01 November 2018
We’ve all heard about Alabama Rot and the associated dangers, it’s very rare, but often fatal if contracted. This article is not designed to scare you, it has been written to settle your worries! In it we will demonstrate how unlikely you are to have to deal with it, but it will also equip you with practical knowledge that will help you and your dog avoid it and help you to spot it in the rare case your dog has picked it up. We are publishing it now as November to May are when the vast majority of cases are recorded.
What are the chances of your dog picking it up?
Let’s be honest your dog is unlikely to catch Alabama Rot, 166 cases have been recorded, according to the Vet Record, since 2012 in all UK regions. Even so, it is still a worry because the likelihood of a dog surviving Alabama Rot is slim, even with the recent breakthroughs in treatment (see later paragraph “Treatment”).
Table a. shows number of cases each year since 2012.
Cases of Alabama Rot
The table shows a significant rise between 2016, 19 cases, and 2017, 40 cases, but it also shows that the numbers rise and fall year on year so that there isn’t a definite trend towards more cases overall. That said in the first half of 2018 we have seen 30 cases (Vet Record) which does not bode well for 2018 figures. Still, 40 or even 100 cases out of an estimated 9 million domestic dogs (according to RSPCA figures) in the UK represents a tiny risk.
What is Alabama rot?
Alabama rot is a potentially fatal disease that causes skin lesions and can lead to eventual kidney failure. The disease which only affects dogs, damages the blood vessels in the skin and kidneys. It causes tiny clots, leading to ulceration of the skin and severe kidney damage.
Its official name is ‘Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy’ (CRGV). It was first identified in the USA in the 1980’s. Some experts believe it is a rare form of E.coli that may be spread through water and that there may be a link between Alabama Rot and walking in muddy, woodland areas. However, many thousands of dogs are walked every day in muddy, woodland areas, without contracting the disease. Vets suspect there is an environmental trigger, possibly in the mud dogs are absorbing. Most cases are seen between November and May. There have also been links made to the amphibian disease “Red Leg Syndrome” but research on this is still ongoing, so there is no conclusive proof yet.
It’s important to stress that this disease remains rare, and it’s highly likely that if your dog has a skin sore then it’s due to another cause like injury or a more common infection. However, if you think your dog is showing signs of Alabama Rot, speak to your vet immediately.
Symptoms of Alabama Rot
- Lesions/ulcers/open wounds on the skin – most commonly found on the paws or lower legs, but can appear on the face. Sores typically appear around three days before the onset of kidney failure.
- Loss of appetite, weight loss, increased thirst, vomiting & tiredness can be signs of kidney failure
Prevention of Alabama Rot
There is no known way to prevent your dog from getting the disease but there are some ways to help protect your dog and help you spot the signs early;
- Check your dog daily for any signs of redness and sores, especially on their paws, legs and face.
- Wash and clean your dog’s paws thoroughly after every walk.
- If Alabama rot has been reported near you, avoid muddy and woodland areas between November and May.
- Contact your vet if you suspect Alabama Rot – the earlier it’s caught the greater the chance of survival for your dog.
Dogs suspected to be suffering from Alabama rot will need intensive treatment and management at your Veterinary Practice. The vet will decide if the skin lesions need covering and whether antibiotics are appropriate. Unfortunately, a lot of dogs who develop kidney failure from this disease do not survive; however, there are a number of reported dogs with suspected Alabama rot that have survived and the outlook is not hopeless. In August the Royal Veterinary Collage’s Queen Mother Hospital for Animals reported treating 6 dogs with Alabama Rot where 2 out of 6 dogs survived. The new treatment uses therapeutic plasma exchange (TPE) that filter the dog’s blood, removing the toxins.
The chances of your dog catching Alabama Rot is very slim but if you need any further advice then please call our Pet Health Helpline on 03333321947 and our expert vet nurses will advise you on what to do next.