Alabama Rot Symptoms: How to Spot the Potentially Fatal Disease · The Wildest

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What Is Alabama Rot? How to Spot The Potentially Fatal Disease

This dangerous disease has been spotted a number of times in the UK. Here’s how to recognise if your dog has symptoms

Close-up of a Merle coated Greyhound dog laying in the lap of their pet parent on the bed

Although thankfully rare, Alabama Rot is a real and very serious disease that has affected a number of dogs in the UK since 2012. Read on to find out about the symptoms, causes and treatment of Alabama Rot.

What is Alabama Rot?

Alabama Rot is a potentially fatal disease that has been affecting dogs across the UK since 2012. It gained its name after a number of Greyhounds developed the disease at an Alabama dog racing park in the 1980s. It is also known as ‘cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy’, which is quite the mouthful, so is commonly shortened to CRGV. ‘Cutaneous refers to the skin, ‘renal and ‘glomerular to the kidneys, and ‘vasculopathy to the blood vessels. Alabama Rot causes tiny clots to form in the smallest blood vessels in your dog’s body causing injury to the skin and kidneys.

In the US, there haven’t been any reported cases since the original outbreak in the 1980s.

What causes Alabama Rot?

A bacterium believed to be causing CRGV has been isolated by researchers but not yet identified. Research is actively being undertaken to understand more about this condition. The disease has been linked to walking in muddy, woodland areas with a large proportion of cases occurring in the New Forest and Manchester areas. However, cases have been reported across the UK. The disease usually occurs in winter and spring. It is not yet known how the disease arrived in the UK or whether the bacteria exists in the environment.

How common is Alabama Rot?

Undeniably, CRGV has the potential to be a very serious disease, affecting all breeds of dog without discriminating between age or gender. Much of the concern surrounding CRGV comes from the fact that we know very little about it. We don’t know why dogs become affected or which dogs will go on to develop life threatening disease. For this reason it is hard to advise how we can best protect our dogs.

Diagnosis is usually only confirmed at post mortem due to the lack of a safe diagnostic test. This means that any confirmed cases have usually died, which makes estimating the true number of cases very difficult. Between 2012 and Jun 2024, 324 cases of CRGV were confirmed across the UK, an average of 27 per year. In reality, the number of undiagnosed cases is likely much higher. Despite this, CRGV remains a very rare disease and it is likely that many dogs only experience small skin sores and recover without treatment.

Is there an Alabama Rot map?

Anderson Moores, the veterinary specialists leading the research into CRGV, have a live map of confirmed cases on their website.

What are the symptoms of Alabama Rot?

Dogs typically develop ulcers on their feet or lower legs. These ulcers can vary in size, number and severity. Some appear as mild reddening of the skin, whilst others resemble small cuts. If your dog has long hair or you haven’t noticed the sore, then you may see them licking their feet excessively. In a few cases the ulcers can be large and cause severe swelling of the affected leg.

Whilst most sores appear on the feet, some dogs will develop ulcers on the face, belly or even in their mouth. These ulcers can easily be mistaken for a cut or sting, however they appear suddenly without an injury to cause them. For most dogs, skin ulcers are the only symptom and they tend to recover well. Unfortunately, others will go on to develop kidney failure, also known as acute kidney injury. If this happens, your pet will be very quiet, they may not want to eat and will often drool or vomit. They will drink excessively, in some cases without urinating. These symptoms can develop at the same time as the ulcers or some days later. Unfortunately, many of the dogs that go on to develop kidney disease do not survive. Why some dogs go on to develop a more severe version of the disease is currently unknown.

How is Alabama Rot treated?

Dogs that have skin sores in the absence of kidney involvement tend to recover well, although sores can take months to heal. Your vet may prescribe pain relief and antibiotics and might also apply a dressing to the affected area.

Sadly, dogs that develop kidney failure often don’t survive. To have the best chance of recovering they require early and aggressive treatment. They will need intensive care and, due to the rare and challenging nature of the condition, your vet may recommend referral to a specialist. 

How can I prevent Alabama Rot?

Unfortunately, as the cause of Alabama Rot is not known, reliable advice on prevention is lacking. There is currently no evidence suggesting that it is passed from dog to dog, and as far as we know it is not contagious. It is recommended to wash your dog following muddy walks, especially their lower legs, as this will allow early detection of any suspicious sores, enabling treatment to be started sooner. Vigilance and awareness is key so check your dogs regularly and make sure other dog walkers have heard of the condition.

Alabama Rot is most prevalent between November and May and has been linked to walking in woodland following rainfall. Check your dog’s legs for sores after long, muddy, woodland walks. Remember most cuts are nothing to worry about and CRGV is a very rare condition. Chances are, its nothing to worry about, however if you do find a sore that has appeared without injury then speak to your vet about it. If symptoms such as vomiting and lethargy develop around the same time then this could indicate a problem with the kidneys, in which case prompt veterinary treatment should be sought. Kidney involvement is often fatal and early treatment may lead to a better outcome.

Dr Nina Blackmore, MRCVS, BVSc, PgCertSAECC

Nina Blackmore is a vet who, after leaving the Royal Army Veterinary Corps, took up two very different lives. For four long, chaotic days each fortnight she lives in a tiny house next to a small animal veterinary hospital in Boston, managing hospitalised patients and treating any emergency cases that turn up. As well as emergencies she also has a keen interest in pain management and acupuncture. The rest of her time is spent in a quirky bungalow in Rutland where she and her husband run a self sufficient small holding and a dog home boarding business. She spends her life surrounded by animals and has made it her life goal to help as many as possible. 

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