Alabama rot is the better-known name of cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy or CRGV for short, a poorly understood and generally fatal disease that affects a small but significant number of dogs in the UK every year.
The condition only appeared in the UK in 2012, prior to which it had only been found in the USA, beginning with a cluster of cases in the US state of Alabama in the 1980s before largely disappearing off the radar until it first appeared here on our own shores.
However, another reason there’s so much talk of Alabama rot in the UK is because we know so little about it; we don’t know what causes it, and there are three quite different schools of thought on this with little to no consensus on the most likely. We don’t know how or why dogs catch it either, and why the vast majority of dogs aren’t affected even when they’ve spent time in the same area as an affected dog; and these unknowns are of course very concerning.
They also lead to a lot of conjecture and anecdotal commentary on Alabama rot which is not always true, or more commonly, that we don’t know if it is true or not; and such misinformation or advice based on anything other than fact isn’t at all useful for anyone!
There are some things about Alabama rot in dogs that we do know for sure, however, and that not all dog owners are aware of; and so with this in mind, this article will help to separate fact from fiction by sharing some of the former, insights that we do know about Alabama rot in the UK.
There’s a very high degree of public awareness of Alabama rot in the UK, which is ultimately disproportionate to the total number of cases of the condition to date.
Alabama rot is something that almost all dog owners in the UK have heard of, and hearing of confirmed cases anywhere in the wider region that you live in can naturally be very alarming.
However, despite the high level of public awareness of Alabama rot in dogs in the UK, it is an incredibly rare condition, and based on the disease’s track record so far in the UK, the chances of any individual dog developing Alabama rot are vanishingly low.
One of the reasons that we tend to hear so much about Alabama rot in the UK and part of why it is of such concern to dog owners despite the fact it is so uncommon is because Alabama rot cannot be prevented, predicted, or cured, and has a very high mortality rate among affected dogs.
So, how many confirmed cases of Alabama rot in the UK have there been in total since 2012 when the first case appeared and the time of writing (March 2020)? Just over 200.
Alabama rot in the USA first appeared in greyhounds, and so some dog owners believe that greyhounds or sighthounds in general are the only type of dogs that can catch it, or that they’re at higher risk.
This is untrue; a true cross-section of dogs of all breeds and types are represented within the confirmed cases of Alabama rot in the UK, including a wide range of breeds, ages, and males and females.
There seems to be a peak season for Alabama rot in the UK
The majority of Alabama rot cases in the UK are diagnosed between the months of November and May or June each year. However, we don’t know why this is, and a smaller number of cases do appear outside of this window too.
Most cases of Alabama rot in dogs are diagnosed in dogs that have been walked in very wet and/or muddy areas; although this describes most dogs and a fair number of their walks, and as mentioned earlier, a huge number of other dogs in the same area as diagnosed cases will have had the same type of walks in the same places to no ill effect.
However, the rough seasonality of the condition and correlation with wet and muddy areas is helping to direct researchers trying to identify the cause of Alabama rot in dogs.
Alabama rot develops into kidney failure in affected dogs, which is why it has such a high mortality rate. Alabama rot is indeed fatal in most dogs that develop it, but not all of them; around a quarter of dogs that undergo supportive treatment for their kidneys and begin with this very quickly do go on to recover.
There haven’t been any cases of Alabama rot diagnosed in other animal species
Finally, despite cats, rabbits and many other types of pets and wildlife being present in areas where there have been confirmed cases of Alabama rot in dogs, to date, the condition hasn’t been identified as occurring in any other animal species.
There is no known risk to cats, domestic rabbits, or any other companion animal.