Dog owners across the country are being urged to take extra precautions when out walking their pets, to help prevent the spread of the deadly disease, Alabama Rot.
The mysterious illness, which first appeared in the late 1980s affecting greyhounds in America, has spread to at least 18 counties in England, with 46 cases confirmed since December 2013 – an increase of 460 per cent compared to the period from November 2012 to November 2013.
A Northampton woman has today issued a warning to people walking their dogs after her pet contracted a life threatening rare disease.
June and Billy Rossiter’s pet Staffordshire bull terrier Zak contracted Alabama Rot, shortly after being taken for a walk at the Racecourse park in Northampton on Sunday, April 19.
The disease is usually fatal with dogs suffering intense skin lesions and liver failure.
Mrs Rossiter, 54, of Primrose Hill in Kingsthorpe, says her ‘smashing little fella’ Zak was left fighting for his life.
“It was heartbreaking,” she said. “His flesh was literally falling off behind his neck.
“When I found out he had got this condition and that it was fatal, it was such a worry. Every time the phone went I thought it would be the vets saying your dog has died.”
But she says Zak, who is still recovering at Abington Park Veterinary Surgery, has made a remarkable turnaround, although he is likely to need reconstructive surgery behind his neck.
It is not known exactly how dogs catch the condition, but the Forestry Commission says the cases often occur after dogs have been walking in ‘countryside areas’.
Mrs Rossiter believes her pet caught the disease on the Racecourse as it is the only place she walks him. She took him to see vets shortly after skin lesions stated to appear on the back of his neck and he was diagnosed him with the disease.
She said: “I just wanted to warn dog owners that he could have caught this at the Racecourse.
“If their dog shows symptoms then they should get it to the vet immediately, they can die so quickly.”
Northampton Borough Council and the RSPCA say there have been no other cases of Alabama Rot reported at the Racecourse so far, though the council suggests vets and dog owners report anything to Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists, which is collating research on the condition.
The last reported case of Alabama Rot in Northamptonshire was in Salcey Forest in November.
A Jack Russel died from the condition and the Forestry Commission put up signs around the wooded area to warn other dog owner that the pet was walked exclusively there.
After that incident Towcester vet Cat Arthurs said it was ‘impossible’ to give advice on prevention as the cause is still not known.
The veterinary firm, Vets4Pets, also has a map of where the disease has been reported at www.vets4pets.com/stop-alabama-rot.
Huw Stacey, head of clinical services at Vets4Pets, said: “Of course cases are currently extremely rare and our advice is aimed at informing as many people as possible about the disease, because the warmer weather will soon be upon us and many people will be enjoying the great UK outdoors with their pets; and we want to ensure dogs are kept safe.”