Alabama Rot – a deadly dog disease

2nd July 2017

Alabama Rot is a rare and extremely unpleasant disease of dogs which all of us at Park Veterinary Hospital would like to bring to your attention. You may have heard about it recently in the news as more and more cases have been diagnosed since it was first seen in the UK in 2012. Its scientific name is Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy (CRGV) but the common name, Alabama Rot, comes from the 1980’s when it was first seen in Alabama in the USA.

See this BBC News story about Alabama Rot

Sadly, 90% of cases that have been diagnosed were fatal. Most have occurred in the cooler months between November and May, often in the southern counties and western regions of the country, but at Park Veterinary Hospital we feel it so important that we should tell you more now.


What causes Alabama rot?

The cause of Alabama rot is not known yet. It’s suspected that there is an environmental trigger as many cases have been diagnosed after dogs have been walked in muddy and wooded areas. It’s also been postulated that it could be as a result of a toxin being absorbed from the environment. Either way, the investigations are ongoing and our vets at Park Veterinary Hospital continue to be on the lookout for early signs of the disease.


Can it be prevented?

Unfortunately, it’s difficult to know how to prevent dogs from catching this disease but it is probably wise to wash your dog on returning home from a wet and/or muddy walk.


What are the signs?

It often starts with a small, ulcerated and annoying wound. These lesions are typically found on a limb, but they can develop anywhere on the body. They often look like an irritated bite, wound or sting, but as the condition progresses over a few days it can eventually trigger acute renal failure. Below is a list of the key signs to look out for.

  • Skin wounds – they tend to be sore and irritating. Almost all affected dogs have presented with these skin lesions
  • Mouth lesions – some dogs have been seen with small lesions in the mouth
  • Lethargy- they become quiet and not their selves
  • Anorexia- they go off their food
  • Vomiting may be seen
  • Hypothermia- they often become cold as they become ill
  • Lameness- particularly seen if the lesion is on a paw or a pad. This is understandable given they are often painful lessons


As the disease progresses other signs may be seen, though these are less common

  • Jaundice- they can get yellow skin and gums if the disease affects their liver
  • High temperature - dogs can become hot due to inflammation and secondary infections
  • Diarrhoea may occur
  • Bruising - often seen in the more hairless areas such as the belly
  • Bleeding - clotting issues may cause nose bleeds or blood in their faeces
  • Excessive drinking – dogs may start to drink and urinate more as kidney function is compromised
  • Incoordination – animals become wobbly and weak
  • Odd behaviours – occasionally we see fits or twitching muscles


What should you do if you if your dog has a skin wound?

Don’t panic – remember the disease is very rare. However, if your pet gets a painful skin wound on their body and is also quiet or has any of the signs above, our vets at Park Veterinary Hospital should take a look.


Contact the practice


Tell others about Alabama Rot

Even though you’re less likely to see it in the warmer summer months, we thought it would be worth making everyone aware of the disease. Why not spread the word and tell your friends? If your dog starts to lick or chew at a sore area of skin, contact the vet.


What else can cause skin wounds at this time of year?

Often wounds looking like this have a simple cause, such as a grass seed creating inflammation, or a thorn or tick. It’s important to rule out Alabama Rot at an early stage, so it always better to see you at Park Veterinary Hospital and let our vets reassure you.


Look at this dynamic map of confirmed cases in the UK