Update April 2018 – cases confirmed in Southam, Oxford (Summertown) and Holwell
Update April 2018 – case count is now 122 confirmed cases across the UK between November 2012 and January 2018. Added some recently published papers. Case report in Stoke Bruerne appears to be a rumour; Davies Veterinary Specialists who are treating say it is not Alabama Rot.
Update Mar 2017– another case seen in Claverdon, Warwickshire
It started as an alarming yet unexplained condition among Greyhounds in the U.S. during the 1980s, crossed borders to the United Kingdom in 2012, and was causing problems by 2014. We know it by the name of Alabama Rot. No one knows why it happens and how it can be prevented.
Alabama Rot or idiopathic cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV) is believed to be caused by toxins produced by bacteria such as Escherichia Coli. However, this is just an assumption and studies conducted so far to determine the exact cause have ruled out water or food-related causes. Some vets refer to it as a parasitic infection while others consider it a bacterial disease. Because the exact cause is not known, it’s a real challenge to develop treatment or a vaccine.
Alabama Rot symptoms show up as lesions on legs, chest, and abdomen – eventually manifesting as renal failure in a quarter of cases. Normally, dogs face the risk of renal failure within the first 9 days after the lesions start appearing. Here in the UK, we have found that the condition has affected multiple dog breeds as it has continued to propagate aggressively with as many as 103 cases, including 52 deaths, being reported by March 2015. What we do know is that it causes damage to blood vessels of the skin and kidney through tiny blood clots in the blood vessels which blocks them and can ultimately lead to damage of the affected tissue. In the skin, this causes ulceration; however, in the kidney it can lead to severe organ dysfunction (kidney failure).
Back in March 2014, an Alabama rot case was reported in Salcey Forest in Northamptonshire, which triggered panic among dog owners in the region. The disease claimed the life of a young lively Jack Russell Terrier that suffered from acute renal failure. The dog was regularly walked in Salcey Forest and so it was believed that it might have picked up the disease from there. By that time, the disease had already been detected in Yorkshire, New Forest, Dorset, Durham Surrey, Cornwall, Worcestershire and many other counties of England and it seemed to be linked to rural and woodland areas.
If you notice a lesion or blister on your dog’s leg, face or abdomen, check for Alabama Rot signs. These lesions are usually 5p sized, found mainly on the lower legs and look like an ulcer. I know it can be tricky, but please check if your dog is licking itself frequently. Danger signs are that your dog has turned silent, started vomiting or stopped eating. If you see these signs, just call us immediately on 01295 712110 and we will be happy to help, and if needed, put your mind at rest. It is important to say that the disease is still thankfully very rare, and most skin lesions are down to something else.
Dogs can beat the disease and survive with minimal damage with early intervention. A stitch in time saves nine – it may be a lifesaver. Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call on 01295 712110 if you have any worries.
Unfortunately, because we know so little about the disease the only advice is to wash off woodland mud from your dog’s legs after a walk; however, we still don’t know for sure if this helps.
Twenty-four dogs died, or were euthanised, solely due to their disease and six were euthanised at the owners’ request. IRIS AKI grade progressed in 10 dogs, reduced in 2 and was unchanged in 12. Terminally, IRIS grades were: II (n=1), III (n=8), IV (n=13), V (n=3) and unknown (n=5). Causes of death/euthanasia were: oligoanuria (n=9), anaemia and thrombocytopaenia (n=2), progressive azotaemia (n=6), unspecified clinical deterioration (n=3), suspected DIC (n=1), dyspnoea (n=1), collapse (n=1), ascites (n=1) and owners’ request due to concurrent disease(s), financial constraints or concern regarding prognosis (n=6). Median time from onset of clinical signs to death or euthanasia was seven days (1–16 days).