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Alabama Rot: What you need to know

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Alabama Rot: What you need to know

Having said goodbye to 2017 – the UK’s worst year for cases of the deadly disease, Alabama Rot – we are faced with two new incidences in North Devon and North Yorkshire this January. Sometimes referred to as ‘Black Death’ disease, the official name is Cutaneous and Renal Vasculopathy (CRGV).

Last year, Alabama Rot was reported up and down the UK, in counties from Cornwall to Hampshire, and as far north as Greater Manchester. Unfortunately, the disease largely remains a mystery and is notoriously difficult to treat, with a tragically high death rate of 85-90%.

Where did the name come from?

The disease was first documented in Alabama in the 1980s. It was identified amongst greyhounds initially before seeming to disappear, with very little clinical research being carried out to identify its cause.

The first suspected cases of the disease in the UK were in 2012, and since then, roughly 98 confirmed cases have been identified, along with 22 unconfirmed and 35 suspected.

What are the first symptoms of the disease?

Affected dogs will first exhibit skin sores, which take the form of lesions, open wounds, ulcers, localised inflammation or areas of red skin. Although they are commonly found on the legs below the knee or elbow, they can also be found elsewhere on the body, such as the stomach, face or tongue. Hair loss may also be evident, and you may notice your dog licking at the area.

After a period of 2-7 days, you may observe vague, more generalised signs of illness, such as severe malaise, loss of appetite and vomiting, as your dog succumbs to kidney failure. This happens as the disease causes tiny clots to form in the blood vessels, leading to ulceration in the skin and severe organ dysfunction in the kidneys.

How is the disease spread?

Precious little is known about the cause and origins of Alabama Rot, although recent research suggests it is a rare form of E.coli that may be spread through water. What we do know is how it affects the body; technically speaking, Alabama Rot is a form of thrombotic microangiopathy, a condition that blocks off blood supply to tissue and organs.

There is some speculation that walking dogs in muddy, woodland areas poses more of a threat, as these were the areas visited by all affected dogs before showing symptoms. Despite this, the Forestry Commission has yet to highlight any specific areas as danger zones, as thousands of dogs are walked every day in muddy, woodland areas, without contracting the potentially fatal disease.

That said, there is strong evidence that the disease has an environmental trigger and that whatever causes it is ingested orally.

How do I protect my dog?

Unfortunately, there is no current cure for Alabama Rot, although, if caught early enough, there is some hope for eventual recovery.

Time is of the essence with this disease, so if you are at all concerned about your dog, contact your vet as soon as possible. Pay close attention to your dog’s skin immediately after walking and make sure they are adequately wiped down or fully bathed if heavily covered in mud.

Of course, the spread of Alabama Rot is very worrying, but it is important not to panic. The number of dogs affected, while it may seem high, is comparatively small in relation to the number of dogs that are walked every day in the UK. As the occurrence of disease is far-reaching and has had a presence in many counties up and down the country, there is no real evidence to suggest any areas are more at risk than others, so remain vigilant but don’t let anxiety prevent you from walking your dog.

If you have any thoughts on this discussion or need advice, feel free to comment below or email me directly.

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Comments

29th Jan 2018
Customer Since: September 2015
From: Wiltshire, United Kingdom

Never heard of this disease! Good to know this information. Thank you.

29th Jan 2018

Very interesting and useful details on the problems.
Thanks

29th Jan 2018

Is Fiona MacDonalds theory and research being taken seriously

29th Jan 2018
Customer Since: August 2011
From: north devon, United Kingdom

More research needs to be done about this awful disease paid for by the veterinary profession it wasn’t taken seriously enough when it started by some vets more needs to be done NOW!

29th Jan 2018

I live in Dorset.... there is a Vet in Ringwood (about 6 miles away)... who has a particular interest in fish and their disease’s.... she has studied Alabama Rott closely and feels there is a strong connection to a specific virus fish suffer from .. causing the same lesions to their bodies... this hoes hand in hand with it being water based.... she is currently sending out packs to surrounding vets to swab any infected dog to allow her to carry out more tests ... she is based at Cedars Veterinary Practice in Ringwood ... if any like minded Vet would like to contact her ... sorry I can’t remember her name .... but Koi fish are her speciality..... hope you find this helpful

29th Jan 2018

It looks like cushings disease which my Bichon has.

29th Jan 2018
Customer Since: January 2012
From: west yorkshire, United Kingdom

This is very interesting to read and i'm starting to wonder. My Greyhound Girl got all over sudden a inflamed sore Patch under her Armpit and she started to lick and bite on the side of her Body.
Not knowing why or where from i put some Sudocrem on,which amazingly healed the Sore patch.
Still went to the Vet as she carried on with scratching.
She received Tablets for her Skin,thinking it had somethings to do with it.
I carried on with using Coconut oi to put on the Skin and Yumega Oil to put in her food.
She is certainly better,constantly checking her over.
I'm still concerned to what it was,because she has History of Kidney/Pancrea Problems.
Thank you for highlighting this.

30th Jan 2018
Customer Since: January 2014
From: Somerset, United Kingdom

This article is very useful. The more people that are aware of this disease, especially the importance of early treatment from the vet, the more dogs might hopefully survive. Thanks

30th Jan 2018

Really interesting, informative article - thank you for bringing this to my attention, I sincerely hope a cure is found for this terrible disease very soon.

30th Jan 2018
Customer Since: July 2012
From: Hampshire, United Kingdom

Ute Heilig-Richards do you use a harness on your greyhound? Sighthounds bruise easily & the current trend for harnesses seems to be creating a lot of rubs and bruising. That may be why she recovered easily.

30th Jan 2018
Customer Since: July 2012
From: Hampshire, United Kingdom

Thank you Viovet for the update. I already avoid boggy muddy ground as my whippets hate it anyway, but when it's been tipping down I give their paws a rinse in an extremely dilute solution of Hibiscrub.

30th Jan 2018

Many thanks for the advice

30th Jan 2018

Would it be any good to wash paws in salt water and then rinse in fresh?

30th Jan 2018
Customer Since: June 2015
From: North Yorkshire, United Kingdom

The info is good to know in advance as it allows us to be on our guard knowing what the symptoms are to look out for

31st Jan 2018

So many informative articles on your site, thank you so much!

31st Jan 2018
Customer Since: December 2015
From: Shropshire, United Kingdom

we lost a spaniel to Alabama Rot in Shropshire 2 years ago, but the remaining 5 dogs were all fine - we have our own land and the dogs free exercise around the wooded boundaries - rarely go elsewhere, but have routine vaccinations and we have no water sources on the property apart from water troughs - be under no illusion - we aren't talking about weeks of skin rubs - the ulcerated sore appeared between his toes that he started to lick 2 days before he quickly deteriorated and became unwell with malaise and sickness, very dark urine 24 hours before he died of acute renal failure - not weeks of low grade skin rubs - the progression is very quick but thankfully still a rare occurrence.

31st Jan 2018

Thank you for this information. I will share it to other dog owners. Very scary disease.

31st Jan 2018
Customer Since: August 2017
From: Suffolk , United Kingdom

I had heard of Alabama foot rot a few yrs ago. Although there have been very few deaths,one is too many if its your beloved pet and companion. I am concerned that its taken such a long time for this awful disease to start having information published. Vets are busy people but hopefully with their assistance and encouragement more will soon be known. It would be good to know if its in your particular area and for posters wit that basic information to be in every practice.

31st Jan 2018

Thank you my dog Erin was one of the confirmed cases in Christchurch Dorset, treated at Anderson Moore's vets sadly she did mot make it, it's good that you are making people aware of this terrible disease.

31st Jan 2018
Customer Since: October 2017
From: Lancashire, United Kingdom

Thanks for reminding all us about this nasty problem. I live in East Lancashire where people habitually spit phlegm on the pavements, there are dog faeces and broken glass too. After walking my dog (in the road, I hasten to add - early morning and midday), I thoroughly wipe his feet with warm water and Tea Tree oil. Will this help in the battle against Alabama Rot?

31st Jan 2018

I understand washing your dog with cold tap water after walks is a good idea as the chlorine may help to combat the rot. Not a definite study but could have a better effect then hibiscrub or antibacterial shampoos. Too many cases the last couple of weeks and worrying.

31st Jan 2018
Customer Since: August 2017
From: United Kingdom, United Kingdom

Very interesting to know, can't say I have heard of this, but it is to know, Thank you

31st Jan 2018

There has been 2 cases of confirmed Alabama Rot in Co. Durham in the last 2 weeks. There seems to be more and more cases recently and this dreadful disease needs researching.

31st Jan 2018

I live in birmingham. Recently cases of alabama rot have been confirmed at Kingsbury Water Park. which would tie in with Jennies vets fish theory. I'm a dog groomer and i advise my customers (after talking to a couple of vets i know) to wash their dogs paws in warm water, with hibiscrub, using a large plastic underbed storage box for dogs with yeast infections or other problems with their feet as it easier to stand them in it. I would say it can't hurt to do this after each walk as most rinse during wet weather anyway.

31st Jan 2018

I have five greyhound's all oldies but I wash their feet in rosemary water after a walk it seems to heal any nick they get and I'm reading all I can on this disease

31st Jan 2018

Good to have some guidance on this heart breaking new disease especially with so much mud everywhere at the moment its hard to avoid, but this info will make us twice as vigilant, thank you.

31st Jan 2018

A case if Alabama has been confirmed in Durham today

31st Jan 2018

Thank you for alerting me to this disease.My mini Schnauzer is always drinkingfrom dirty puddles etc.so I will attempt to stop him from doing so.I do always wash down his muddy paws after our walks,but will now be more diligent in checking him for sores etc.

31st Jan 2018

I only learned of this dreadful disease a couple of days ago. We will definitely be paying more attention to cleaning paws and legs in future. Apparently there are a couple of cases that have been diagnosed in Sunderland and County Durham. It is worrying for us dog owners. Hopefully they will find a treatment for this sooner rather than later.

31st Jan 2018

I have heard of this disease before, but not heard of any actual cases in the Kirklees/Huddersfield areas. We generally keep our greyhound on a proper greyhound collar and leash which one would hope will limit any potential exposure to 'nasties'. (Extending lead are NOT recommended because of the instinct to chase moving 'furries' and fast acceleration rate of a greyhound from stationary or normal walk.) More commonly, however, dogs are allowed to roam and run free in what are perceived as being safe areas and I am frequent witness to spaniel and retriever types especially which are wet through and covered in mud from streams and wet, muddy fields. Perhaps it would be wiser for owners to keep their dogs on leads so that they can keep an eye on where they are scrabbling around. The other common problem I and others are finding is discarded junk food and any dog running loose can consume that (fresh or putrid) without any knowledge of its owner. Even on a lead that can happen. Our greyhound once swallowed in one go a full triangle of a ham sandwich from pavement a before I could get anywhere near her mouth to get it off her (a risky prospect at the best of times!).

1st Feb 2018
Customer Since: June 2016
From: Shropshire, United Kingdom

Thank you for this article. I hadn't realised it was quite so widespread as it is, and an ongoing problem. Haven't seen any news reports for ages. We live in soggy, wet woodland and I'll be more vigilant with our 3 now.

1st Feb 2018

I first heard about this late 2017,, and I’ve become a little paranoid with protecting our 2 year old English Setter, he gets a thorough wash every time he comes back from a run, all his under side, groin, mouth, legs, and thoroughly dried, certainly hope that something can be done to cure this awful thing.

1st Feb 2018

This disease is wider spread than first thought: we live in Somerset. Although not a confirmed case, we lost our retriever 3 years ago and all my research points to Alabama Rot. He started having trouble walking as he had lesions on a paw, then he started drooling and I noticed lesions on his tongue which were green/grey and later started bleeding. He then developed them on his ears and in patches around his mouth and eyes. He started vomiting and then having difficulty peeing, then despite numerous visits to the vets and different antibiotics, rapidly went downhill. The time span from finding the first lesion to his death was approximately 10 days. It wasn't until a couple of months later I became aware of this disease.

1st Feb 2018

There have been three suspected cases,one confirmed in County Durham, so it has arrived in the North East.

1st Feb 2018
Customer Since: April 2017
From: Durham, United Kingdom

Heard of this disease and I walk my dogs in castle Eden Dene, Peterlee, Co Durham, no one has reported any issues in the area, do keep a close check on both my dogs, I have heard of un confirmed reports of dogs in both Cleveland/Teesside and north Durham area catching the disease, keeping a close eye on my dogs.

1st Feb 2018

I do think people need to be aware of this horrible disease and thank you for doing this. I live in Cleveland and there have been confirmed cases recently so it is definitely spreading. Any dog can get this not just greyhounds. I know originally it was found in greyhounds and dogs that ate raw food.i believe since raw feeding was stopped there have been no more cases in America but how true this is I don't know. I am very concerned as to close to home for me and it could happen to any dog. Please more research and informing the public needs to be done.

2nd Feb 2018

There was a confirmed case of Alabama Rot in the Cannock Chase area recently, death of a spaniel

3rd Feb 2018

some of the first cases also noted vomiting/diarrhoea with blood, and a fast deterioration to death with organ failure. About 2 years ago, a grooning client of mine moved house. There was a mature leylandi tree in the garden. her 2 shihtzu went into the garden, and the 3 years old bitch came in, after 5 minutes, and started to vomit. In the vomit was bits of a small yellow conical capped mushroom/fungi. the vomiting was then accompanied by bloody faeces. She was rushed to the vet and put straight onto a drip She got worse and was put to sleep following total organ failure just over 24 hours later. My client removed 2 further fungi fronm under the tree, but the other dog hadn't been interested in them anyway. I have wondered if this might be the answer to some of the very violent reactions that have occured with very simlar sumptoms. I informed Cambridge Vet Research Dept. who ssadl;y were very dismissive and set that Autumn was the wrong time of year for fungi!!. it is exactly the right time, when woodlands are damp and humid. So watch out for small yellow caps,on thin stalks, they about 2 ins high. Some of these are VERY POISONOUS. And there is always a dog which will eat anything it comes across.

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