Alabama Rot Disease in Dogs

July 23rd, 2018 at 10:59 am EST
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Alabama Rot Disease in Dogs

A flesh-eating disease that has killed more than 130 pets in Britain is causing dog owners increasing concern for their pets.

With four new cases being reported so far in June, let's take a closer look at Alabama Rot - sometimes referred to as the "black death" disease - which is feared to be gaining ground in the UK.

What is Alabama Rot?

Alabama rot is the common term for cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV). It is a mysterious disease which is hard to identify and sadly, very difficult to treat. Since December 2012, there have been 122 confirmed, 22 unconfirmed and 35 suspected cases in the UK, with 37 cases in 2017 (over double compared to 2016) and 2 already in 2018. The latest cases occurring in Sussex and Somerset. The disease is thought to have hit 31 counties in total.

Alabama rot was first identified amongst Grey Hounds in the state of Alabama in the 1980s. After this first flare up, the number of reported cases dwindled and as no clinical research was carried out, the disease was almost relegated to history. Because no one has been able to determine what causes the disease, it is now only recognisable by its collection of clinical symptoms.

Since 2012, a small number of dogs have been presented with clinical signs very similar to those associated with Alabama rot. The most serious outbreak was in the New Forrest region of Hampshire but there have also been reported cases in Manchester, Dorset, Surrey, Somerset and several other counties as well.

What causes Alabama Rot?

As mentioned, the causes of Alabama Rot are still unknown and we don’t yet know if it can pass between dogs, either. What we do know, is that the strain afflicting the UK is not limited to any particular breed, body weight, sex or age, and the disease affects the skin and kidneys.

There has been some speculation that walking dogs in particular areas of the countryside may be a contributing factor, but the Forestry Commission has yet to warn of any specific sites being dangerous, reassuring 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.”

Worryingly, though, is that once infected, pets can die within 3 days so the severity of the disease must not be underestimated, however rare it is.

How to prevent Alabama Rot

There are no specific steps you can take to prevent your dog from contracting the disease, but there is some evidence of seasonal fluctuation, with most cases appearing in Autumn and Winter.

The London Royal Veterinary state that 60% of all cases happen in the first 3 months of the year.

It is suspected the disease spreads from muddy and wooded areas, and particularly areas with high levels of stagnant water – dog owners who do walk their dogs in these places are advised to wash off any mud as soon as possible, and of course, keep close control of their dogs at all times to monitor where they go.

What are the symptoms of Alabama Rot?

Importantly, you should always keep a lookout for the first sign of Alabama Rot, which is skin sores that have not been caused by a physical injury. These sores can present as lesions, swelling, a patch of red skin, or may be open and ulcer-like. The sores are most commonly found below the knee or elbow or occasionally on the stomach or face. Usually, this will cause localised hair loss and the dog will begin licking the wound. These lesions will be followed – between two and seven days later – with outward symptoms of kidney failure: reduced appetite, fatigue, and vomiting.

Alabama Rot treatment

If you have any concerns you should get your dog to the vet as soon as possible. They will be able to carry out tests to identify kidney failure but you can help by keeping detailed records of any signs of illness your dog has shown, this will help them diagnose your dog’s illness, whatever it may be.

If it turns out your dog has contracted Alabama Rot, the best outcomes seem to be achieved by catching it early and the animal receiving high-quality veterinary care. Whilst some infected dogs do survive the treatments of skin sores and kidney failure, unfortunately, many do not – it is estimated that treatment is only successful in around 20-30% of cases.

It is important, however, not to get overly worried by this as the percentage of dogs in the UK who have contracted this disease is truly minuscule. Though, what is vital, is that you understand the problem and know what to look out for, should your dog come into contact with it, as time plays a large part in successfully treating the disease.

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Heather is wondering exactly what is going on..

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Best Wishes,

Dr Andrew Jones, DVM
P.S. This is a very unusual disease, that I have never heard about- BUT on the rise in the UK, so good to be aware of.

P.P.S. To learn HOW to properly heal your dog/cat with acupressure, and treat things such as pain and arthritis, you need to get on my weekly LIVESTREAMS. Next one is this Wednesday ..PLUS if you can't make i am recording it all.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. Dr Andrew Jones resigned from the College of Veterinarians of B.C. effective December 1 2010, meaning he cannot answer specific questions about your pet's medical issues or make specific medical recommendations for your pet.

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