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Alabama Rot and importance of vaccination

Alabama Rot and importance of vaccination

Tuesday Jan 21st was the day that I first became aware of “Alabama Rot” . I was just finishing seeing Dexter, a fantastic little Cavalier king charles spaniel who unfortunately had chronic allergic skin disease which needed reassessment on a monthly basis. His  very dedicated owner, who I had got to know well since being referred by another clinic, ended the consult by asking me about the condition “Alabama Rot”, which he’d heard about on the BBC website .

I must admit, I had been caught unawares by this question and pleaded total ignorance of this disease. I fortunately got upto speed very quickly  and with the help of Dr Google was able to answer and allay many clients concerns about this lifethreathening illness over the subsequent few weeks.

Idiopathic cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy, otherwise known as CRGV or Alabama rot is a disease that has been known about since the late 1980’s. It was initially thought to only affect Greyhounds and the dogs reported with the disease in the USA presented with kidney failure and/or skin lesions. The cause of the disease remains unknown.

Since December 2012 a number of  cases have been seen in the United Kingdom. Most of these were from the New Forest. However, cases have also been identified in other counties throughout the UK.

The skin lesions are a symptom of the disease rather than being traumatic wounds from an injury. Typically the skin lesions have been below the knee or elbow. They may present as a focal swelling, a patch of red skin or a defect in the skin (like an ulcer). Over the subsequent two to seven days the affected dogs have developed clinical signs of kidney failure which can include vomiting, reduced appetite and tiredness.

Now as of March 10th 2014, there had been 27 confirmed cases. I would stress that a relatively small number of dogs have been affected with respect to the total number of dogs in the UK. Most skin lesions on dogs limbs will not be related to this disease.Although , it clearly is tragic for those dogs and their owners, there are much more commonly presented infectious diseases which we should be concerned about.

Vaccination against infectious disease in dogs and cats remains for some a hot , somewhat controversial topic. Since the early seventies when vaccinations were introduced, the cases of Distemper, Parvovirus, Leptospirosis in dogs and flu and enteritis in cats that  one used to see  on an almost  daily basis have diminished dramatically.Deaths have been prevented.

Currently under the instruction of vaccine manufacturers, most vets will vaccinate on a yearly basis. After all, the benefits over the last 30-40 years have been clear to see. Yet, there is some evidence now that the immune response produced by the vaccination lasts longer that one year in most animals. The problem is unless we check antibody titres to infectious disease by taking blood tests , then we don’t know which animals are still immune, and also we cannot be sure that having a decent antibody titre guarantees protection.Because of this, we at City Road recommend under WSAVA guidelines that vaccination still occur on an annual basis against leptospirosis  , and 3 yearly against Distemper, Parvovirus and Hepatitis  at the same time as the annual health check.

On the flip side , many holistic vets believe that vaccinations can cause disease such as immune mediated haemolytic disease and cancer. There is no evidence to confirm this. Yet many homeopathic vets will prescribe nosodal treatments to produce the same response as vaccinations. I have encountered this in Cornwall, where an unvaccinated dog was given nosodal vaccination and died a horrible, agonisingly  painful death caused by Infectious canine hepatitis. Years ago , I worked as a consultant veterinary dermatologist for the eminent veterinary surgeon, Dr Bruce Fogle in London ( Father of the TV presenter, Ben). He made me aware of  a study designed by scandinavian veterinary homeopathists whereby a group of arctic sled dogs were given nosodes to protect against Distemper and then these dogs were exposed to Distemper. Guess what happened? Most of these dogs died ! Incredibly worrying that they’d perished but also how these scientists managed to get a licence to pursue this deathly trial.

So are there any side effects caused by vaccination?? Very occasionally, the dog or cat may become off colour for a couple of days. It may become fevered, lame or develop an abscess at the site of injection. I have seen anaphylaxis caused by vaccination but never death.

From the human perspective, the MMR vaccine- autism link has almost certainly had an adverse effect on vaccination in pets. The MMR vaccine controversy centered around the 1998 publication of a fraudulent research paper in the medical journal The Lancet that lent support to the subsequently discredited claim that colitis and autism spectrum disorders could be caused by the combined measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.  Vaccination rates in the UK and Ireland dropped sharply,which was followed by significantly increased incidence of measles and mumps, resulting in deaths and severe and permanent injuries.

Similarly, in pets, I feel that because vaccines have helped to near eradicate disease in vaccinated animals in some areas, people have felt it less necessary to vaccinate. What is happening now is that infectious disease is on the uprise,  and cases of parvovirus for example are being seen more frequently in Cornwall.We as a county are blessed with a beautiful landscape and somewhat ( very occasional ) fantastic weather , but it also does mean that unvaccinated , possibly asymptomatic carriers of virus pets on vacation are a constant source of reinfection.

To conclude, after 21 years of having vaccinated thousands of pets ( and having seen numerous unvaccinated pets die from infectious disease) I still recommend vaccination on an annual basis. Once you have seen one puppy die from Parvovirus, you never wish to see it ever, ever again.

So what do you do as a pet owner?  If you have doubts about the benefits of vaccination, don’t just ignore them .Please come in to City Road , talk, listen , get the facts and hopefully we can allay your fears.

Till next time….