A Northampton woman has issued a warning to people walking their dogs on the Racecourse park after her pet started showing signs of a life threatening rare disease.
June and Billy Rossiter’s pet Staffordshire bull terrier Zak started experiencing skin lesions, shortly after being taken for a walk in the Semilong park on Sunday, April 19.
Vets assessed the dog’s skin condition as showing some of the hallmarks of ‘Alabama rot’, a mysterious illness which first appeared in the late 1980s, but Zak has not been formally diagnosed with the condition while tests are ongoing.
The disease initially only affected greyhounds in America but has spread to at least 16 counties in England and is believed to be linked to countryside areas.
It is usually fatal with dogs suffering intense skin lesions and liver failure.
Mrs Rossiter, 54, of Primrose Hill in Kingsthorpe, says her ‘smashing little fella’ Zak was left fighting for his life.
When I found out he had got the condition and that it was fatal, it was such a worry. Every time the phone went I thought it would be the vets saying your dog has diedJune Rossiter
“It was heartbreaking,” she said. “His flesh was literally falling off behind his neck.
“When I found out he had got this condition and that it was fatal, it was such a worry. Every time the phone went I thought it would be the vets saying your dog has died.”
But she says Zak, who is still recovering at Abington Park Veterinary Surgery, has made a remarkable turnaround, although he is likely to need skin grafts behind his neck.
It is not known exactly how dogs catch the condition, but the Forestry Commission says the cases often occur after dogs have been walking in ‘countryside areas’.
Mrs Rossiter believes, if her pet does have Alabama rot, he could have caught the disease on the Racecourse as it is the only place she walks him.
She took him to see vets shortly after skin lesions stated to appear on the back of his neck and he was diagnosed him with ‘thrombotic angiopathy’, a skin condition which is one of the symptoms of Alabama rot.
Mrs Rossiter thought it right to let others know just in case.
She said: “I just wanted to warn dog owners that he could have caught this at the Racecourse.
“If their dog shows symptoms then they should get it to the vet immediately, they can die so quickly.”
Northampton Borough Council and the RSPCA say there have been no other cases of Alabama Rot reported at the Racecourse so far, though the council suggests vets and dog owners report anything to Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists, which is collating research on the condition.
The last reported case of Alabama Rot in Northamptonshire was in Salcey Forest in November.
A Jack Russel died from the condition and the Forestry Commission put up signs around the wooded area to warn other dog owner that the pet was walked exclusively there.
After that incident Towcester vet Cat Arthurs said it was ‘impossible’ to give advice on prevention as the cause is still not known.
The veterinary firm, Vets4Pets, also has a map of where the disease has been reported at www.vets4pets.com/stop-alabama-rot.
Huw Stacey, head of clinical services at Vets4Pets, said: “Of course cases are currently extremely rare and our advice is aimed at informing as many people as possible about the disease, because the warmer weather will soon be upon us and many people will be enjoying the great UK outdoors with their pets; and we want to ensure dogs are kept safe.”