Alabama rot dog disease

Muddy puddle in a woodland

How to spot the signs and protect your dog

There have been new cases of Alabama rot dog disease confirmed nationally, with cases reported in Devon, Gloucestershire, Rutland and County Tyrone in January 2020. But, how big a threat is this disease to your dog? Our expert guide explains what Alabama dog rot is, the signs and symptoms, and how to protect your dog from catching it.

In 2019, there were 29 confirmed dog deaths from Alabama dog rot, with four new cases reported to have caused the death of dogs in Devon, Gloucestershire, Rutland,  and County Tyrone.

Our expert guide explains what Alabama dog rot is, how to spot the signs and symptoms, and what you can do to prevent your dog catching this deadly disease

What is Alabama dog rot?

Alabama dog rot is a disease that causes damage to a dog’s blood vessels and the kidney. It is a mysterious disease which is hard to identify and sadly, very difficult to treat. It can cause a dog’s skin to rot as it eats the flesh of the animal which makes it a particularly distressing disease.

Border collie at the vet

Early detection is vital but sadly the disease is very hard to treat. Getty

Why is it called Alabama Rot?

Alabama dog rot was first identified amongst greyhounds in the state of Alabama in the 1980s. After this first flair 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. The scientific name for Alabama Rot is cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV).

How many dogs have been affected in the UK?

Updated: 17th January 2020

Since the disease was first detected in 2012 in the UK the number of cases of Alabama dog rot in dogs has risen. The most serious outbreak was in the New Forest region of Hampshire but there have also been reported cases in several other counties, with the most recent cases reported Gloucestershire, Monmouthshire, Devon, Dorset, Cheshire, Warwickshire, Greater Manchester and Worcestershire.

In June 2019, for the first time a case of Alabama dog rot was recorded in Essex.  There have been 13 reported cases so far this year. There have been two recent cases of Alabama dog rot reported in Sussex in November 2019

According to Vet Times, the highest number of confirmed cases has been in Greater Manchester, Dorset, Devon and the New Forest in Hampshire.

Confirmed cases of Alabama dog rot in the UK

In 2018 there were 46 confirmed cases of Alabama dog rot, following 40 cases in 2017 and 19 in 2016. 

In 2019 there were 29 reported cases. 

Since 2012, there have been a total of 204 confirmed cases of Alabama Rot across 43 counties in the UK.

Map of known cases

UK map
View map of confirmed Alabama dog rot cases

How is Alabama dog rot spread?

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.”

How do I prevent my dog from contracting 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 between November and June. New advice suggests keeping your dog away from very muddy areas.

It is suspected alabama rot disease spreads from muddy and wooded areas – general advice is to wash any mud off your dog as soon as possible after a walk.

It is suspected the disease spreads from muddy and wooded areas – 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.

Dog being washed

Wash mud off your dog after woodland walks (Getty)

Can other animals catch Alabama Rot?

Other pets, such as cats, guinea pigs or rabbits are not thought to be affected by Alabama Rot.

What signs of Alabama Rot should I look out for in my dog?

The first sign of Alabama Rot 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.

Affected dogs will also develop signs of severe depression, loss of appetite and vomiting, quickly accompanied by acute injury to the kidneys.

What should I do if I think my dog has 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.

What is the source of Alabama dog rot?

The source of the disease is unknown, with the Environment Agency ruling out any chemical contamination in water supplies. Experts believe the disease is “very similar” to Alabama Rot, thought to be related to a toxin produced by E. Coli bacteria. However, no evidence of this has been found after no signs were shown on the infected dogs.

Content provided by Ashley Gray MA Vet MB Ph.D. MRCVS and Vetsure

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