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Alabama rot in the UK: What dog owners need to know

Alabama rot in the UK: What dog owners need to know

Health & Safety

Dog owners in the UK may remember back to the summer of 2014, when several dogs in England became sick with an unidentified illness, which ultimately resulted in the death of thirteen dogs and a significant amount of publicity surrounding the deaths.

At that time, the illness was quickly compared to an American condition called “Alabama rot,” which was until then unheard of in the UK. It is also worth noting that definitive labelling of the condition was further delayed not only by virtue of the fact that the condition was previously unheard of in the UK, but that in the UK it affected multiple dog breeds while in the US it has so far been diagnosed in Greyhounds only. You can read more information on the condition and its first appearance on British shores in our previous article.

Since 2014, Alabama rot has not really made the news in the UK in a big way after the initial coverage. However, it now appears that the condition has taken a foothold in the UK, and since the first diagnosed cases were declared, almost 100 dogs in the UK have died from the condition, and potentially a lot more due to the potential for inaccurate or missed diagnosis given the rareness and previous absence of the disease in the UK.

Whilst the condition is still considered to be very rare, it is wise for all UK dog owners to develop a basic understanding of Alabama rot and how to recognise the symptoms, in order to ensure that should your dog become sick with the condition, you can give them the best possible chance of survival.

This information may become invaluable should the worst happen and your dog becomes sick with potential symptoms of Alabama rot, and a well-informed dog owner may also be able to provide direction to their vet in case of symptoms, as once again, the condition is not widely known even amongst UK veterinary professionals, although awareness is on the rise.

In this article, we will cover the basics of Alabama rot within dogs in the UK, including the background of the condition, methods of transmission, and common symptoms. Read on to learn more.

What is Alabama rot?

Alabama rot is an acute and very serious condition that progresses quickly, and is widely believed to be a bacterial infection with a rather uncommon mode of operation in which the bacteria in question-potentially E.coli-releases dangerous toxins that affect the dog’s renal system, which can ultimately lead to acute kidney failure.

It is important to note that the bacteria in question in cases of the disease need not necessarily be E.coli-whether the condition is unique to this bacteria or can be caused by other types of dangerous bacteria as well is not widely understood.

The condition was first recognised and named in the USA back in the 1980’s, where it affected only Greyhounds. However, the condition is not considered to be a breed-specific condition per se, as evidenced by the variety of breeds that have been affected with the condition in the UK.

The scientific name for the condition is cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy, or CRGV.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms and the severity of their presentation can be variable, but tend to develop relatively quickly. The first indication of the disease that dog owners are likely to pick up on are sores and lesions on the dog’s skin and potentially, within the mouth as well. These are caused by ulceration of the skin and are usually fairly obvious, but can also be easily confused with similar-looking problems such as insect bites and stings, allergies, or small wounds.

These lesions occur due to the bacterial toxins responsible for Alabama rot causing miniature blood clots within blood vessels and capillaries, which quickly progresses to causing internal damage to the kidneys in the same way, and that can ultimately cause kidney failure. Once the kidneys have begun to fail, Alabama rot is unfortunately usually fatal in 90% of cases.

The condition is not breed-specific and is equally likely to affect dogs regardless of their age, breed and sex.

The most important symptom to be alert for are the initial skin lesions, and these usually develop quickly rather than taking a few days to form. The lesions may appear swollen, red and inflamed, or as a small ulcer or wound, and can vary in size from half a centimetre across up to five centimetres at their largest, and can appear on any area of the body.

What should you do if you spot a lesion?

While the condition is still classed as rare in terms of the total UK dog population versus those that have been affected by it, the condition is spreading, usually proves fatal, and has no current vaccine nor cure. This means that even if you are not sure what you are facing regarding your dog’s symptoms, you should contact your vet immediately and insist on a same-day appointment, ensuring that your vet is appraised of your concerns and has a good working understanding of Alabama rot.

Currently, Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists and referral clinic in Winchester, Hampshire is the home for the UK’s leading Alabama Rot specialist team, headed up by lead clinician David Walker. Any dog owner whose dog is diagnosed with the condition, or who has concerns about a potential diagnosis are encouraged to request a referral to this clinic, or request that their local vet contacts Anderson Moores, and asks to speak to a member of David Walker’s team about the case.