Alabama Rot Symptoms: Here’s What You Need to Know

As Alabama Rot continues to spread across the UK, most recently being spotted and affecting dogs in County Durham, Bolton, Plymouth, Derbyshire, Teeside and Wales, here's how to spot the symptoms of the fatal disease,  Alabama Rot, also known as the 'dog's black death'.

What Is Alabama Rot?

Also known as Cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV), Alabama Rot is thought to be environmentally based because dogs are contracting between November and June.

It was first spotted in the UK six years ago but has been active in the US since the late 1980s. The cause of the flesh-eating canine disease is still unknown and dogs of any age, sex or breed can be affected.

Alabama Rot Symptoms: Here's What You Need to Know

Nine in 10 dogs who contract the disease will sadly lose their lives because there is not yet a definite cure. While antibiotics and specialised treatment can be administered to combat the effects of the disease, such as skin sores and kidney failure, it proves fatal in many cases.

With dangers heightened in woodland areas and the countryside, and the potential link between stagnant water in these areas and the disease, some veterinary experts think it may be linked to the weather and are comparing drier winters to wetter seasons to see if there is a correlation between the number of dogs affected and wet weather.

Alabama Rot Symptoms: Here's What You Need to Know

In 2015, vet Fiona Macdonald published this letter in the Veterinary Record as she explained her investigation into what Alabama Rot is.

“I am currently running a long term investigation combining retrospective serum sampling from recovered cases combined with in-contact dogs along with specialised sample taking from the skin lesions on first presentation at the veterinary practices involved. Hopefully we might have some results later in 2015, but the weather this winter has been significantly drier than the last two winters and there seems to have been a parallel reduction in cases to date.”

While a more recent study, released earlier this year reported a possible link to the escape of wormed deer in Adlington, England. With no wormer maintained, bacteria or parasites could have spread naturally in woodland areas.

Alabama Rot Symptoms

The initial symptoms and first tell-tale signs of Alabama rot are ulcers and swelling or sores that are found on the skin.

An obvious indicator to owners that their dog has ulcers or sores, is if they see their dog constantly licking areas which appear to be of discomfort to the animal.

Prit Powar, head of Pet Insurance at Direct Line told us, “It is more important now than ever for owners to be thoroughly checking their dog’s skin for any abnormalities. As there is so little that is known about the disease, it is important to give pets the best chance of a recovery by finding signs of the disease as early as possible.”

Alabama Rot Symptoms: Here's What You Need to Know

If the initial symptoms of the disease are missed, dogs can develop kidney failure within days.

If a pet is suffering from kidney issues, they are likely to have less of an appetite, become overly tired and in some circumstances have a case of vomiting.

Dr Sarah Page-Jones MRCVS, Chief Veterinary Officer at PawSquad, a video and live chat veterinary consultation service available 24/7 with Direct Line, shared her worries in connection with the new cases of Alabama Rot that have recently been diagnosed, saying, “We can only hope that the underlying cause of this awful disease will soon be identified."

How to Keep Dogs Safe from Alabama Rot

Here are 5 things you can do to help keep your dog as safe as possible, according to the vet experts at Direct Line and PawSquad.

  • Make sure your dog is bathed every time it becomes muddy or wet, whether that be on a walk or playing in the garden
  • Wash any wounds or sores you notice on your dog as this can reduce the chances of infection
  • When checking for abnormalities that could be related to Alabama rot, do so when bathing your pet, as it makes it easier to check behind thick areas of fur
  • Check the legs, body and mouth as typically this is where the initial symptoms first appear
  • If you find anything that you think could be a possible early sign of Alabama Rot and are suspicious, seek veterinary advice immediately


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