A devastated couple have urged dog owners to take care after their beloved Cocker Spaniel lost her life to Alabama Rot.
Rebecca Fox, 29, and her husband James were on holiday near Delamere Forest in mid-May and had also been to beaches in Wales with their dogs.
The couple got some antiseptic spray to see if that would help, but by the Sunday, Millie had become ‘very lethargic’.
At first, Rebecca and James put it down to their pet being tired as she was on holiday but they took her to specialists as soon they suspected she had Alabama Rot — you can find everything you need to know about Alabama Rot here.
Rebecca told Cheshire Live: “We went to Delamere Forest on May 14, which was a Friday. Predominantly we walked through the forest. We did visit north Wales a few times.
“We went on Colwyn beach, also went to Llandudno around the town and stuff. We also went to Rhyl, but Millie didn’t go on the beach in Rhyl because she already had the bad paw by then.”
She added that it had been “a very wet week” with “awful weather” and it was “very muddy everywhere”.
“Lots of water, especially lots of mud around the site where we were in the forest. We had been there for a week, and so the next Friday we were all in the log cabin and Millie started frantically licking her front paw.
“So we thought it had got a bit infected, she was limping and holding it up as well by that point. It came on really suddenly.
“On the Saturday, we went to a Pets at Home nearby and we got her some antiseptic spray. But we obviously we didn’t allow her to go on a walk because we didn’t want anything getting in it.
“By Sunday night she was very lethargic and we thought because we had two other dogs and that we were on holiday as well, we thought she was a bit tired.”
Rebecca added that Millie had always been “a bit of a drama queen in general” so they didn’t “think much of it” – but then she was very quiet coming home from the holiday.
Rebecca and her husband decided to take Millie to their local vet as her paw was infected. The couple were initially given a antiseptic bathing treatment to treat Millie’s paw.
“But on the Tuesday, the Cocker Spaniel’s condition got worse. Rebecca added: “We booked an appointment at our local vets at 6pm that night because we were worried about her paw infection as it was pussy and everything.
“Initially they sent us away saying it was a paw infection and gave us some antiseptic bathing stuff to put on her. By the Tuesday afternoon she started being sick and that continued and deteriorated all day. Then she couldn’t move much and couldn’t keep her limbs still.
“So we took her back at midnight that Tuesday and she stayed at our local vets all night and they rang us on the Wednesday to say her kidney numbers were rising dramatically, that they were failing basically.”
It is not known what causes Alabama Rot, but the disease attacks the blood vessels in the skin and kidneys, causing blood clots to block the vessels, form ulcers and lead to organ failure.
Dog owners should look out for:
- Unexplained redness
- Swelling of the skin
- Reduced appetite
- Tiredness, caused by kidney failure
Despite the vets’ efforts to save her, Millie began to go downhill and eventually Rebecca and James got a call to say they had better come in.
Rebecca said Millie couldn’t move and she was ‘dying in front’ of them. She added: “The vets said we can refer her to a specialist in Solihull in Birmingham and we thought yes, let’s give her the best chance.
“Bearing in my mind it was suspected Alabama Rot because it is such a fast disease, once it gets hold of the kidneys it’s just acceleration.
“So she was in Solihull from Wednesday afternoon where she was getting worse all through to Thursday. Thursday night we got the call to say ‘I think you need to come in the morning because she’s starting to struggle now’.
“Then on the Friday we went into her and she just lay there just moving her eyes, she was dying in front of us.”
Sadly, the couple had to make the decision that the ‘kindest thing’ was to have Millie put down and she died on May 28.
Rebecca said: “We had to do the kindest thing unfortunately and put her to sleep. She was only six years old, a happy, active spaniel. It was just how it took her, from finding the paw to her dying was just seven days.
“And she was a well and happy dog and this is why we want to raise awareness of this disease because of how quickly it takes dogs when it gets hold of their kidneys.”
A biopsy was taken from Millie, which confirmed that Alabama Rot, formally known as CRGV disease, caused the six-year-old’s kidney failure.
Rebecca added that one of the other dogs that was with them, her mum and dad’s dog, also presented a sore paw on the Thursday night before Millie died.
He is now getting ‘blood tests rigorously’ every two days to check his liver and kidney function. After this, they will give him a 14-day window to see if anything develops.
Rebecca said: “So we did have two out of the three dogs present with lesions, and now my mum and dad’s dog Stanley is having blood tests rigorously to check his liver and kidney function.”
Now, Rebecca and her husband want to raise awareness of this little-known but deadly disease and have set up a JustGiving page to raise funds for research. They warned dog owners if they see their pet with an unexplained sore on them to take them to the vet.
The 29-year-old said: “We want help other people recognise the signs. The disease at the minute is not very well-researched they don’t have a lot about it at the moment unfortunately. We don’t want people to go through what we went through.”
A spokesperson for Forestry Holidays said: “We are aware of the dog who passed away having recently stayed in a Forest Holidays cabin at Delamere Forest.
“We are really saddened to hear about any dog who is ill with, or dies from, Alabama Rot, particularly if a forest is one of the places they have recently visited.
“The cause of this illness and where it comes from currently remains unknown, so no one is able to advise if any place is less risky than another.”
They added: “The best source of information on the illness for pet owners is by vet specialists Anderson Moores and we share this via our website and Forest Holidays to make sure this information is available to visitors.
“Anderson Moores are not currently advising dog owners to avoid any particular location. Although an environmental cause for this disease is considered possible, it has not been proven with testing to date.
“We advise any dog owner who is concerned about the health of their pet to contact a vet, and although Alabama Rot can be very serious, fortunately the number of dogs affected with skin lesions and kidney failure remains low.”
To donate to Rebecca and James’s JustGiving page, please click here.