Alabama rot is the name given to a very concerning but so far, thankfully relatively rare health condition that can affect dogs, and which as the name suggests, isn’t something that was historically ever a problem in the UK. However, since the first confirmed cases of Alabama rot in the UK in 2012, the condition has continued to claim casualties every year in the interim period, and has been responsible for the death of over 200 dogs during that time.
Most dog owners have heard of Alabama rot, but this is a condition that is really poorly understood, and not a lot is known about it for sure. What we do know is that certain types of environments and conditions seem to increase the risk of dogs that pass through them developing it, and that cases of Alabama rot tend to come in clusters in specific areas, and that new areas appear become affected as time goes on, cropping up in places that were previously unaffected.
Many veterinary clinics, particularly larger chains, and also of course researchers and experts are working hard to learn more about Alabama rot in dogs, and particularly, how it is presenting and spreading in the UK, and how and where it is posing a threat to our dogs.
With this in mind, this article will provide a summary and update of the state of play with Alabama rot in the UK as of March 2020. Read on to learn more.
Alabama rot is the colloquial name given for the condition more correctly called cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy or CRGV for short, and it is a serious and very dangerous disease that affects both the blood vessels and kidneys. It basically causes the affected areas of the dog’s body (including the skin) to die off and rot, first developing painful sores and ulcers, usually beginning on the dog’s legs.
The culmination of Alabama rot in dogs is kidney failure, and this in turn makes most cases of Alabama rot fatal.
Put simply, we don’t know; the condition first appeared in the USA in the 1980s, in the state of Alabama, and greyhounds were initially the only dogs affected. However, the condition largely dissipated and disappeared after an initial cluster there, and so little to no research followed.
The first case of Alabama rot in the UK occurred in 2012, and we don’t know if it occurred because somehow the disease was transmitted or brought over to the UK, or if it occurred here naturally and organically with no transmission vector.
Between 2012 and the time of writing (March 2020) there have been a total number of 216 confirmed cases of Alabama rot in dogs in the UK, most of which were fatal.
The way that they’ve spread out across that time period has been erratic too; the number of cases haven’t followed a linear pattern of either increasing or decreasing year-on-year during that time.
From just 6 cases in 2012 and 5 in 2013 respectively, a large jump up to 32 occurred in 2014, but this fell to 21 and 19 respectively the following two years, before rising again, with 2017 and 2018 being the worst years for the condition so far; 40 affected dogs in 2017, and 52 in 2016. However, in 2019, the figure fell again to 29 dogs.
How many cases of UK Alabama rot have been diagnosed so far in 2020?
Based on information published by the Vet Times on 11th February 2020, there had already been a total number of 12 confirmed cases of Alabama rot in dogs as of that date. Given that this encompasses not even two full months and we’re still very early on in the year, if this figure is proportionally representative of the total number of cases we might expect to see by the end of 2020, this year might be the worst for UK dogs to date.
Based on projections for the rest of the year if the number of cases diagnosed continue at this same rate, that’s potentially over 100 dogs that will be affected and likely, killed by the condition; or put simply, almost exactly double those diagnosed in 2018, the worst year for the condition so far.
Clusters of cases of Alabama rot often develop within the same geographical area, and we think that a combination of environmental factors therefore cause the condition, bringing dogs into contact with it within these defined local areas.
However, the areas of the country that have been recorded with the latest cases of Alabama rot 2020 so far are hugely widespread and have large distances between them. This indicates potentially that the environmental conditions this year (potentially to do with the weather and the impact it has on flora and fauna) are contributing to the high number of cases so far, more than certain localised risks.
However, dog owners in areas where cases have been confirmed need to know about this, in order to take extra measures to try to avoid risk for their dogs, and to enable them to stay alert to the signs of symptoms.
Here are the areas of the UK with confirmed Alabama rot cases in 2020: