Vets have suggested that a worrying mystery illness that has killed dozens of dogs in the UK since 2012 could be Alabama rot. Previously, the disease was known as seasonal canine illness (SCI), as it appeared to only strike between August and November.

This disease has been known in the US for over 30 years, where it has often affected greyhounds, as well as other breeds. Thus far, suspected cases of Alabama rot have been recorded in the New Forest, along with wooded areas in Cornwall, Surrey, Nottinghamshire, Worcestershire, County Durham and Norfolk.

A new report published in Veterinary Records examined the records of 53 vet practices where dogs were brought in with skin lesions, acute kidney injury and blood clots between November 2012 and March 2014.

Experts found 30 dogs had suffered from Alabama rot, of which 24 sadly had to be put down. There were also 41 suspected cases that did not have enough evidence to be included. A further 22 animals are believed to have died from the disease since March last year, and nine have been infected and recovered.

At present, there is no test or cure for Alabama rot, which is believed to be a rare form of E.coli. This means that vets can only diagnose it by ruling out other conditions.

Mercifully, the disease remains very rare in the UK, so there is no cause for alarm. However, dog owners that notice unusual skin lesions not obviously caused by physical injury (an early symptom) should contact their vet.

The sores are most common on the lower leg, although they can also occur on the chest, face or abdomen. Other symptoms include depression, loss of appetite and vomiting.

Heather Gould, chairman of the New Forest Dog Owners' Group (NFDOG), had the following advice for owners: “They should watch their dogs, wash them if they are muddy and look for any sores or lesions. If they're worried they should go to the vet at the earliest opportunity.”

Written by: Hannah