Flesh-eating disease in dogs is on the rise

June 17, 2016

Veterinarians are warning pet owners to keep an eye out for a flesh-eating bacterial infection, known as Alabama Rot, which has killed several dogs in the last two months.

Originally spotted in greyhounds in the U.S. in the 1980s, Alabama Rot is caused by E. coli bacteria excreting toxins — causing skin lesions and ulcers on a dog's body and legs and eventually leads to kidney failure in about 25% of cases.

Experts have warned recently that other breeds including labradors and cocker spaniels are also being affected in the United Kingdom. So far, five dogs have died from the disease since last October which is leading some to believe a new strain of outbreak may have developed.

“The worry is that this might be the beginning of a cluster of cases,” Mike Nolan, a veterinarian from the Darley House practice in Farnworth, Greater Manchester, said in a recent article. “If you think your dog might be presenting with this illness, it really is a case of drop everything and get to the vets.”

The article states there is currently no clear consensus on how the disease spreads. Any dog of any age, weight, breed or sex can contract the infection. Problematically, at this stage the infection can only be definitively diagnosed after death, not before. Although an infected dog can be treated and saved, the symptoms have to be caught incredibly early on. Unfortunately, the likelihood of death following infection is high.

There have been 60 confirmed fatalities in the U.K. between November 2012 and December 2015. Although this may seem like a low number, Nolan explains that with no known preventative measures and a very difficult diagnosis, a sudden outbreak is possible any time a group of infected dogs are introduced to a population of healthy ones.

In addition, because the exact cause if the disease has yet to be been found, developing a vaccine is problematic.

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