Dr Sophie Bell a Veterinary Surgeon, looks into another myth for our mythbuster series. Can Alabama Rot spread from dog to dog?
There are currently no known cases of Alabama Rot spreading from dog to dog, or dog to human.
What is Alabama Rot?
In 2012, vets saw the first case of cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy, also known as Alabama rot, in the UK. It was first recorded in the 1980s in the US state of Alabama in greyhounds. The 1980s outbreak didn’t last long, and the disease was not investigated further.
To date, less than 200 dogs have died from this disease, but it still causes a cause for concern among dog owners because we do not know the underlying cause. Bacteria, fungus, parasitic, viral? Much research is being done to find the cause.
The disease affects blood vessels supplying the skin and kidneys, leading to ulcerated skin lesions but can cause fatal kidney failure.
Find out more about what dog owners need to know about Alabama Rot.
What are key signs of Alabama rot?
Unexplained skin sores are usually found on the lower limbs, abdomen, face and inside the mouth and on the tongue.
Most skin lesions tend to be caused by a bite, sting, cut, allergy, to underlying skin problem. But if you are worried it's because of Alabama Rot there's no harm in getting it checked.
Most lesions associated with Alabama rot start off small (size of a 5 pence piece) but can become much larger and often take a long time to heal. The chance of a dog going on to develop kidney failure is rare so many recover with no long-lasting damage.
How can you prevent your dog from getting Alabama Rot?
A map is available to view at http://www.vets4pets.com/stop-alabama-rot/ that shows the areas where there have been confirmed cases. But as the disease has been confirmed in multiple counties across the UK, there are no specific areas to avoid.
It is worth being more vigilant during the Winter and Spring months. Any unexplained skin sore should be reported to your vet. It is important to note that there may be more than one sore present at the time. Make sure to check your dog’s paw pads.
Using warm water and pet-friendly shampoo to wash your dog’s legs following a muddy or boggy walk could be beneficial, but there is no research to support this.
How will my vet diagnose it, and what is the treatment for Alabama Rot?
It is extremely difficult to diagnose exactly why your dog has an unexplained sore. Usually, it is due to something much more common such as a bite or sting. If Alabama rot is suspected, it may be advised that your dog has daily blood tests to monitor their kidney function over 7-10 days.
The wounds can also be revaluated with each visit. Some dogs may require antibiotics for the skin lesions and potentially pain relief.
If kidney failure is suspected, then the use of intravenous fluids and possibly dialysis would be recommended. The prognosis for these cases is poor but improved if diagnosed early.
What is the take home message?
This disease with an unknown cause has thankfully only fatally affected a small number of dogs across the UK. It is not known to be contagious dog to dog.
Any new unexplained skin lesions should be checked by your vet and it is important to regularly check your dog’s skin from paw pads to their body and inside of their mouth.
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