed in other cities, but it may be because of the short life-span of animals who are afflicted with the disease.
Originally, Alabama rot was first observed in the USA and has seldom been seen in other countries, with this being the first report of multiple cases in the U.K.
Of the 30 cases identified by veterinarians, five English springer spaniels, four flat-coated retrievers and two border collies were all reported to have the disease. According to the study, 10 of the infected dogs had been in New Forest, Hampshire shortly before becoming sick, a point that suggests it may spread very quickly between dogs.
In most cases, the infected dog develops visible skin lesions, tiredness, a loss of appetite, vomiting and severe kidney failure, which scientists believe is Alabama rot damaging the small blood vessels in the organs.
The report, which itself had problems confirming that all of the cases documented were Alabama rot, stated that it was unsure if the symptoms were from an emerging disease or one that was already present but unrecognizable in the dogs.
According to the report, “Continued detailed evaluation will enhance the understanding of the disease and will hopefully help to identify possible triggers for outbreaks”.
According to David Walker, lead researcher in an interview with the Daily Mail, “The main message is that we are still seeing cases spring up. Although the numbers are relatively small, continued vigilance is the best thing. People should look out for skin lesions when the dog hasn’t obviously been cut on something”.
“We don’t know whether this is a condition that has been in the UK for a while, but just was unrecognizable, or whether it had recently emerged”, said Walker in the interview.
Walker’s team, convinced that there was a link between the dogs that contracted Alabama rot in New Forest, investigated the area only to find that, “We looked at all of their walking routes and other factors, we could find nothing in common,” said Walker.
As well as shedding some light on how the disease affects dogs, the report ruled out poisoned food as the culprit, as well as E.coli shiga toxin, another toxin originally believed to be contributing factors towards the Alabama rot outbreak.
Scientists are still investigating if the disease was caused by environmental factors such as a bacteria or other virus, or was a genetic deformity present in the host dogs from the beginning.
For more information on the report, be sure to check out the The Veterinary Record, published by the British Medical Journal Group on behalf of the British Veterinary Association.