Signs warn dog owners of killer disease

Dog owner John Tricker: "He was the most precious thing in the world to me"

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Signs are to be put up in the New Forest warning dog owners about a mysterious disease that has killed 13 dogs across Britain in recent months.

The Forestry Commission notices tell owners to take their pet to a vet should it develop lesions on its legs, paws or face.

Vets say the disease - which leads to kidney failure - is similar to "Alabama Rot", which was first seen in the US in the 1980s.

The source of the disease is unknown.

However, the Environment Agency has ruled out chemical contamination in water supplies.

The majority of the dogs that died in the past year were in the New Forest, but there were also others in Surrey, Cornwall, Worcestershire and County Durham.

The notices say owners should take their dog to a vet even if the lesions appear a week after a walk.

Alabama Rot had been associated with greyhounds, but the deaths in Britain in the past year have affected a variety of breeds.

'Trigger' unknown

David Walker, from Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists in Hursley, near Winchester, said: "What I would say is that if you see a skin wound on your dog then don't just leave it.

"Ordinarily you might say I'll leave that for 24, 48 hours - I would say don't do that, get down to your local vet."

He added: "The dogs that have pulled through seem to be the ones that have presented earlier on in the disease course. However, that doesn't hold true for all of the patients, and dogs seems to be affected to varying degrees."

Mr Walker said his practice first saw cases in December 2012 and since then vets had developed a "much better handle on what the disease is" - but the "trigger" is still unknown.

He said it was "very similar" to Alabama Rot, which was thought to be related to a toxin produced by E. coli bacteria.

Lesions on legs

But Mr Walker said his team had "looked very hard" for the bacteria and the toxin in infected dogs and not found either.

Alabama Rot - the common name for idiopathic renal glomerular vasculopathy - only affected greyhounds when it was identified in the US in the 1980s.

The recent cases in England are different because various breeds have been affected - but Mr Walker said the "pathology [of the disease] is exactly the same".

Like Alabama Rot, the first external symptom of the disease affecting dogs in England is lesions, usually on their legs.

More lesions can appear elsewhere on the body, and in some cases dogs can suffer kidney failure and die.

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