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Alabama Rot

‘Alabama Rot’ is an often-fatal disease emerging in the UK. It was first diagnosed in 2012 and since then there have been over 100 cases confirmed in counties all across the UK. We still don’t know what causes it, why it affects dogs, and if there’s any way to prevent or treat it- it’s a mystery. But there are some things we do know- so read on for an update on this horrible disease.

What is Alabama Rot?

Alabama Rot is also known as Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy (CRGV). It’s a new disease to the UK but is similar to an American disease of Greyhounds- hence the name. The disease causes damage to the tiny blood vessels in the skin and kidneys. Micro-clots form in the vessels, damaging the tissue and leading to skin ulceration and severe, sometimes fatal renal failure.

Dog in wet muddy woodland. Prime territory to be wary of Alabama Rot .
Photo by Kai Wenzel on Unsplash

How do dogs catch Alabama Rot?

We don’t know if Alabama Rot is caused by a virus, a bacteria, a fungus… or something else entirely. So, it’s hard to tell how dogs catch it. We also know that it usually happens in the winter and spring (November to March) although there are odd cases in other months. There’s also a possible association with muddy walks, and the two of these could be connected due to the higher rainfall in winter and spring.

Which dogs can get Alabama Rot?

We do know that Alabama Rot affects all dogs- regardless of size, gender, neuter status and age- but with a slight bias towards gun dogs and hounds- this may be because these dogs spend more time outside getting muddy. Dogs in the New Forest and an area North-West of Manchester also seem to be at a higher risk than other dogs. Habitat seems to be very important too- woodlands and lowland heath habitats are more likely to be associated with Alabama Rot than other habitats, and pasture is less likely to be associated with Alabama Rot than average.

How can I prevent my dog from catching Alabama Rot?

Unfortunately, as there’s no known cause, the advice on prevention so far is pretty limited. Owners could avoid muddy walks altogether; walking in pasture with cows or sheep is possibly safer than walking in woodland, but at the moment there’s no evidence that this definitely helps.

The best advice at the moment seems to be to wash mud off your dog’s legs and paws as soon as you come back from a walk. Using a mildly antiseptic shampoo such as our Tea Tree and Sage shampoo is a good idea and will leave your dog’s feet and paws smelling fresh too. You should also use this opportunity to check your dog’s legs thoroughly for scratches, rashes and other lesions, as these are usually the first symptom of Alabama Rot. And, if you do notice anything, seek prompt veterinary attention.

Other Symptoms of Alabama Rot

The first symptom of is usually a skin lesion such as a rash, bruise, graze or ulcer. They usually occur on the feet and legs, although may also be on the head, mouth, tongue or body. These can look very similar to many benign skin lesions and can be difficult to differentiate, so it’s best to get any suspicious reddened areas examined by a vet. If your vet is suspicious, bloodwork and urinalysis may be done either daily or every other day for 3-5 days to look out for signs of renal failure.

Not all skin lesions progress to renal disease, but those that do will result in an extremely sick pet- vomiting, lethargy, increased drinking, increased urination and production of no urine at all are all symptoms of renal failure that occurs with Alabama Rot.

Can Alabama Rot be treated?

There are no specific treatments for because we do not yet know what causes it. All we can do is treat the associated renal failure and hope that the dog recovers. This means that the sooner the disease is identified, the more likely it is that we can provide the appropriate kidney support. This will involve extended hospitalisation, ideally at a 24-hr care centre with experience with Alabama Rot. So Alabama Rot is still a mystery, even to the vets studying this disease. But it’s becoming more common, and more widespread. Follow our top tips to keep your dog healthy:

  1. Check the map of confirmed cases to see if you’re in a high-risk area
  2. Wash your dog down after every muddy walk, and inspect your dog for ulcers
  3. Visit the vet if you’re concerned