Alabama rot: What you need to know about this fatal infection

Alabama rot: What you need to know about this fatal infection

What is Alabama Rot?

Alabama rot is a strange and alarming name for a disease and gives the impression that it only occurs in the States, but cases have been reported in the UK. It has been linked to over 100 dog deaths so far. 18 this year.

This disease was first identified in the USA in the 1980s. It was first discovered in Alabama amongst greyhounds. Alabama rot is also known as cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV). Alabama rot has only recently made an appearance in the UK, within the last 6 years or so.

Symptoms of Alabama rot

It causes the blood vessels to clot in the skin & kidneys and damages the lining of the kidneys causing fatal kidney failure. It can be treated if it is caught early enough.

The symptoms are large, deep ulcers on your dog’s skin. Often on the paws, face and tongue. With small dogs like chihuahuas, who are close to the ground, they can also appear on the body. Kidney failure can occur from 3 – 10 days after the lesions appear.

Other symptoms are, tiredness, loss of appetite and vomiting.

There is no vaccination against it as scientists don’t yet know what causes it.

It has become more common in the UK; cases have been reported in the South East, Northern Ireland, Cornwall, Surrey and Wiltshire. (not an exhaustive list)

However, while the number of dogs who have contracted the disease has more than doubled, it is still relatively rare in the UK.  But, don’t be complacent. I was prompted to write this article by the death of a dog in the local area.

Who can get it

There seems to be some suggestion that some dogs may be more prone to it than others and healthy dog with a strong immune system is more able to fight infections. The disease was originally prevalent in greyhounds, but any breed can get it. However, it is not contagious from one dog to another and does not spread to humans.

The cause is unknown but has been linked in the States to toxins caused by the bacteria E-coli. E. coli is bacteria that naturally occurs in the soil. (That’s why you should wash fruit and veg as it can make humans very sick with food poisoning)

A common link is that most dogs who have contracted the disease have been walking in wet muddy forest areas. Possibly drinking from muddy puddles, never a good idea as they could also pick up lung worm.

Cases are reported between November – May & June – October, so scientist suggest your dog is most at risk in winter and spring as the bacteria seem to thrive in cold wet soil.

There is no blood test that can test for Alabama rot, and a definite diagnosis can only be made post mortem.

How to avoid Alabama rot

Keep to dry paths and keep your dog out of wet muddy areas.

Take clean water and don’t let them drink out of puddles.

Keep you dog in good physical condition, with good diet and healthy lifestyle.

Wash your dog’s paws down after a walk. Keep a tub of wet wipes or a flannel in the car. If your dog gets very muddy then bath them when they get home.

Although there is no link, I avoid walking the dogs where cattle have been grazing. Just from picking up ticks’ point of view (and eating rolling in dung). They also churn up the mud.

Always check your dog at the end of a walk, and deal with any lumps, bumps or ticks that have been picked up.

If you spot an unusual (often round) sore that you know as not been caused by an injury, then take your dog to the vet asap. The earlier the disease is caught the better chance of survival.

Join local area chat groups on social media, as they are able to spread news very quickly.

Take away

Although it is important to be vigilant, you still need to take your chihuahua out for a walk, getting out in the fresh air is important for physical and mental health. Yours and your chihuahuas. There are over 8 million dogs in the UK so, while 100 dog deaths are a tragedy the disease is rare and the actual chances of your chihuahua picking this up are low. Just be sensible.


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