Killer dog disease is extremely rare

IT’S pouring with rain, again, and the last thing I want to be doing is walking my dogs.

Sadly, it is not an activity that can be considered optional as far as they’re concerned.

Nothing for it then, but to wrap up against the elements and head for the relative shelter of the local woods.

Or should I? What about this new killer dog disease that is to be found in every forest in the land (if certain tabloid reports are anything to go by)?

Media interest in Alabama Rot, or idiopathic cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy, to give the condition its medical name, seems to have been generated after two cases of dogs with acute kidney injury and skin lesions were recognised in the New Forest, Hampshire, in late 2013.

Reported cases have been confined to an extremely limited number of animals, and whilst the majority were documented between December 2012 and March 2013 in the New Forest, cases were also reported in Cornwall, Dorset, Surrey, Worcestershire and County Durham.

The dogs seen have initially presented to their local vets with skin wounds of unknown origin and have gone on to develop clinical signs of kidney failure within two to seven days.

The skin lesions have generally been 1cm to 4cm in length; they have generally been below the knee or elbow and have either been a red patch with hair loss or a defect in the skin (an ulcer).

These lesions are typical of a cutaneous vasculopathy, where patches of skin die due to damage to the blood vessels in the skin (i.e. the wounds seen in these cases are not thought to have been traumatic wounds sustained on a walk).

Kidney blood tests at the time of presentation have often come back normal, with abnormal results often two to four days later.

So while the disease itself is very unpleasant and potentially fatal, I would stress that it appears to be incredibly rare.

We have never seen a case of Alabama Rot at Robson and Prescott and, to the best of my knowledge, neither have any of our neighbouring practices.

The fact is that the vast majority of skin lesions we see are not even remotely related to this disease and nor are the cases of kidney disease we see in dogs.

I think that this message has been somewhat lost in the editing process in a number of media outlets.

At Robson and Prescott we are taking a number of sensible precautions when we see skin wounds of unknown origin in dogs, for example in our choices of anti-inflammatory treatment, but we are certainly not encouraging you to rush your dog into us the instant you spot a small cut or graze.

As ever, we are available to give advice if you are worried.

By CHRIS GREEN, Director and Senior Vet