Learn about the deadly disease Alabama Rot - Walks Around Britain

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Alabama Rot

As you know, we're passionate about getting dogs and their owners walking around all parts of Britain... but we're increasing concerned about the rise of Alabama Rot in the UK, and it is such a dangerous disease we thought we'd share as much information about what it is and what to do about it.

What is Alabama Rot?

Alabama Rot is the common term for cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy - or CRGV.  It's a mysterious disease that damages blood vessels in the skin and kidney of affected dogs.  It causes the blood to clot in the vessels, which blocks them and can ultimately lead to damage of the affected tissue.

In the skin, this causes serious ulceration -
but in the kidney, it can lead to severe kidney failure which can be fatal.

Alabama Rot was first discovered amongst greyhounds in US state of Alabama in the 1980s.  The strain of CRGV/Alabama Rot here in the United Kingdom is less discerning, and affects all breeds - and it doesn’t discriminate in terms of age or weight either.

  • There have been over 120 confirmed, around 22 unconfirmed and 35 suspected cases in the UK since December 2012.  

  • In 2017, there were 37 confirmed cases - that's over double compared to 2016.

How is Alabama Rot spread?

At the present, we just don't know.

It is suspected Alabama Rot spreads from muddy and wooded areas, and particularly areas with high levels of stagnant water - so it is possible that walking dogs in particular areas of the countryside could well be a contributing factor - although agencies such as the Forestry Commission England haven't closed off any areas of forests or advised that any specific sites as being dangerous.

On their website, the Forestry Commission England reassures dog owners by saying “Many thousands of dogs are walked in the countryside every day and it is important to remember that only a very small number of dogs have been affected.”

Whilst this is very true, and over 120 confirmed cases since 2012 is a very small percentage of the dogs walking in the UK every year, once infected, dogs can die within 3 days so the severity of the disease must not be underestimated, however rare it is.

Is Alabama Rot seasonal?

Since it was first identified in the UK in 2012, there have been more cases of Alabama Rot seen between November and May than between June and October - which may suggest a possible Winter / Spring seasonality.

How do I prevent my dog from contracting Alabama Rot?

Because not a lot is known about Alabama Rot, there's no specific advice available on how to prevent your dog getting the disease.

If, as suspected, the disease is spread in muddy and wooded areas - and in areas with particularly high levels of stagnant water - then avoiding those places entirely would at first glance seem logical.

But that closes off a huge amount of gorgeous and interesting woodland and forests to go walking in - and we all know dogs love woods and forests.

So, perhaps washing down your dog as soon as possible after walking through muddy woodland areas is a wise move - especially if they have entered stagnant water.
If you are walking with a daysack, a pack of sensitive baby wipes could be handy to wipe off straight away anything you are concerned about.

Also, keeping close control of your dogs is essential too - so you know where they have been and can monitor any risks.

Try to get into the habit of checking your dog’s body once a day for lumps and bumps.  Checking them regularly for the signs listed below will help lower the risk of your dog dying from Alabama Rot if they contract it.

What are the symptoms of Alabama Rot?

The first signs you might notice if your dog has contracted Alabama Rot are lesions or ulcers on the skin.  These could look like a patch of red skin, or appear as an open ulcer or sore.

These sores are most commonly found on a dog’s paws or lower legs, but they can also be found on a dog’s face, mouth or tongue, or on their lower body.

In many cases, the lesions will look out of the ordinary to vets.

If your dog is showing signs of sore skin or ulcers on an area of their body

that is close to the floor - which you know have not been caused by an injury -

contact your vet straight away.

Signs of kidney failure include loss of appetite, tiredness and vomiting.

On average, dogs suffer from kidney failure about three days after lesions begin to show on the skin, however the time between sores appearing and kidney failure can be between one and 10 days.

The earlier this disease is caught and treated by a vet, the higher the chances of recovery.

Alabama Rot - Essential Information

  • Alabama rot causes skin lesions and can cause fatal kidney disease
  • The cause of Alabama rot is unknown, but most dogs that need treatment have been walked in muddy, woodland areas
  • If you notice symptoms of Alabama rot, such as lesions, sores or ulcers on your dog’s legs, paws or face, contact your vet immediately

Related Links

More information about CRVG / Alabama Rot - including a searchable map of Great Britain showing the location of the confirmed cases in the country so far.

Information about CRVG / Alabama Rot from one of the leading independent vets in the field.

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