A previously unreported disease that causes lesions, kidney failure and eventually death in dogs, has been found in the Westcountry.
The mystery condition – said by vets to be closest to a disease first seen in the United States in the 1980s called Alabama rot – has so far claimed the lives of 16 dogs in the UK and now a case has been reported in Cornwall.
In the New Forest in Hampshire, where most cases have occurred, posters have been put up warning dog owners to look out for the symptoms, which include lesions on the legs and faces of dogs with kidney failure following two to seven days later.
Woodland seems to be a common factor in most cases, which reported so far, in Hampshire, Surrey, Worcestershire, Country Durham and Cornwall.
This is not the first threat to the health of dogs in the Westcountry area in recent weeks. In October and December, lumps of white fat – blamed for the death of a number of dogs – were found on the North Devon coast and on Cornish beaches.
Laboratory tests showed that while harmless to humans, the substance was dangerous if ingested by dogs.
Yesterday the head nurse at the Clifton Villa Veterinary Surgery, which has branches in Truro, Camborne, Tregony, Newquay and St Columb Road, said although they were aware of the warnings of the disease, they had not seen any cases so far. “Let’s hope it stays that way – fingers crossed,” she said.
Vet David Walker from Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists in Hursley, near Winchester said the deaths have similarities to Alabama rot, first reported in the US more than 20 years ago, the cause of which was toxins from the E. coli bacteria but this had not yet been traced in the UK.
Mr Walker, said “The owners are taking dogs to the vets then the signs of kidney failure develop two to seven days later.
“The advice I would give to the pet-owning general public is if you see a wound on your dog’s leg, where you might ordinarily leave that for 12 to 24 hours, the advice would be to take your dog to the vets.
“Most vets are now aware of the condition so seek early veterinary attention.”
A Forestry Commission spokesman said that the cause of the deaths had not yet been confirmed and added that warning signs had been put up. He said: “There have been a few as yet unexplained incidents in the New Forest and the Forestry Commission is working closely with vets and putting up notices to inform the public.
“Owners should always keep their dogs under close control and be aware of anything they may pick up, chew or eat in a woodland area. If their dog becomes ill they should contact a vet as soon as possible with as much information as they can.”