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Alabama Rot in dogs

There has been a lot of talk in the press recently about a ‘new’ disease that is affecting dogs up and down the country, often with fatal consequences. It’s called cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV), but it’s more commonly known as Alabama Rot. It was first identified in the USA in the 1980s, but cases have only been identified in the UK during the past six years.

The first UK cases were identified in the South of England, but are currently spreading. Dogs all over the country have now been diagnosed with the disease, with the latest figures showing that there have over 30 confirmed cases so far this year, with many of these resulting in death.

Dogs all over the country have now been diagnosed with the disease, with the latest figures showing that there have over 30 confirmed cases so far this year, with many of these resulting in death.  

As the cause of Alabama rot remains unknown, and there is no vaccine in existence, it is vital that dog owners know what symptoms to look out for – and when to contact their vet.

So, what is Alabama rot?

Alabama rot damages the blood vessels in a dog’s skin and causes lesions on the skin and also sometimes in the dog’s mouth. These can look similar to bites, sores or wounds – and some dogs can develop kidney failure, which can be fatal.

How do you catch it?

All dogs are at risk, no matter what their breed, size or age. The specific cause of Alabama rot remains unknown, although some reports from the USA have suggested that it might be linked to E-coli. In the UK, however, there has been no evidence to substantiate this theory. The only link found so far is that most of the dogs being treated have been walked in either woodland or muddy areas. As the majority of cases have been reported between November and May, it is now being thought that dogs are more likely to be affected in winter and spring than in summer and autumn.

Hopeful discovery of a cure

There is one Vet who is reportedly on the cusp of finding a cure for Alabama Rot and has recently published her findings in an interview with the Independent in January 2018. Dr Fiona Macdonald is a vet from Ringwood in Hampshire’s New Forest and founder of Fish Treatment Ltd. Dr Macdonald thinks that she may have discovered a link between Alabama Rot and a bacteria found in fish. So far, Dr Macdonald has tested around 27 dogs suffering from Alabama Rot symptoms with the help of funding from the New Forest Dog Owners’ Group but needs to test more dogs showing signs of Alabama Rot in order to attain more conclusive results.

Aeromonas hydrophila is a bacteria that is found in fish and can be located in fresh and salty water. When it infects animals, it can lead to fatal toxins entering the body.

Dr Macdonald has found antibodies to this organism in over half of the 27 cases examined, as well as recovering the actual organism from an active skin lesion. If this turns out to be the cause of the disease it leads Vets and researchers a whole lot closer to finding a possible cure.

What are the symptoms of Alabama Rot?

Skin lesions– These can appear as swellings, patches of red skin, or can look like an open ulcer. They are usually circular in shape, and approximately the size of a 5p coin. They’re often found on the dog’s paws or lower legs, but can also be found on their lower body, face, mouth or tongue. A vet will often be able to identify these as being out of the usual straight away.
Sore skin– if your dog appears to have sore skin, but you know that it hasn’t been caused by an accident or injury, it is important to contact your vet straight away.

Kidney (renal) failure– After two to seven days of the lesions appearing, kidney failure can start. The symptoms will include vomiting, reduced hunger and unusual tiredness. It is vital to get your dog to a vet as soon as you notice any of these symptoms, as the sooner the disease is caught and treated, the better the chance of recovery.


What to do:
As there have been many cases reported after the dog has been walked in a muddy area, dog owners are being advised to thoroughly wash them with clean water after muddy walks, checking carefully for any sores that might have appeared on their lower body, face, tongue or mouth. Checking your dog on a daily basis for new bumps, lumps or sores is a good habit for all owners to adopt – but in light of the current problem with Alabama rot, it is now more important than ever.

Remain vigilant for any signs of kidney failure in your dog – and contact your vet as soon as possible, should you notice anything out of the ordinary. The sooner they are treated, the better their chance of survival. The vet will carefully manage the wounds and skin lesions and will also be able to aggressively treat any kidney disease if it is caught early enough.

With the cause of Alabama Rot still unknown, there is not much more dog owners can do at this stage, other than be aware of all the above symptoms.



Emma Hammett
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