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How to spot the disease killing dozens of dogs by eating their flesh

Mirror logo Mirror 31/03/2017 Joshua Taylor
Credits: Getty © Provided by Trinity Mirror Plc Credits: Getty

A gruesome illness is killing dogs up and down the country. 

But very few pet owners have heard of the difficult-to-treat condition commonly known as Alabama rot.

It first appeared in the UK five years ago and has claimed the lives of dozens of our four-legged friends since then.

Following a recent recent spate of infections around Manchester, we've looked into Alabama rot to bring dog owners up to speed.

There are currently 13 confirmed cases within a 50-mile radius of Manchester, the Manchester Evening News reported .

The devastating condition, officially called CRGV, can lead to a dog's flesh rotting away.

This results in kidney failure, loss of appetite, tiredness and vomiting.

And without urgent treatment, dogs develop a raging fever and can eventually die.

The cause of the mysterious bug is not yet known, but it affects all breeds of dog and is understood to be more prevalent in wet weather conditions.

In total, the UK and Ireland have seen 94 confirmed cases since 2012.

The figures were revealed via an online tool on the Vets4pets website, which allows dog owners to check how many cases there have been in their local area.

How can I stop my dog getting Alabama rot?

Avoid taking your dogs for walks in muddy, wooded areas – especially if there's recently been heavy rainfall.

If that's unavoidable, make sure you wash your dog's paws and legs thoroughly when you get back from the walk.

Where did Alabama rot come from and what causes it?

The condition was first identified among greyhounds in the USA in the 1980s.

It's believed to be caused by toxins produced by bacteria such as E.coli but there is no scientific evidence to back this up.

Because the exact cause has not been found, developing a vaccine is tricky.

What are the symptoms of Alabama rot?

Look out for skin lesions, ulcers, sores or bite marks. Your dog could also become lethargic or suffer a loss of appetite.

Other signs include jaundice, such as a discoloration in your dog's eyes, gums or nostrils.

Vomiting or gagging have been observed in some cases at later stages of Alabama rot.

Kidney failure occurs in a minority of cases, however if it does occur, it usually proves fatal.

Are there any early warning signs?

The first sign normally seen is a skin sore not caused by any known injury.

These are most commonly found below the elbow or knee or on the belly or muzzle.

They appear as a distinct swelling, a patch of red skin or an ulcer-like open wound.

Within two to seven days, affected dogs develop outward signs of kidney failure, which can include vomiting, reduced hunger and an unusual tiredness and lack of energy.

How many cases have there been in the UK?

The first cases were identified in the UK in November 2012.

A Hampshire veterinary practice reported in March 2015 that there had been 103 suspected cases in the UK, including 52 deaths confirmed by post-mortem examination.

Can Alabama rot be treated?

While no vaccination has been found, some dogs can fight off the disease and live with minimal damage.

Sadly, dogs with the disease tend to die because treatment is so limited, but some UK dogs with Alabama rot have been successfully treated in the years since 2013.

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