Alabama Rot - what you really need to know!
Further cases of Alabama Rot disease have been reported recently in the news, so we thought we’d update everyone on the latest knowledge about this rather scary disease.
What is Alabama Rot?
Alabama Rot is a disease that only affects dogs. It cannot be transmitted to or from humans.
Its technical name is Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy (CRGV) but it got its Alabama Rot nickname after it was first reported in Greyhounds in America in the 1980’s. So, although it isn’t a new disease to veterinary medicine, it has only really been recognised in the UK since 2012. To keep it in perspective, there have been just over 60 cases confirmed in the UK since 2012 and these have been spread across 16 counties.
Whilst the disease was first recognised in greyhounds, the disease appears to affect any breed of any size, any age and either sex.
The disease does seem to have a seasonal variance, with most cases seen between November and June.
Unfortunately, we are still not sure what the cause is. The most likely currently is a bacterial toxin produced by a bacteria, possibly one called Escherichia coli, although this has not been confirmed.
Usually the first symptoms are wounds or ulcers on the legs but can appear on the body, face or tongue also. These can range in size from 0.5 to 5cm in diameter. It is thought that a significant proportion of dogs with these lesions may recover, but some will go on to develop acute kidney failure between 1 and 10 days after the skin lesions appear. Signs of kidney failure include increased thirst, lethargy, going off their food, vomiting and depression. Unfortunately, once signs of kidney failure are apparent, the prognosis for recovery is poor with an estimated 80-90% mortality rate for dogs which develop kidney failure. However, a few dogs have recovered with intensive treatment at specialist centres. Early diagnosis and treatment was very important in these cases.
How do dogs catch it?
Dogs appear to pick it up from walking in muddy woodland areas.
Since we don’t know the exact cause yet, recommending ways to avoid it are difficult, but common sense measures include avoiding walking in woodland with stagnant areas if possible. If you do have to walk your dogs through muddy woodland, then wash your dog’s coat afterwards and check them over for any obvious sores or ulcers, as well as cuts, hair mats and ticks.
Please remember that the vast majority of skin lesions and sores on dogs are simply due to minor curs, grazes and insect bites and nothing to be concerned about. If your dog does have any odd or unexplained wounds or sores, it is important to get them checked by your vet. In the vast majority of cases, they will simply be able to put your mind at rest that it is nothing to worry about. But they can also carry out further tests if there is any doubt.
Keeping things in perspective.
This is still a very rare disease. Whilst it is a worrying disease to be aware of, it is also important to remember that even if your dog is affected, rapid diagnosis and treatment will give them a much better chance of survival.
Unfortunately, there have now (February 2016) been 2 confirmed local cases in West Sussex at Littlehampton and Angmering, both of which proved fatal.
There have also been cases to the west of us, notably in the New Forest.
For an up to date map of reported cases, please check out this link to Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists who are leading the investigation, treatment and advice on this condition: