Five frequently asked questions about Alabama rot in dogs

Five frequently asked questions about Alabama rot in dogs

Health & Safety

Alabama rot or cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV) is a rare but usually fatal disease in dogs that results in the development of skin sores and lesions that will be painful and widespread, and eventually, renal failure, which is almost always fatal in affected dogs.

The condition gets its name because it was first identified in Alabama (USA) in greyhounds way back in the 1980s, but after an initial cluster of cases, seemed to more or less disappear; which meant that no real research was undertaken into the condition in the interim. The “rot” part of the name comes due to the condition’s unpleasant trait of causing the affected parts of the body, including the skin, to necrotise and die off.

Why is this relevant to dog owners in the UK? Well, unfortunately and for reasons that we have yet to identify, the condition known as Alabama rot can now be found in the UK. Whilst it is very rare – just over 200 diagnosed cases since the first confirmed UK case of Alabama rot in 2012 – this is a very serious condition that does kill most dogs that develop it, and which appears to come in clusters in certain localised areas, potentially due to environmental conditions that can develop under the right circumstances.

There is a huge amount that we don’t know about Alabama rot, including having no degree of certainty over what causes it, why, or how come it first appeared here in the UK; and so a lot of the most common questions about Alabama rot don’t have definitive answers.

However, there are of course a selection of frequently asked questions that dog owners have about UK Alabama rot, and knowing the answers to them as far as is possible whilst sticking to the facts can help to inform dog owners and potentially help them to lower the risks for their own dogs.

With this in mind, this article will answer five frequently asked questions about Alabama rot in dogs in the UK. Read on to learn more.

What causes Alabama rot in dogs?

This is one of the biggest Alabama rot questions, but put simply, we don’t know. Until we do know for sure what causes Alabama rot in dogs, we are unlikely to be able to eradicate it, and whilst research has indicated a number of potential Alabama rot causes, none have been confirmed.

There are three main schools of thought on what causes Alabama rot in dogs held by different researchers and experts, and which (if any of them) proves to be correct has yet to be seen.

Currently, the three potential causes of Alabama rot in dogs that are considered to be the most plausible are:

  • A bacterium.
  • A parasite.
  • Toxins produced by E. coli bacteria specifically, although none of the cases in the UK to date have revealed the presence of E. coli itself.

Can Alabama rot be prevented? Is there a vaccine for Alabama rot?

Because we don’t know what causes Alabama rot, we can’t develop a vaccine for it; also, because we don’t know what to avoid in terms of how to avoid dog exposure to Alabama rot, there is no firm advice out there in terms of how to prevent your dog from facing the risk of developing Alabama rot either.

However, there is some broad advice for dog owners on preventing Alabama rot that certainly won’t hurt; this includes bathing your dog or washing off mud and water from puddles and water sources after walks, and also avoiding taking your dog walking in any areas where there have been confirmed cases of Alabama rot in dogs.

Can Alabama rot in dogs be cured or treated?

The vast majority of cases of Alabama rot in dogs are fatal for the affected dog, because they result in kidney failure. In some rare cases, dialysis, and specialist/experimental treatments such as plasma exchange might be attempted in order to save the dog. However, these will only be available at specialist referral clinics and unless offered for free or at a lower rate as part of ongoing research, are likely to be very costly.

For insured dogs, there is a possibility that your insurers will cover some or all of the costs of such treatments, depending on their criteria to approve such things.

What are the symptoms of Alabama rot in dogs?

The symptoms of Alabama rot in dogs may include any or all of the following:

  • The development of red, inflamed patches, skin lesions and sores on the body, which do not have an underlying cause like an allergy or injury. These will tend to begin on the dog’s lower legs and feet, and potentially stomach, as well as around the face and muzzle and potentially even on the tongue.
  • Often, the fur will fall out around the sores themselves.
  • A fever.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Lethargy and fatigue.
  • Sickness and potential vomiting.
  • Keeping an eye out for the sores is vitally important, as this tends to be the first symptom of Alabama rot in dogs, with the rest coming later as kidney failure develops.

How can I find out if Alabama rot is in my area?

Your local veterinary clinic will know about any confirmed cases of Alabama rot in your local area, and many clinics and particularly, large chain clinics collate reports on Alabama rot clusters and publish this information on their own websites.

Local news stations also tend to cover outbreaks, and you can also find a number of interactive maps online flagging outbreaks and their dates, to check for Alabama rot in your local area.



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