Alabama rot is a rare disease of dogs which has been identified in the UK since 2012. “Alabama Rot” is also known by its more technical name of cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy or CRGV. Cases of CRGV are seen most often in winter and spring. It is a potentially serious disease which causes damage to the blood vessels of a dog’s skin and kidneys. Small clots form which disrupt the blood supply to these organs.
What are the symptoms of CRGV or Alabama rot?
Unexplained skin sores which are not the result of an injury might be the first noticeable symptom. The skin sore might look like an ulcer, or an area of swollen red skin. Typically, these skin lesions are found on the lower limbs, the bottom of the chest or abdomen or on the face.
Of course, skin wounds, bites and scrapes are very common, and so in most cases finding a sore area of skin or a wound is not cause for concern. If there is any doubt about what caused the area of sore skin seek advice from your veterinary surgeon.
Not all dogs with CRGV will go into kidney failure. However, in some cases, the small blood clots will cause disruption of the blood supply and disrupt the kidneys’ ability to function. Ultimately it is a very small number of cases of Alabama rot that progress to kidney failure. Symptoms which might indicate problems with the kidneys include; reduced appetite, reduced urination, lethargy and vomiting.
Kidney problems or kidney failure more often than not will not be related to Alabama rot. If your dog is unwell it is best to arrange a check-up with your vet.
What causes Alabama rot?
The cause of Alabama rot is still not understood, and many early suspects have been ruled out. Research to determine the cause is being undertaken. It is known that most cases of Alabama rot are associated with dogs that are walked in the countryside in woodland or muddy areas. It is thought that there could be an environmental association, though it is worth remembering thousands of dogs are walked in the countryside every day and a very tiny minority develop CRGV. Most cases of Alabama rot are reported between November and May.
Where in the UK is Alabama rot or CRGV found?
Cases of CRGV have been confirmed in counties throughout the UK. There isn’t any evidence to suggest certain areas should be avoided. It is still rare, with very few cases reported each year. Between November 2012-January 2018 only 122 cases of confirmed CRGV where dogs experienced both skin lesions and kidney failure were reported.
Can Alabama rot or CRGV be treated?
There is no specific treatment for CRGV currently. If you are concerned about a skin ulcer or any other symptom of illness in your dog seek prompt advice from your veterinary practice. If your dog has a sore area of skin, then your vet will devise a suitable treatment plan. In some cases, the wound might need to be covered or dressed to protect it and allow it to heal. The skin wound might have evidence of secondary bacterial infection, in which case antibiotics may be given. Blood and urine tests may be used to monitor kidney function and screen for kidney failure.
In those cases where a dog also has kidney failure more intensive management will be needed, it is likely the dog will need to be hospitalised. Kidney failure as a result of CRGV is complex to treat and the prognosis is guarded, therefore the vet may suggest the dog is referred to a specialist where treatments such as plasma exchange or dialysis may be available.
How can I prevent my dog getting Alabama rot?
Because the cause of CRGV or Alabama rot is not understood it is hard to say with any certainty how to prevent your dog from contracting it. A wide range of dog breeds of all ages and both sexes have been affected. There isn’t thought to be any age or breed which is more at risk of CRGV.
Bathing your dog after muddy countryside or woodland walks might be sensible; however, there isn’t any evidence to suggest this is of any benefit.
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