With cases of Alabama Rot cropping up in Dorset recently, dog owners have become worried about the risk to their pets.

Mystery still surrounds the cause of Alabama Rot, which is a rare but potentially fatal disease.

Winchester-based Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists are spearheading research into the disease.

Below we answer some questions about Alabama Rot and how it is detected and treated.

What is Alabama Rot?

Alabama Rot, or cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV), is a disease that damages blood vessels in the skin and kidneys. It causes small blood clots to form in the vessels, which damages the tissue lining. This causes ulcers on a dog’s skin, but it can also cause kidney failure, which can be fatal.

Cases of Alabama Rot, which first appeared in the late 1980s in greyhounds in America, have spread to England in the last five years and are affecting all breeds, with nine confirmed cases in the Dorset area.

What causes Alabama Rot?

The cause of the disease is currently unknown, but Anderson Moores suspect there is an environmental trigger – although they have yet to confirm this.

Some reports in the United States suggest the disease is linked to the bacteria E.coli, but there is no evidence for this yet in cases seen in the UK.

The majority of dogs who have been treated for Alabama Rot have been walked in muddy or woodland areas.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms begin with skin lesions or ulcers, often on the paws or legs but they can also be found on a dog’s face, mouth, or tongue, or on their lower body.

Signs of kidney failure include loss of appetite, tiredness, and vomiting.

On average, dogs suffer from kidney failure three days after showing skin lesions. However, sometimes it can be up to 10 days or simultaneously.

The fatality rate is 80 per cent so the earlier the disease is caught and treated by a vet, the higher the chances of recovery.

Vets remind dog owners that most of the time a skin problem will NOT be caused by Alabama Rot; however, the lesions in the disease can be difficult to distinguish from cuts, wounds, stings or bites, so if in doubt it is better to seek veterinary advice.

How do I stop my dog from getting Alabama Rot?

As the cause is currently unknown, it is difficult for vets to advise on this.

However, checking a dog’s body once a day for lumps and bumps and checking them regularly for the above signs is good practice.

Also, vets suggest washing any area of a dog which becomes wet or muddy on a walk.

Where have cases of Alabama Rot been reported?

There have been nine cases of the disease reported in Dorset since 2012. Cocker Spaniel Maggie who died from the disease recently had been walked in the Bearwood and the Canford Heath area, as well as Verwood forest.

Nearly 20 cases have also been reported in the New Forest.

How is it treated?

If your dog develops a skin lesion, seek the advice of your vet. They will decide if the dog needs antibiotics and if the lesion needs covering.

Dogs showing signs of kidney failure will need much more intensive treatment, and the vet may recommend referral to a specialist.

What can I do to help?

The Alabama Rot Research Fund (ARRF) is a charity set up to fund research into the disease.

Visit arrf.co.uk.