What you need to know about Alabama Rot and Seasonal Canine Illness

You may have seen recent coverage in the national news about a mystery canine disease that’s killed several dogs over the last few months, with symptoms similar to those of Alabama Rot. Though not a widespread problem, and not something you should be overly concerned about, it is worth knowing the signs to look out for, and how to help prevent infection. It's also worth knowing about Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI), a relatively rare but sometimes fatal illness which can also develop following spring and summer walks. Our partners at vetfone have issued some advice on the signs and symptoms to look out for.
Dog lying with its head on the grass in a sunny field.

Alabama Rot

Alabama Rot was first recorded in America in the 1980s and is thought, though not proved, to be caused by the E Coli bacteria. Historically it mainly affected Greyhounds but has been seen in a variety of breeds over recent years. The latest cases have been found in the New Forest, Hampshire as well as wooded areas in Cornwall, Surrey, Nottinghamshire, Worcestershire, Co Durham and Norfolk.


The first symptoms are often skin lesions which begin on the legs, chest and abdomen and spread across the skin which do not heal. These can then develop into ulcers. Affected dogs often present signs of severe depression, loss of appetite and vomiting. Left untreated the dog can then develop acute kidney failure so treatment by a vet is vital. If your dog develops skin lesions following a walk (even up to a week later) you should seek advice.


It’s not easy to keep dogs under close control in woodland areas, but be vigilant of anything they may pick up, chew or eat on their walk. Look out for wounds or lesions on the limbs or face that don’t heal. And if you are concerned in any way contact a vet. If you’re a MORE TH>N Pet Insurance customer you can call vetfone on the freephone helpline for advice on 0800 072 8190 any time of the day or night.

Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI)

Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI) was first identified in 2010 after appearing in the areas of East Anglia (Sandringham Estate and Thetford Forest), Nottinghamshire (Sherwood Forest/Clumber Park area), Lincolnshire and Warwickshire between the months of August and November.


As with Alabama Rot, symptoms usually appear up to three days after a walk in wooded areas and include vomiting, diarrhoea (watery to bloody), abdominal pain, lethargy, Anorexia, shaking and trembling (muscle tremors), and fever. The majority of dogs affected will make a full recovery if treated by a vet who will administer fluids and antibiotics by a drip.

Be vigilant

Again be vigilant on summer walks. Research being carried out on the disease is focussed on the possibility it’s caused by toxins that occur naturally in plants, fungi and algae blooms in woodland areas. If your dog chews anything then develops symptoms, contact a vet for advice. If you’re a MORE TH>N Pet Insurance customer you can call vetfone on the freephone helpline for advice on 0800 072 8190 any time of the day or night.

(First published 23 March 2015)

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