Pet owners warned of deadly virus killing dogs in the UK

Dog owners warned Alabama Rot
(Image credit: Getty)

Pet owners have been warned about Alabama Rot - a deadly flesh-eating disease that is spreading across the UK after it killed five dogs.

The deadly Alabama Rot is a fatal flesh-eating virus that slowly eats away at the animals skin and it has started spreading again in the UK after two more cases were confirmed by vets.

The warning comes after pet owners were alerted to the dangers of winter walks, and against walking their dogs after a mystery illness was reported earlier this year.

The Alabama Rot virus originally appeared in the 1980s and was first detected in the UK in 2012. In 2019 it killed one dog a week with a total of 284 deaths in the UK to date. Around 28 death cases were reported in 2021 and 47 in 2020 and now it's claimed the lives of five dogs so far this year - the two latest cases were discovered in Bristol and Kingston, Devon.

Now experts at Anderson Moores Veterinary specialists in Winchester have issued a warning to all dog owners in the hope of raising awareness around this rare but deadly disease.

David Walker, American, RCVS and EBVS European specialist in small animal internal medicine, leads the team and he warned, "We’re very sad to confirm two further cases of CRGV. Unfortunately, we find ourselves in the time of year when cases are most commonly identified.

"It is understandably worrying for dog owners; however, I must stress this disease is still very rare."

But with a 90 per cent mortality rate, the signs of the disease are often discovered too late.

He added "We’re advising dog owners across the country to remain calm but vigilant and to seek advice from their local vets if their dog develops unexplained skin lesions."

Pet owners warned: What is Alabama Rot?

Alabama Rot is a disease that affects dogs - known as Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy (CRGV) - it damages the blood vessels in the skin and kidneys, which causes visible sores on the skin and can lead to severe organ dysfunction and ultimately kidney failure.

Dogs who happen to contract the deadly disease are often in need of early intensive veterinary care often provided at a specialist facility.

As pet owners are warned about Alabama Rot, Mr Walker, explained, "We have been at the forefront of research into CRGV for almost a decade and have witnessed first-hand the often-devastating effects of the disease.

"Treatment largely revolves around intensive management of the sudden onset kidney failure and, sadly, with our current understanding of the disease, is only successful in around 10 per cent of cases."

A new website has been launched to inform pet owners about the signs and symptoms to raise awareness around Alabama Rot in the hope that if dogs are infected that it gets picked up sooner rather than later.

What is Alabama Rot caused by?

Pet owners warned Alabama Rot is thought to be mostly caused by walking dogs in the countryside. Cases reported throughout the UK have mostly come from pet owners that have walked their dogs in the countryside and most of these cases were reported throughout winter and spring.

But with two further cases confirmed in the UK, vets want to make pet owners aware of the symptoms and the dangers.

What does Alabama Rot look like at the start?

Alabama Rot appears to look like skin sores at the start and these skin sores have not been caused by injury. They can be in the form of lesions, swelling, a patch or red skin or ulcer like in its appearance. They are mostly found below the knee or elbow but can sometimes be found on the stomach or face.

Selina Maycock
Senior Family Writer

Selina is a Senior Family Writer for GoodtoKnow and has more than 16 years years of experience. She specialises in royal family news, including the latest activities of Prince George, Charlotte, Louis, Archie and Lilibet. She also covers the latest government, health and charity advice for families. Selina graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2006 with a degree in Journalism, and gained her NCTJ and NCE qualifications. During her career, she’s also written for Woman, Woman's Own, Woman&Home, and Woman's Weekly as well as Heat magazine, Bang Showbiz - and the Scunthorpe Telegraph. When she's not covering family news, you can find her exploring new countryside walking routes, catching up with friends over good food, or making memories (including award-winning scarecrows!)