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Emerging diseases in dogs in the UK

We are grateful for this report by Minna Hagan (ECDA Secretary), who recently attended a veterinary presentation on emerging diseases in dogs.

The main topics were Seasonal Canine Illness (SCI), Alabama Rot and Babesia Canis.

Whereas SCI and Alabama Rot seem to be more seasonal and occurring only in specific months over the year, Babesia Canis is quite worrying. It is a tick-borne illness, transferable to humans, where a tick will act as a vector for the parasite, which will then get into red blood cells. There is no licenced treatment for dogs at the moment. Vets are currently treating any infected dogs with medicine licenced for cattle as well as blood transfusions.

Importance of tick control - more information at

East of England is one of the big risk areas. There was a recent case in Harlow, Essex found on a dog which had not traveled outside the UK, so the disease is in the country already.

On Alabama Rot, Anderson Moores Vets are leading the study on this and are at a stage where they hopefully will get more funding.

It is a seasonal illness with peak months over winter and early spring.

Initially affected Greyhounds in Alabama but in the UK only 1 Greyhound has been affected. Majority are Springers and Labradors, so there may be a working connection perhaps?

They said that, although dogs have unfortunately died, 6 have survived but it cannot be confirmed if these were Alabama Rot cases as the only way of correctly diagnosing this is looking at the kidneys and obviously, you cannot go and take a kidney off of a dog that is alive. Some dogs that had fallen ill had leptospirosis, but not all, some suffered from campylobacteria, but again not all.

SCI: The AHT gave this talk and it was mainly based on their findings (not studied anymore, due to lack of funding). It was interesting to find that if you are a small dog, on "holiday" and walk in same area, same path, you were at a higher risk than medium or large dogs who used the area regularly and walked in different areas.

They did an extensive study around Sandringham Caravan/Camping area and had a botanist from the Natural History Museum present to look at the habitat. Whilst there, 2 dogs from the campsite were on a drip, so it was an excellent opportunity to try to figure out what the cause might be. No clear indication was found but, interestingly, the Natural History Museum person sent a picture of bites/rash to AHT the following day of what could have been caused by harvest mites. Following this, a number of harvest mite infestations were reported on dogs that had fallen ill. Unfortunately, no clear reason for SCI could be determined and therefore AHT could not get funding for the project to move ahead and it has now been closed.

The main message from all of this was that tick/flea/worm control should be every dog owner's top priority, not just for their pet's health but their own health as well.

Further reading:

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