A FAMILY from Ledbury have spoken out about their heartbreak as their pet dog was killed by a brutal disease often picked up on a walk.

Marley, an eight-year-old golden retriever, died after catching Alabama Rot, which is sometimes thought to come from muddy, wooded areas.

The disease, which originally appeared in the late 1980s, was first detected in the UK in 2012. It affects the kidneys and has a 90 per cent mortality rate.

One of the latest victims of the flesh-eating disease was Marlborough, known as Marley, an eight-and-a-half-year-old golden retriever.

The family says the loss of Marley has left a huge void

The family says the loss of Marley has left a huge void

'You never think it will happen to your dog'

His owner Rebecca Backhouse, who lives in Ledbury, said that while the family were previously aware of Alabama Rot, known as CRGV, the brutality of the disease was shocking and the death had left the family with a huge void.

She said: “We knew about Alabama Rot as a few years ago we lived in Portsmouth and there were some cases nearby in the New Forest. Marley was only a year old then and, while very conscious of the disease, it was one of those things you never think will happen to your dog.

“I first noticed something might be wrong when Marley began licking his back left paw.

"As I’ve always been aware of CRGV, I searched images of lesions and Marley’s didn’t look anywhere near as bad. In fact, it didn’t really look sore, so we wondered whether he’d cut it on a rock or something like that, as he loves the river.

“We confined him to garden rest as we obviously didn’t want it to get infected when out a walk.

"He was a bit sad initially but then he seemed fine and enjoyed a tummy tickle, which he always did."

The next day, Marley's groin had swelled to several times its original size and "looked terrible, almost as if it was gangrenous", she said.

Marleys groin was swollen and he had lesions on his paws

Marley's groin was swollen and he had lesions on his paws

He was taken to the vets, who referred them to specialists Anderson Moores.

“So, I drove Marley to Winchester on the Thursday evening and they were brilliant," she said.

"Catarina Amorim, the vet who looked after Marley, was absolutely wonderful and kept us updated constantly.

“He stayed with Anderson Moores for a week and through much of that time he seemed stable.

“However, the duty vet then called us on the seventh day to say he was struggling to breathe, had fluid in his lungs and had taken a real turn for the worse. So, the kindest thing was to say goodbye. It’s such a brutal disease and moves so quickly.

“Marley would have been nine in August. We had him from just nine weeks old and he was a huge part of the family.

"We had our children after we got him, so they’ve only ever known life with Marley. He’s left us all with a huge void.”

Marley was taken to specialist vets, but they were unable to save him

Marley was taken to specialist vets, but they were unable to save him

'Our sympathies are with the Backhouse family'

Vet Catarina Amorim said: “We were all very sorry to lose Marley and our sympathies are with the Backhouse family.

“Marley developed lesions on his prepuce, which is quite unusual, as well as ulcerated lesions in his groin and on his hind paw.

“He also developed generalised oedema (swelling), which resulted in the swelling his owners had originally seen, and pulmonary oedema (fluid in the lungs)."

Vets are now urging dog owners to remain vigilant after confirming two more cases of deadly Alabama Rot since the start of the year.

Experts at the Linnaeus-owned animal hospital have reported two new cases which have resulted in the death of dogs in Ledbury, Herefordshire, and St Alban’s in Hertfordshire, taking the total since January 1, 2022, to seven.

Dog owners 'should remain calm but vigilant'

The two new confirmed cases follow 28 throughout 2021 and 47 in 2020, taking the total number of confirmed cases in the UK to 286.

While Alabama Rot is often fatal, David Walker from Anderson Moores said the best chance of recovery probably lies with early and intensive veterinary care which may be best provided at a specialist facility.

He said: “We’re very sad to report two further cases of CRGV. Unfortunately, we find ourselves in the time of year when cases are most commonly identified.

“It is understandably worrying for dog owners; however, I must stress this disease is still very rare.

“We’re advising dog owners across the country to remain calm but vigilant and to seek advice from their local vets if their dog develops unexplained skin lesions.”

He added: “Treatment largely revolves around intensive management of the sudden onset kidney failure and, sadly, with our current understanding of the disease, is only successful in around 10 per cent of cases.”