Alabama Rot warning for dog owners as fatal flesh-eating disease is spread by heatwave

While some dog owners might have heard about the dangers of a flesh-eating bug called Alabama Rot, others may be unaware of the life threatening disease.

Friday, 16th July 2021, 10:19 am
Updated Friday, 16th July 2021, 10:20 am

Once believed to only thrive in cold and wet environments, fresh fears have arisen regarding the bug, as it appears that dogs are still suffering from the disease in the UK heatwave.

For pet owners whose number one priority is keeping their furry friends safe, this is everything you need to know about Alabama Rot.

Sophie Adamantos, clinical director at Paragon Veterinary Referrals in Wakefield, said: “Alabama Rot is still an uncommon disease, but signs for dog owners to look out for in their pets include sudden, unexplained redness on the skin.

For pet owners whose number one priority is keeping their furry friends safe, this is everything you need to know about Alabama Rot.
For pet owners whose number one priority is keeping their furry friends safe, this is everything you need to know about Alabama Rot.

“Early symptoms include skin lesions/sores, typically below the knee or elbow, which are not wounds from an injury.

“The sores show as a swelling, a patch of red skin or a defect such as an ulcer. From then, affected dogs can develop signs of kidney failure which can include vomiting, reduced appetite and tiredness.

“Early recognition of the disease is key. Without knowing the trigger for the disease, it’s impossible to give specific advice but I would urge dog owners to speak to their vet if they find an unexplained skin lesion/sore, especially if the dog is also unwell.”

Alabama Rot originally appeared in the late 1980s affecting greyhounds in America. The crippling disease, which has no known cause, was first detected in the UK in 2012.

What is Alabama Rot?

Alabama Rot is a disease which targets a dog’s blood vessels and their kidneys.

Country File describes it as “a mysterious disease which is hard to identify and sadly, very difficult to treat.”

The disease was first observed amongst greyhounds in the American state of Alabama in the 1980s. More recently, it was first found in the UK in 2012 and since that time, cases have been reported across the UK.

While it first only affected greyhounds, Alabama Rot has been confirmed to affect all different kinds of breeds, regardless of age, sex or weight.

The Alabama Rot Research Fund (ARRF) says, “The disease works by causing damage to blood vessels of the skin and kidneys.

“Tiny blood clots form in blood vessels which block them and can lead to damaged tissue.

“Some dogs develop these clots in the kidney, which can lead to severe organ dysfunction and ultimately, kidney failure.”

The symptoms to look out for

The first sign of Alabama Rot that you’ll need to look out for are skin sores which have not been caused by a physical injury.

These sores can present as:

Lesions

Swelling

Patch of red skin

An open, ulcer-like wound

You’ll find these sores most commonly below the knee or elbow of your dog, but they can also occasionally be found on the stomach or the face.

The ARRF also advises to keep an eye out for the following symptoms:

Loss of appetite or a reluctance to eat

Jaundice, so discolouration in your dog’s eyes, gums or nostrils

Vomiting or gagging

Kidney failure – although this only occurs in a minority of cases, if this does occur, it is usually fatal

What should I do if it think my dog has Alabama Rot?

If you think your dog may be suffering from Alabama Rot, you should take them to the vet immediately.

How to prevent your dog from catching it

The ARRF says, “The cause at this time remains unknown but investigations are ongoing, an environmental cause for this disease is considered possible but it has not been proven with testing to date.”

While the exact cause of Alabama Rot is still unknown, there are steps you can take to minimise your dogs chances of contracting the disease.

Country File says, “It is suspected the disease spread from muddy and wooded areas – dog owners who do walk their dogs in these places are advised to wash off any mud as soon as possible, and of course, keep close control of their dogs at all times to monitor where they go.”

Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists in Winchester has been leading research into the disease since 2012, with a team led by David Walker, American, RCVS and EBVS European specialist in small animal internal medicine. The practice collates information on all cases and reports of confirmed cases across the country.