Flesh-eating rot which kills dogs spread by heatwave as dogs die in Cornwall, Devon and Essex – The Sun

FEARS are growing that a horrific bug which eats the flesh of pet dogs has mutated and is spreading in the scorching heatwave.

Previously it had been thought that Alabama Rot only flared in the cold and wet of winter but it now seems to be flourishing in baking hot weather too.

The misery for distraught owners is spiralling this summer, with victims reported in Mullion, Cornwall, in Ivybridge, Devon, and the first known dog to die in Essex.

Vets had always believed the killer disease lurked in icy, soggy fields and woods between November and February.

However, reports that dogs are being eaten alive during the scorching hot weather is a sinister development.

Even the corgi-loving Queen was informed about the danger, as posters went up at the Royal Family's retreat in Sandringham, Norfolk, advising tourists and residents that the woods and fields are heaving with billions of bugs which can kill dogs.


With an estimated nine million pet dogs in Britain, vets are alarmed that the pace of its spread is increasing.

The flesh-eating rot, which has swept across Britain since arriving from America seven years ago, is still a mystery – experts don't know what causes it or how it spreads.

It's struck as far apart as Sussex, Devon, the Lake District, the Midlands, Wales, Scotland and Ireland.

It first appeared among greyhounds in the US state of Alabama in the 1980s and reached the UK in 2012.

Scientists are battling to find a cure but they don't even know the cause, though there is speculation in the US linking it to E.coli.

Lilly Cross, the vet who treated the dog in Ivybridge, Devon, said he was treated for acute kidney failure, but sadly he did not survive.

She said: "The owners' other dog, who was walked in the same area, is absolutely fine.

"The vast majority of skin problems you will see will be wounds, allergies and parasite problems.


Marks, sores or ulcers on the skin will usually appear on the legs or paws.

The marks can look like an area of redness or like a cut or bruise.

Tiredness and fatigue can also be a sign of the nasty disease.

Kidney failure is also a tell-tale sign of Alabama Rot.

Signs of kidney failure include lack of hunger, change in drinking, being sick, and not going to the toilet as much.

To avoid contracting the disease, keep your dog away from very muddy areas.

Wash your dog after a walk if they get wet or muddy.

Check your dog's body daily for anything that's different.

Contact your vet as soon as you suspect that something might be wrong.

"There is still no evidence that avoiding certain dog walks or washing off paws will prevent dogs from contracting the disease."

Highcliff vets' practice in Brantham, on the Essex-Suffolk border, has just released photos of ugly weals on the leg of the dog they had to put down.

They battled in vain to save the pet, from Manningtree, which got the killer bug on holiday with its owners in Gloucestershire, where there have been previous cases of Alabama Rot.

In a Facebook post, Highcliff vets said: "Sadly the condition proved fatal for this beautiful dog, as it does for more than 85% of dogs that are known to have been affected by CRGV (Alabama Rot) and go on to develop kidney failure."

A spokesman at the surgery said "No-one can know whether the condition was contracted locally or whilst the dog was on holiday in Gloucestershire.

"Although an environmental trigger is suspected as a factor in this disease, it is important to point out that this has not been confirmed."

One of the key symptoms of Alabama Rot is skin lesions which can affect the lower limbs and their mouth and tongue.

The best advice is to continue enjoying exercising your dog but always be mindful of certain symptoms which may indicate a nasty disease such as Alabama Rot. These can include lethargy, vomiting and maybe your dog is drinking more than usual

Dr David Walker, a leading expert on Alabama Rot, who works for Winchester-based vets Anderson Moores, said owners should not be put off taking their dogs into fields and woods, despite the risks.

He said: "While there is currently no known way to prevent a dog from contracting the disease, there is a very useful guide available online to help people understand where in the UK confirmed cases have been found and advice on how to spot signs.

"There is a suggestion that there is an environmental factor, we don't have clear evidence to back that up, but it can't not help to wash down your dog after a walk.

"We've seen cases of dogs walked with other dogs, in the same place every day, developing the disease, while the other dogs remained completely unaffected.

"Any owners who are worried that their pet might have Alabama Rot should contact their veterinary practice immediately."


One vet, Dr Ian Hopkins, said "While it is absolutely devastating for the owners, it is important not to panic people and to stress there are lots of nasty diseases out there which, as responsible dog owners, we need to be on our guard against.

"The best advice is to continue enjoying exercising your dog but always be mindful of certain symptoms which may indicate a nasty disease such as Alabama Rot. These can include lethargy, vomiting and maybe your dog is drinking more than usual.

"With Alabama Rot, the dog will often have skin lesions or ulcers – in the mouth, on the tongue and lower limbs including feet are commonplace.

"It affects all types of dogs of all ages which therefore makes it a matter of concern for all dog owners."

London's Royal Veterinary College says the fatality rate is high, with fewer than one in five dogs surviving.

All breeds are at risk, but those which have been affected most include Labradors, English Springer Spaniels, Cocker Spaniels, Whippets, Flatcoated Retrievers, Hungarian Vizlas, and Border Collies.

Vets at Anderson Moores, who have been spearheading research in this country, say "It is possible that there is an environmental 'trigger' but this is currently unknown.

"It is therefore up to each individual dog walker to decide whether to avoid certain types of terrain or certain areas."

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