What is Alabama rot?
Alabama Rot, also known as cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV), is a condition that affects dogs. While information is still scarce on the exact cause, it’s thought to be linked to toxins caused by bacteria such as E. coli. Water and food-related causes have been ruled out.
Symptoms include lesions on the skin, especially on the legs, chest and abdomen, as well as in the mouth. These may look like bites, sores, wounds or stings. Some dogs go on to develop renal failure (kidney failure), which can be fatal.
In the UK, the disease has proven fatal in 90% of cases, according to Alabamarot.co.uk, although it is rare for dogs here to catch it in the first place.
Alabama rot causes blood clots and damages affected tissue, including the skin and organs. The condition can become more serious quickly – sometimes within a matter of days – and dogs usually start to show symptoms of kidney problems.
What are the symptoms of Alabama Rot?
- Skin lesions
- Skin ulcers
- Skin sores
- Hair loss
- Skin redness
If the dog’s kidneys begin to fail:
- Appetite loss
- Excessive tiredness
- Yellowing of the white of the eyes
If you believe your dog may be showing symptoms you should contact your vet immediately.
How is Alabama rot spread?
There doesn’t seem to be any link between a dog’s age, sex, weight or breed and its susceptibility to Alabama rot.
At the moment, there is no consensus on what the cause of the disease is. Some veterinary experts think it may be a parasite, while others think it may be bacterial. As mentioned above, it is most widely believed that it is caused by the toxins produced by E. Coli.
According to this vet it does not appear to be contagious from dog to dog or dog to human. The toxins may be picked up from mud in woodlands.
Alabama rot was first found in greyhounds in the USA in the 1980s. It was first identified in the UK in November 2012, and by January 2014 a wide range of breeds had been affected.
While there is a wide geographical spread of the illness across the United Kingdom, there has been a concentration of the disease in the New Forest. 25 cases of the condition have been found spread between Bournemouth and Southampton.
The condition has also been observed in dogs in Leeds, Yorkshire and even as far north as Cumbria and Scotland.
Here is a a map of confirmed cases of Alabama rot from December 2012 onwards. According to Alabamarot.co.uk, there have been 98 confirmed cases since then.
Unfortunately, no cure for Alabama rot has been found.
Because the cause of the condition is unknown, specialists cannot develop a vaccine to prevent the illness from spreading. Vets are able to treat kidney failure if it affects the dog, but this usually isn’t effective enough to save the dog’s life.
Some dogs can fight the disease and survive with minimal damage to their health. Unfortunately, the condition is fatal for most dogs.
There is no known way to prevent your dog from getting Alabama rot. Your best course of action is to monitor your dog’s health, and see a vet if your dog develops any lesions.
It’s possible that Alabama rot is more common in Winter and Spring than in other seasons. More cases have been recorded between November and May than between June and October. It may help to be more careful during these months, though it isn’t confirmed that the illness is seasonal.
August 2018 Update: Alabama Rot treatment breakthrough
The Royal Veterinary College has announced a breakthrough treatment in the fight against Alabama Rot. Six dogs underwent the procedure and two of them have now made a full recovery.
This is the first time dogs severely affected by the disease have survived.
After identifying similarities between the human thrombotic microangiopathy and Alabama rot, researches decided to test the same treatment used to treat thrombotic microangiopathy on dogs affected by Alabama rot.
The procedure, called plasmapheresis or therapeutic plasma exchange, filters the patient’s blood. Once filtered the blood is returned to the patient.
So far only two of the dogs have made a full recovery but Stefano Cortellini, the researcher responsible for the breakthrough remains hopeful that if not central to dogs’ recovery from Alabama rot, plasma exchange will be an important part in the fight against the disease.
March 2018 Update: Is Alabama Rot spreading?
Thirty new cases of Alabama Rot have been reported since the beginning of 2018 in the UK. Most recently, cases have been confirmed in Petworth, Brighton, Lincolnshire, Devon, Tooting (London), Manchester and Cornwall. Further two cases were reported in West Sussex, another in Findon. The latest fatality, announced on the 22nd of March, was in Cornwall.
The disease has claimed 153 dogs since it was first identified in 2012. Now there is evidence that it might be spreading more rapidly, with 36 cases reported in 2017, twice more than in 2016; and 80% of the number of cases reported for the whole of 2017, already confirmed in 2018.
The deadly disease has been reported in over 33 counties around the country. Hampshire and Greater Manchester have had the highest number of confirmed cases so far: 18 in Hampshire and 17 in Greater Manchester.
Vets for Pets has released a map of Alabama Rot locations that can tell pet owners if there’s Alabama Rot in their area. As the disease is suspected to be found in woodland areas, the map also shows where the pets had been taken for walks prior to presenting with symptoms.
Familiarise yourself with the symptoms and seek immediate veterinary help if you suspect your dog might have contracted the fatal illness.
January 2018 Update:
Veterinary Doctor Fiona Macdonald is investigating a bacteria she thinks might hold the key to identifying the cause of Alabama Rot. The bacteria is called Aeromonas Hydrophila and can be found in water and soil.
Dr Macdonald told the Veterinary Times that the first cases of the disease appear to have happened in colder areas with large amounts of water and high rainfall. The exact cause of the disease is still unknown.
Recently, new cases of Alabama Rot have been reported in Derbyshire, Leicester, Manchester, Birmingham, Cheshire and Cannock Chase. Pet owners are advised to regularly check their canines for symptoms and immediately take them to the vet if they suspect they might have contracted the disease.
The Alabama Rot Research Fund (ARRF) is a national charity aiming to raise awareness and funds for Alabama Rot (CRGV) research: www.arrf.co.uk