This week has seen a swathe of recent press reports of dogs in six counties including Berkshire, Warwickshire and Lancashire falling victim to Alabama Rot.

This is not surprising given that the peak season for Alabama Rot seems to be November to May in the UK.
Given that up to 90% of dogs infected die, this is terrible news for their owners and family.


What to look for

Vets 4 pets says “The first sign that is normally seen is a skin sore not caused by any known injury. Most commonly, these sores are found below the elbow or knee and appear as a distinct swelling, a patch of red skin, or are open and ulcer-like. Within approximately two to seven days, the affected dogs develop outward signs of sudden kidney failure which can include vomiting, reduced hunger, and an unusual tiredness.”

Other sources also identify hair loss around the infected area and that the lesions might be on the tongue and muzzle. This might be the result of the dog licking the wound.

But these symptoms are not unique to Alabama Rot, which makes this disease that much more difficult to diagnose. This is why the Forestry Commission will only identify sites where the disease was caught only once it has been definitely confirmed. Vets have to run various blood and urine tests as well as taking a full history before a certain diagnosis can be made.

How is it caught?

Not only is there no known cure for Alabama Rot, but also how and where it is caught is also something of a mystery. Anderson Moores is a UK veterinary practice leading research on this disease. There are various hypotheses which range from a parasite, or a bacteria, or a toxin created by a bacteria. It seems to be either picked up on the lower legs or is perhaps found among the algae of ponds into which the dog stands.

Deaths seem to occur after walks in woodland areas, but even this is not proven. Some vets therefore suggest that dog owners avoid wet and muddy walks. Or after such walks for owners to bathe their dogs. The practical alternative might be a thorough rub down with a high quality microfibre dog towel, which removes most bacteria along with dirt and water. The rubdown also allows a quick health check of your pet at the same time. But we should emphasise that this is only a suggestion.

What is known about Alabama Rot

Alabama Rot was discovered in the UK in 2012. Since then 109 dogs have died. The six cases above are those reported since summer 2017. While it is a terrible disease it is not as widespread as many would believe with some 8.5M dogs in the UK. To check where you might be walking click this map.

The small number of cases make it very difficult to research to pin down the causes and to effectively treat it. What would then normally follow would be to provide reliable preventative measures. Thus so far there can only be suggestions not proven recommendations.

In the UK any age sex or breed of dog can be affected. For this reason although the outward symptoms appear similar, it is probably not true Alabama Rot because that only affected greyhounds. The technical name in the UK is Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy (CRGV). This enables vets to identify the specific cases with the complete list of symptoms, not the many other diseases and conditions, which are similar.

Alabama Rot or not, it is still a terrible disease contracted by a very small number of dogs typically during the mud and wet of winter and spring walks. So staying vigilant about the ongoing health and well-being of your dog especially after such walks can only be good.

And if in doubt ask your vet.