Veterinarians in the United Kingdom have issued a warning to pet owners regarding the spread of a flesh-eating disease that has already killed at least five animals in the past two months.
Owners were told to watch out for symptoms related to the illness called Alabama rot, which is known to be fatal to dogs in 90 percent of cases. A typical sign of infection is the appearance ulcers or lesions on the skin and paws of pets that could turn into open wounds.
Alabama rot is a curable disease especially if addressed immediately, but if it is left unattended, it can cause the animal to suffer renal shut down and even death.
The first few cases of Alabama rot infection were detected in the United States during the 1980s, but it has since spread to other countries including the UK.
While the disease was initially found in greyhounds, it eventually began to afflict other breeds of dogs such as labradors and cocker spaniels.
Currently, the only way for veterinarians to fully confirm Alabama rot infection is by conducting an examination of the dog's post-mortem, but experts say owners can also look for signs of potential infection in their pets.
Internal medicine expert David Walker of Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists explained that lesions related to the disease typically appear below the elbow or knee of animals.
This is followed by hair loss in the affected region, which would often catch the attention of the pet, and they might begin to lick the lesion area.
For the next two to 10 days following infection, the animal could develop symptoms of kidney failure characterized by tiredness, vomiting and a loss of appetite.
The exact cause of the Alabama rot is still unclear, but Walker said there is a suggestion that the disease could be related to an environmental factor.
"We don't have clear evidence to back that up, but it can't not help to wash down your dog after a walk," Walker said.
Infection Cases In The UK
Since October, there have been confirmed cases of Alabama rot deaths in London, Lancashire, Hampshire and Staffordshire, according to specialists from Anderson Moores.
In Wiltshire, two cocker spaniels were reported to have contracted the disease last week. One of the dogs had to be put to sleep because its kidneys had already deteriorated beyond cure.
Animal experts in the country say they have recorded 60 confirmed Alabama rot cases since it was first detected in the New Forest area in 2012.
Photo : Artur Staszewski | Flickr