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The UK has now seen a total of 169 confirmed cases of Alabama Rot across 38 counties, since 2012. Six cases were confirmed in 2012, climbing to 40 in 2017 and 46 so far in 2018.
The new research, which was carried out in conjunction with the Royal Veterinary College, found that almost 95% of confirmed cases of Alabama Rot have occurred between November and May, with the highest number of cases being reported in February.
It also found most of the cases have been confirmed in western and southern parts of England, with the highest number found in West Sussex, Dorset, southern Hampshire, Greater Manchester and Monmouthshire. Far fewer cases have been reported from the eastern half of the country and East Anglia in particular.
David Walker, Head of medicine at Anderson Moores and co-author of the research, said: "This research, which was funded by the New Forest Dog Owners Group and the charity Alabama Rot Research Fund, was designed to look for geographical patterns, as well as environmental and climatic risk factors.
"A distinct seasonal pattern is suggested, with the vast majority of cases occurring between November and March, and limited cases over the summer months – just 6.5% of cases have been confirmed from June to October.
"In the scientific world a lot of research is not earth-shattering, but it all builds together and little by little we make progress.
"This information is good in terms of how we manage the next stage of research, however we need to be careful and not jump to any conclusions at this point".
Researchers say the disease has been reported in a wide range of breeds (35 in total) but, due to the small number of cases, it is not yet possible to say with any certainty whether a specific breed has an inherently increased or decreased risk of the disease. Any patterns may simply be the result of varying breed populations in different parts of the country.
Dr Huw Stacey, vet and director of clinical services at Vets4Pets, has been supporting research on the condition for a number of years. He said: "Since we held the first Alabama Rot conference in May 2017, vets and relevant professionals have been working hard to understand more about the condition.
"We know how the disease presents and how it affects dogs internally, and this research adds some interesting information that may help to increase vets’ index of the suspicion for the disease.
"The information on climate and ground type will help us further explore possible triggers for the disease, but at the moment we can’t say if any breeds are more likely to develop the disease.
"The first sign of the disease that is normally seen is a skin sore or lesion that isn’t caused by a known injury. Most commonly these sores are found on the lower half of the leg and appear as a distinct swelling, a patch of red skin or are open and ulcer-like.
"With 46 cases in 2018 already, it is understandably very worrying for dog owners, but we think the increase in cases is partially due to an increased awareness of the disease.
"However, this disease is still very rare, so we’re advising dog owners to remain calm but vigilant, and seek advice from their local vet if their dog develops unexplained skin lesions.
"While this research may be a stepping stone to finding the cause of Alabama Rot, there is currently no known way to prevent a dog from contracting the disease."
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