Dog owners in Lancashire are being warned to take extra precautions when out walking their pets this summer, to help combat a deadly disease.
The mysterious illness, Alabama Rot, which first appeared in the 1980s in America, has infected 78 dogs in the UK since 2012 - with 14 of them being in 2016 so far.
Vets are now working together to increase awareness and help to find causes of the disease.
David Walker, from Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists, said: “The cause of Alabama Rot, clinically known as idiopathic cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV), is still unknown and there is no known way to prevent a dog from contracting the disease.
“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.”
The vets, which has experts in Alabama Rot, is calling for all UK vets to contact them if they see a dog suspected to have the illness.
David added: “Only tests on a kidney from an affected dog (most likely post mortem) will give 100% confirmation of the disease.
“There have been a number of cases ‘confirmed’ by vets, but unless we carry out analysis of the affected pet, we will never be able to confirm the disease.”
Vets4Pets, which has nearly 400 practices across the UK, is supporting the research work carried out by Anderson Moores to help understand the disease, how it can be treated and possibly prevented.
Dr Huw Stacey, director of clinical services at Vets4Pets, said: “The concern among vets in the UK is that, unlike the Alabama Rot that affected greyhounds in America, the disease in the UK does not seem to target any specific breed, age, sex or weight of dog.
“Treatment is supportive, but is only successful in 20-30% of cases, which is why we’re encouraging all dog owners to use the online interactive guide to help them understand the clinical signs and confirmed locations of Alabama Rot.
“The first sign that is normally seen is a skin sore that isn’t caused by a known injury.
“Most commonly these sores are found below the elbow or knee and appear as a distinct swelling, a patch of red skin or are open and ulcer-like.
“If a dog becomes affected the best outcome will probably come from early and intensive veterinary care, which has resulted in some dogs successfully recovering.
“Any dog owners who are worried that their pet might have Alabama Rot should contact their veterinary practice immediately.
“We would also encourage all vets and owners to work with David and his team at Anderson Moores so we can have a clear picture of confirmed cases in the UK, to help prevent more dogs falling victim to this terrible disease.”
For more information, visit: www.vets4pets.com/stop-alabama-rot.