UK & World News

  • 21 January 2014, 16:33

Dog Deaths Mystery: Signs Warn Of Killer Disease

Signs have been erected in the New Forest warning dog owners about an unidentified disease which has caused a spate of "unexplained" dog deaths across the UK.

Several cases were reported to the Forestry Commission between December 2012 and April 2013, prompting an investigation into the "mystery dog illness" which can lead to kidney failure.

A further seven dogs have died outside of the New Forest - including one as recently as this month - in Dorset, Worcestershire, Cornwall, County Durham and Surrey.

Dog owners have been warned to look out for wounds that do not heal or lesions on the limbs or face of their pets.

Other signs their dogs may be affected include vomiting, a loss of appetite and severe depression.

It has been suggested the symptoms are similar to those caused by Alabama Rot, a disease first seen in the US in the 1980s, which affected greyhounds, and is thought to be related to a toxin produced by E. coli bacteria.

However, despite extensive testing, the Forestry Commission said the exact underlying cause remains unknown.

"The reported cases represent an extremely small proportion of the many hundreds of dogs that are exercised in the New Forest every day and it is likely that this syndrome is extremely rare," it said

David Walker, head of medicine at Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists in Winchester, Hampshire, which has dealt with some of the cases, said the practice was aware of 16 dogs being affected in total, 13 of which had died.

He told Sky News: "When we look at the disease under the microscope, it looks very similar to a disease that appeared in the 1980s in the USA known as Alabama Rot. We have looked for an E. coli trigger in some of the affected dogs but we haven't found it.

"We have a much better understanding of what is going on, but we don't know what the underlying trigger is.

"The message we are trying to get out there is for dog owners to remain vigilant."

The issue has also been brought to the attention of the British Veterinary Association.

BVA President and vet Robin Hargreaves told Sky News: "Dog owners in these regions will feel understandably anxious about the recent cases but it seems that only a very small proportion of the dogs walked in these areas each day have been affected.

"Owners should make sure they are aware of the signs and symptoms and contact their vet immediately if they have any concerns. We are keeping our members informed about the ongoing situation."

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