There is a deadly disease that has been spreading across the UK over the last few years, it can be fatal to dogs and is difficult to treat with a death rate of 85 – 90%(1). Not much is known about this disease so being aware of the symptoms and spotting it early is key to trying to treat it.
What is Alabama Rot?
“Cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV or ‘Alabama rot’) is a serious disease which has only recently been recognised in dogs in the UK. It causes lesions on the skin and occasionally in the mouth, which can look like bites, sores, wounds or stings. Some dogs go on to develop life-threatening kidney failure. Any age, sex, or breed of dog can be affected. CRGV is a disease caused by damage to blood vessels of the skin and kidney. It causes tiny blood clots to form in the blood vessels which blocks them and can ultimately lead to damage of the affected tissue. In the skin, this causes ulceration; however, in the kidney it can lead to severe organ dysfunction (kidney failure). What is CRGV? CRGV is a disease caused by damage to blood vessels of the skin and kidney. It causes tiny blood clots to form in the blood vessels which blocks them and can ultimately lead to damage of the affected tissue. In the skin, this causes ulceration; however, in the kidney it can lead to severe organ dysfunction (kidney failure) ” (2)
Where did it come from?
As the name implies it was first seen in Alabama, USA and initially started appearing amongst greyhounds in the 1980s. Even though it was first recognised in Alabama there were later confirmed cases throughout the United States.
The first suspected cases in the UK were in 2012, and there are already 30 confirmed cases in 2018 bring the total to 153 (4), and unlike the disease that was reported in the US it is not just greyhound breeds that are being affected.
What are the symptoms?
“Affected dogs will first exhibit skin sores, which take the form of lesions, open wounds, ulcers, localised inflammation or areas of red skin. Although they are commonly found on the legs below the knee or elbow, they can also be found elsewhere on the body, such as the stomach, face or tongue. Hair loss may also be evident, and you may notice your dog licking at the area.
After a period of 2-7 days, you may observe vague, more generalised signs of illness, such as severe malaise, loss of appetite and vomiting, as your dog succumbs to kidney failure. This happens as the disease causes tiny clots to form in the blood vessels, leading to ulceration in the skin and severe organ dysfunction in the kidneys.” (1)
If your dog shows any symptoms then take them to the vet immediately, most of the time skin conditions are not CRGV but it’s always best to get it checked by a vet.
How do I stop my dog getting Alabama Rot?
Due to not much being known about the disease and what causes it, it’s hard to know how to prevent it. Most advice at the moment seems to be that if you walk your dog in a wet or muddy area to make sure they’re washed off after their walks, but still be aware of the symptoms as washing our dogs off still might not prevent it.
“Unfortunately, there is no current cure for Alabama Rot, although, if caught early enough, there is some hope for eventual recovery.
Time is of the essence with this disease, so if you are at all concerned about your dog, contact your vet as soon as possible. Pay close attention to your dog’s skin immediately after walking and make sure they are adequately wiped down or fully bathed if heavily covered in mud.
Of course, the spread of Alabama Rot is very worrying, but it is important not to panic. The number of dogs affected, while it may seem high, is comparatively small in relation to the number of dogs that are walked every day in the UK. As the occurrence of disease is far-reaching and has had a presence in many counties up and down the country, there is no real evidence to suggest any areas are more at risk than others, so remain vigilant but don’t let anxiety prevent you from walking your dog.” (1)
With still so much unknown about this disease there is a lot that needs to be done before we can successfully help our canine friends. If you are interested in donating to the Alabama Rot Research Fund then visit their site here. www.arrf.co.uk
(2) Anderson Moores June 2015 CRGV Newsletter.
(3) Vets4Pets – The Vet Report
(4) Alabama Rot Research Fund