What is it?
Alabama Rot is a serious disease that attacks dogs’ skin, flesh and kidneys. Its scientific name is Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy (or CRGV), and it was first spotted in the 1980’s in the US state of Alabama. It first appeared in the UK in 2012, and since then the number of reported cases has risen year on year. The most serious outbreak so far was in Hampshire, but there have been cases reported throughout Britain, from Devon and Dorset in the south, right up to Dumfries in Scotland. Alabama Rot can affect any breed of dog, and there’s no evidence that age or general state of health is a contributing factor.
How is it spread?
Veterinary scientists haven’t been able to identify the precise source of infections, although anecdotal evidence suggests that dogs are more likely to catch the disease when walking in muddy areas. And infection rates appear to spike in the winter months, which supports the link to wet, muddy conditions. So the latest advice is to keep your dog away from boggy and wooded areas, and if your dog does succeed in getting itself muddy, you should wash it thoroughly as soon as you get home.
What to look out for
The initial symptoms of Alabama Rot are skin lesions, usually on the legs below the knee or elbow, or on the chest, face or abdomen. The lesions can start off as a patch of reddish skin, but they can quickly develop into open sores - so keep a look out for your dog licking patches of skin or ulcer-like marks that may look like small wounds. Dogs suffering from Alabama Rot will also lose their appetite and suffer from low energy levels, and if the condition isn’t treated right away, kidney damage can quickly follow, ultimately leading to kidney failure and death.
What to do
If you suspect your dog has contracted Alabama Rot, visit your vet right away - they’ll be able to confirm whether your dog has the disease. The bad news is that there’s no definitive cure, although a small number of cases do respond positively to treatment. The good news is that while the disease appears to be spreading, the number of reported cases is still small. In 2017 around 40 dogs were confirmed to have caught the disease, so the chances of your dog becoming infected are very low.