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Alabama Rot in Dogs: What Do You Need To Know?

Apr 14, 2022

There's no doubt that dogs are a man's best friend, which is why we do everything we can to protect them. We take them on walks, ensure their vaccines are up to date and keep them sheltered. Unfortunately, it's not always easy to keep your dogs safe due to forces outside of your control. They can easily pick up infections and diseases during a walk and, while some of them are harmless, others like Alabama rot can be potentially fatal.

In this guide, we'll highlight everything you need to know about this condition, including the common symptoms of Alabama rot, causes, and available treatment options.

What Is Alabama Rot? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

Alabama rot affects dogs and is sometimes referred to as Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy (CRGV). This condition was first discovered in the United States around the 1980s and was mainly prevalent in greyhounds. Unfortunately, in 2012 it finally spread and, according to the Kennel Club, around 150 dogs in the UK were affected by the disease between November 2012 and March 2018.

Alabama Rot affects the blood vessels responsible for supplying the kidneys and skin, damaging them and causing the formation of blood clots. These clots then cause visible sores and lesions in your dog’s feet and limbs, which are almost resemble skin ulcers. In severe cases, this condition can result in kidney failure.

You should note that Alabama Rot is potentially fatal, and chances of saving your dog are highly dependent on how quickly you identify and treat the condition.

Dog receiving veterinary treatment

What Causes Alabama Rot?

Unfortunately, the main cause of Alabama rot is still unknown, and experts have ruled out exposure to toxins and common bacterial infections. Research is still ongoing, but most of the dogs affected by the condition had previously interacted with woodland areas or muddy environments. This shows that there could be an environmental trigger. So, if you live or walk your dogs in the countryside, you should be very cautious.

Alabama Rot is most common in winter, with research highlighting that around 95% of the cases occur between November and May.

What Are the Symptoms of Alabama Rot?

There are 2 main symptoms of Alabama Rot;

  1. Severe lesions, visible swelling, and skin sores: You may notice red patches on your dog’s skin or other skin defects that aren't a result of known injuries. Most of the time, these lesions appear on the elbows or below the knees, on the face, and sometimes on the bottom of the abdomen or chest.
  2. Reduced appetite: Your dog will start feeding poorly and become lethargic. They may also start drinking more water and vomiting, especially when they're in the early stages of acute kidney failure.

Is Alabama Rot Treatable?

Since the cause of Alabama Rot is still unknown, treatment is based on your dog's blood sample and the severity of the condition. For instance, when your dog develops skin lesions, the vet may administer treatment depending on the appropriateness of pain relief medication and antibiotics or whether your dog has a secondary infection. Likewise, if your dog has severe kidney injury, it may undergo fluid therapy.

One of the things that make Alabama Rot difficult to diagnose is that the symptoms are somewhat vague. For example, since dogs are playful, they are prone to skin injuries, so it is often hard to know for sure what has caused it. We, however, recommend that you err on the side of caution, especially if there have been a number of cases of Alabama Rot reported in your area. To be on the safe side, give you vet a call and act on their advice.

Is Alabama Rot Dangerous?

Yes, this condition can be fatal. It has a 90% mortality rate which means that 9 out of 10 dogs that contract the condition end up dying. You can, however, increase your dog's rate of survival if you spot the symptoms early on and contact a vet immediately.

What Can a Dog Owner Do to Avoid It?

Alabama rot is rare during the summer months, so be more vigilant in spring and winter. We also recommend that you give your dog a good clean after a muddy walk using warm water and dog-friendly shampoo to get rid of any toxins they may have collected. One important area to pay close attention to is their paw pads as these can easily get cut, leaving open wounds vulnerable to disease. Most importantly, if your dog starts showing symptoms of this condition, contact a vet immediately.

Golden Retriever having a bath

How Often Does the Disease Occur in the UK?

Alabama Rot was first reported in the UK in 2012, and since then, there have been 279 confirmed cases. Hampshire, specifically the New Forest region, recorded the most serious outbreak, but recently, other areas such as Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Worcestershire, and Monmouthshire have had cases. The good news is that there is a website dedicated to tracking cases of Alabama Rot in the UK.

Are There Breeds That Are More Susceptible to It?

No. This condition is non-discriminatory and affects dogs of all sizes, breeds, and sex. It also doesn't affect other animals and is non-transferable to humans.