Puppy Advice

Alabama Rot - what you need to know

Have you heard of Alabama Rot, a disease which affects dogs? We’ve teamed up with Amanda Williams from Allwinds Dog First Aid to produce this helpful guide for dog owners, so that you can be more aware of the disease, know what symptoms to look for and what action to take if you are concerned about your dog.

Alabama Rot - what you need to know

What is Alabama Rot?

Also known as CRGV, Alabama Rot is a relatively new disease in the UK, with the first report being of its existence in this country in 2012. The UK has now seen 292 confirmed cases in total. The risk of your dog developing Alabama Rot still remains small. 

It is a disease which only affects dogs. It was first identified in greyhounds in the state of Alabama in the USA in the 1980s. At the time it only affected greyhounds.  In the UK, the disease is not confined to just greyhounds – other dog breeds are also affected.  

How serious is it?

This disease is a potentially life threatening but rare disease which can cause tiny blockages in the blood vessels that supply blood to the skin and kidneys. It causes small blood clots to form that will eventually lead to the affected area becoming damaged.  On the skin, this can look like a sore or ulcer. In the kidneys, the clots will lead to kidney failure which can be fatal.

Signs and symptoms of Alabama Rot

Your dog may develop sores, ulcers or lesions on the skin which don’t appear to have been caused by a known injury. Your dog may lick these. In some cases, this will be the first sign to alert an owner that something isn’t quite right. Sores and ulcers are mainly seen below the knee or elbow, on the mouth, nose or tongue or at the bottom of the chest or tummy.

They may appear as an area of redness possibly with some swelling or a cut or open sore. As this could also be a sign of a number of other conditions, it is best to seek the advice of your vet as soon as possible.

If your dog’s kidneys have been affected, signs may include:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy (being tired)
  • A change in drinking habits
  • Not passing as much urine

Signs of kidney failure can appear around three days after the skin lesions. However, in some cases the signs can appear more quickly but in other dogs it can be up to 10 days later.

Can Alabama Rot be prevented?

As the cause of this disease is still not known, there is still no guaranteed way of preventing your dog from being affected.  Some believe there is a link with walking dogs in muddy conditions. Most cases reported so far seem to have occurred between November and May. The advice (even though we still don’t know if this helps) is to try and keep dogs away from muddy areas. If your dog has been walking in muddy conditions, wash them down straight after a walk and then towel dry. Pay particular attention to legs, chest, tummy and face.

Anderson Moores has produced an online map of reported cases of the disease in the UK. You can enter your postcode to find out how many cases of Alabama Rot have been reported in your area.

What to do if you are worried about your dog

Spotting the signs early and contacting your vet immediately may help with your dog’s chances of survival. Checking your dogs’ body on a regular basis can help to identify anything that appears different. This is a good habit for a number of other reasons: your dog can be happier with a physical examination by a vet, external parasites such as ticks and fleas can be picked up early as can any unusual lumps and bumps.

Can dogs recover from Alabama Rot?

Whilst some dogs do survive treatment for skin lesions and kidney failure, others don’t. It’s estimated that treatment is only successful in around 20 – 30% of cases seen. This is why it’s good to be aware and know the signs so that you can act swiftly if you are worried about your dog. However, the chances of your dog contracting this disease remains small. 

What is being done to understand more about Alabama Rot?

At present, little is known about this disease but research is being undertaken to improve understanding about the condition. You can find out more from The Alabama Rot Research Fund, a national charity aiming to raise awareness and funds for research.

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