Alabama Rot is a disease that affects dogs of all ages and breeds. The cause of it is unknown but if not treated early it can result in fatal kidney disease.
It was first detected in Greyhounds in the USA about 30 years ago. It first appeared in the UK in 2012; initially in the New Forest but since then cases have been confirmed throughout the country.
The first signs are skin sores which appear as ulcerated areas, mainly found on any of the four lower limbs and have not been caused by any other injuries (but they can also occur anywhere on the body). Within a week the dog will develop symptoms of kidney failure. These include lack of appetite, lethargy, excessive thirst, vomiting and weight loss. The skin sores and kidney failure are caused by damage to the blood vessels supplying these organs.
If your dog develops these symptoms they indicate that Alabama Rot is a possibility only and are not diagnostic for the disease. Your vet can perform some blood and urine tests to assess kidney function and help decide if Alabama Rot is likely. If a dog is suspected of having Alabama Rot early, aggressive medical intervention is the best way to achieve a positive outcome however the disease is often fatal despite this.
As the cause of Alabama Rot is still unknown it is very difficult to give advice on how to avoid it. Unlike the cases seen in US Greyhounds, the disease in the UK is not breed, gender or age specific. There have been cases of closely associated dogs being affected but we don’t know if that is because the disease has passed between them or if they have both come into contact with the same causal agent in the environment. There is a seasonal element to the disease with the most cases occurring between November - May.
It must be remembered that the risk of Alabama Rot is very low with less than 150 confirmed cases across the UK. No cases have ever been detected in any other species or have been passed to humans.
You can support research into this deadly disease by donating to the Alabama Rot Research Fund. www.arrf.co.uk