Veterinarians are warning pet owners to keep an eye out for a flesh-eating bacterial infection that has killed several dogs in the last two months, as reported by The Independent.
Alabama Rot, first identified in the U.S., is a condition that is caused by E. coli bacteria excreting harmful toxins. These toxins tend to cause massive skin lesions and ulcers on a dog’s body, which if infected by additional pathogens could lead to more potent infections and perhaps even fatal consequences. In particular, kidney failure occurs in around 25 percent of cases.
This condition was originally spotted in greyhounds in the 1980s, although both labradors and cocker spaniels have recently been affected in the United Kingdom. In fact, these two breeds were shown to suffer from Alabama Rot at roughly the same time, sparking fears that this could represent the beginning of a new outbreak.
— Western Morning News (@WMNNews) December 18, 2015
“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, told the Western Daily Press. “If you think your dog might be presenting with this illness, it really is a case of drop everything and get to the vets.”
Currently, there is 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 not sound like much, 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.