This disease has had some major press in the last year, its reported as a terrifying condition that kills dogs, but how much do we currently know about it and how worried should we be?
What is Alabama Rot?
Alabama Rot (also sometimes referred to as CRGV) is a disease that is caused by damage to tiny blood vessels, specifically those of the skin and kidney. These tiny blood vessels become blocked by very small blood clots, which means that the part of the body that they supply does not get any oxygen and therefore becomes damaged. In the skin this leads to sore (ulcerated) areas, in the kidney this can cause kidney failure. The sores on the skin are most commonly seen on the ends of the legs, or feet, on the tummy (ventrum) or on the face.
There have currently only been cases of Alabama Rot confirmed in dogs.
What do we know about Alabama Rot?
One of the reasons that Alabama Rot is so scary is that we don't know what causes it at the moment. There are lots of very clever people working away at trying to find an answer but at the moment our knowledge is limited.
We do know that all dogs appear to be equally affected, breed, weight, sex or age does not change the likelihood of catching Alabama Rot.
We also know that over the last three years more cases are reported between November and May than June to October.
There have been cases of Alabama Rot confirmed in many counties across the UK, which means that at the moment there are no areas that dog owners should avoid walking their pets.
There have been four confirmed cases within 20 miles of N12 (East Molesey, Putney, Harrow and Southfields).
Is there anything you can do to prevent Alabama Rot?
Unfortunately because we are not sure of the cause we are very limited with information we can give about how to avoid contracting Alabama Rot.
There is currently no vaccination against Alabama Rot.
It has been suggested that winter mud should be washed off your pet after a walk. As we do not know the cause of the disease, we do not know if this will make any difference, but it is a relatively easy thing to do (depending on how much your dog likes a bath!)
The main thing that you can do is something that all loving pet owners do daily anyway and that is to keep a close eye on your dog. If you find any unusual sores on their skin (particularly on their paws or legs) it is important to get them checked out.
It is hard to distinguish the sores made by Alabama Rot from other cuts, wounds or stings but it is better to have them looked at than worry.
It is also worth remembering that even if the skin sore is caused by Alabama Rot not all dogs go on to develop problems with their kidneys. Some go on to recover fully.
If we see your pet we will assess the sores and treat then appropriately. If we are suspicious of Alabama Rot then a blood and urine test will be performed. If your pet is found to have problems with their kidneys they will need to be hospitalised for intensive care. Unfortunately Alabama Rot can only be diagnosed conclusively by examining the tissues of the skin and kidney under a microscope, this means that the diagnosis is sometimes only confirmed once a pet has passed away at a post mortem.
Alabama Rot is well publicised in the media because it is a horrible disease that we know little about, and one that we can find very difficult to treat. However, it is VERY important to remember that the number of dogs affected that have both skin lesions and kidney failure remains low (there were only 71 confirmed cases across the whole of the UK between November 2012 and March 2016.) So while it is important to remain vigilant for the signs of this terrible disease, it is vital to remember that there are a lot more common, innocuous causes of wounds on your dogs feet and not to panic if you see any, just give us a call and we will happily have a look at your pet for you.