A mother has been left devastated after her dog’s sudden death was believed to be the first recorded case of Alabama Rot in West Sussex.
The rare flesh-eating disease that affects dogs has been on the UK radar since 2012, but there are few treatments available and a slim chance of survival.
Nicky Cornford of Winter Knoll, Littlehampton, welcomed puppy Dash into the family last year.
“This was the first dog so it was quite special and he did everything with the family,” said the mother of two.
Nicky had read about Alabama Rot in the media and decided to seek advice from her local vets, which confirmed there were no reported cases in the area.
She said: “Palm oil had washed up on the beach so we decided to concentrate on the parks.”
Avoiding the coast, Nicky took her dog for a walk in Patching Wood, but three days later she noticed a sore had developed on Dash’s stomach.
“This became ulcerous, it was very raw and it wouldn’t heal. Then he came out with more on his paws two days after that.
“He started to go very quiet and he wouldn’t touch his food,” said Nicky.
Taking Dash to Pets at Home in Rustington, the team were able to take bloods to check his kidneys, prescribe antibiotics and fit him with a cone to allow his wounds to heal.
“They didn’t think there was cause for concern,” said Nicky.
“He started to pick up and was full of beans, but then he went down hill.”
After a follow up appointment a urine test was conducted and the vet detected deterioration of the kidneys. Sadly, all the symptoms were pointing to Alabama Rot.
Nicky was referred to specialists in the canine disease, Anderson Moores, based in Hampshire.
Also known as cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy, it was first detected in the US after a number of greyhounds were diagnosed in the 1980s.
Since November 2012, more than 60 dogs across the UK have been identified with symptoms similar to those affected in the US.
These include lesions, lack of appetite, tiredness and vomiting.
A vet at the Hampshire practice confirmed Nicky’s fears and gave a verbal diagnosis of Alabama Rot.
“The only other option was dialysis which they do up at the London University, but you’re talking about £15,000,” said Nicky.
Dash was kept in for tests, but he was only a step away from total kidney failure.
“They called me while I was in Sainsbury’s to say there was not much else they could do and I walked out crying,” she said.
“I couldn’t believe how unlucky we were. I was the one to walk him in the woods, so I feel really bad.
“It’s been a dramatic time for us, there were tears and you have kids you have to be strong for.”
It will not be officially confirmed whether Dash died from complications related to Alabama Rot or not, but once a postmortem is carried out the family will be notified.
Internal medical clinician at Anderson Moores, Laura Holm, said if the results come back positive for the disease it will be the first confirmed case in Sussex.
“Cases have cropped up all over the UK but the course does remain unknown so it’s not clear if they’ve contracted something from the environment that is triggering it,” said Laura.
Research into the disease is being carried out by the New Forest Dog Owners Group, but donations are needed. To help, click here
Nicky added: “We’re still waiting on the results, but I’m in no doubt that it was Alabama Rot.