An update on Alabama rot

Alabama rot | Vets Yeovil

During consultations, various topics are discussed between vets and owners which are often unrelated to the pets current illness but may be of particular interest to the owner or have recently made the press.

One subject that continues to raise discussion is Cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV) which was given the name Alabama rot as it presents in a very similar way to a disease recorded in Alabama in the 1980’s in Greyhounds.

CRGV causes damage to the blood vessels in the skin and kidneys. It causes tiny blood clots to form in the blood vessels which can block leading to tissue damage. The effect in the skin is ulceration but in the kidney can lead to severe organ damage and kidney failure.

Despite extensive research, it is still unclear what causes this disease but it is now considered highly unlikely that plants are a trigger. Whether the cause is a toxin, bacterium, virus or other still remains under investigation and not knowing the cause makes providing advice on prevention very difficult. Washing any mud off your dog on return from a walk may seem sensible but on the other hand we have no evidence to suggest this is necessary or helpful.

This disease was first recorded in this country in 2012 in the New Forest but has since been reported in many counties so there is no current advice to avoid particular areas. One thing to make very clear is this disease is very rare, there have only been approximately 60 cases recorded to date. We have several thousand pets registered and we have not had a confirmed case at our practice to date, this does not mean it is not important but we have to put the numbers into context.

There are no breed, age or sex predilection and there is no current test for this disease prior to tissue samples being taken post mortem and as the cause is unknown, no vaccination available. Treatment involves appropriate wound management with antibiotics if indicated and hospitalisation and intravenous fluid therapy if kidney damage is suspected.

As you can see there is an awful lot we do not know about this disease so what do we know? And what steps can be taken?

The disease is characterised by ulceration to the limbs or mouth of dogs with a number of dogs going on to show signs of kidney failure which frequently proved fatal. Signs of acute kidney disease are vomiting, inappetence and lethargy. Any unexplained lesions on the extremities should prompt a visit to the vets and kidney function can be assessed at that point and potentially again 24-48hrs later if within normal limits the first time. There is no evidence to support treatment of kidney disease as a preventative measure prior to a diagnosis. There is also a seasonal pattern with almost every case being reported between November and June.

I think it is important to remember that this is still a very rare condition but to be aware of it, be vigilant to the signs described above and to seek advice from your vets if at all concerned. Our hope is the number of cases continue to remain low and that ongoing research will yield more answers shortly.

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