What is Alabama rot?
Alabama rot, also known as Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy (CRGV), is a potentially fatal condition affecting dogs in the UK. It is a disease which causes damage and blockages in the blood vessels of the skin and kidneys.
The disease first occurred in greyhounds in Alabama, USA in the 1980s but has been reported in the UK since 2012. Initially cases were restricted only to the New Forest, but >190 cases have since been reported across 39 counties. Although still rare, cases seem to be on the increase.
What causes Alabama rot?
The cause of Alabama rot is unknown but research is ongoing. Dogs usually become affected after walking in muddy woodland, usually in winter or spring.
What are the signs of Alabama rot?
The first sign of Alabama rot is the appearance of sores or ulcers on the skin. These are typically seen on the paws and lower legs but can also be found on the underside of the belly or chest, and face. The ulcers are usually painful and so the dog will likely chew/lick the affected area.
Within a few days, the disease progresses to cause kidney failure. The signs of kidney failure include a reduced appetite, increased drinking, vomiting and lethargy.
What can I do to prevent my dog getting Alabama rot?
Since we do not yet know the cause of Alabama rot, it is difficult to know how to prevent it. Most affected dogs recently walked in muddy woodland and so it makes sense to rinse off their legs after a walk.
Alabama rot remains rare, so try not to worry. Nonetheless, there is no harm in remaining vigilant. Keep an eye/ear out for reports of cases in your area. Know the signs and give your dog a once over daily. If you have any concerns, get them checked out by a vet.
What should I do if I think my dog has Alabama rot?
If you spot ulcers or sores on your dogs' skin, contact your vet immediately. Do not wait to see what happens - the earlier the condition is diagnosed and treated, the more likely it is that the dog will recover.
Most skin sores and cases of vomiting dogs will be nothing to worry about, but it is better to be safe than sorry.
How is Alabama rot diagnosed?
Your vet might suspect Alabama rot based on the dogs' presenting signs. However, there are no blood or laboratory tests to confirm the diagnosis. It can only be confirmed on post-mortem examination.
Can Alabama rot be treated?
Early and aggressive treatment is key to a dog's survival. Treatment will be focussed on relieving the dog's symptoms and supporting their kidneys.
Since we do not know the cause, there is no "cure" for Alabama rot. Unfortunately >80% of dogs that have suspected Alabama rot and go on to develop kidney disease, die from the condition.