Watching the news last night we were shocked to see dog walkers being interviewed and saying that they had never heard of Alabama Rot and it seems they are not alone! Surfing about Facebook and looking at comments on shared posts there were also a lot of nonplussed reactions from dog owners. So we thought we would do our bit and blog about this escalating, frightening disease because if even one person who hasn't heard about it reads this and through awareness saves thier beloved dog it was worth the time and ink.
Alabama Rot's scientific name is cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV) and it was first identified in the States in the 80's.
It is a disease that damages blood vessels. Put simply it causes blood to clot in the vessels which damages the lining and tissues of the kidneys.This initially manifests as ulcers on a dog's skin and can lead to kidney failure.
It was first detected here in the UK in 2012, it's prevalence is rising alarmingly and it is killing increasing numbers of dogs. This year has seen a sharp rise in cases with 29 already being confirmed.
This is the scariest bit because despite extensive research, nobody knows BUT it is strongly suspected that it is due to mud or more specifically boggy, muddy, wet, woody areas...you know, those places that our dogs love! There is no established environmental trigger but more cases are reported in the winter months which seems to back up the wet soil/woody suspicion and many of the cases are reported to have been walked in those type of areas.
Red swollen patches, lesions and ulcers on the skin, mostly around the lower legs and paws but they can also be found on the chest, stomach, muzzle and tongue. If left untreated signs of kidney failure will present within days; Loss of appetite, unusual tiredness/lethargy and vomiting.
We have looked everywhere and have collated as much advice as we could find and there is not much. Because the cause is unknown there is no vaccine and no clinical advice other than to be vigilant for the symptoms and seek vet treatment.
*Avoid muddy, wet, woody walks and stick to dry paths if you can (given the amount of rain we've had this winter that is all but impossible but on the plus side Summer is coming!)
*Wash your dogs paws and anything that has got wet or muddy, thoroughly when returning from walks. Give them a full body search and inspect thier whole body and mouth but especially his/her lower legs and paws regularly, just like you would for ticks. And if you find any red, sore, swollen patches, lesions or ulcers that you cannot attribute to an injury; take him or her to the vet without delay.
It needs to be stated that not all of the skin symptoms are going to be caused by Alabama Rot which although on the increase is still rare but it is far better to be safe than sorry given the rise in cases.
*And obviously we don't need to point out that if your dog displays symptoms of kidney failure (vomiting, unusual tiredness and lack of appetite) you should get them to the vets ASAP.
The Dogs Trust have issued this advice "Where possible, stick to dry paths and keep dogs out of muddy or wet areas. Wash off any mud after your walk so you can check for any lesions or wounds and if you spot any, go to your vet."
And Blue Cross say "The earlier this disease is caught and treated by a vet, the higher the chances of recovery."
The upshot is that this is undoubtedly scary, a mystery, pervasive, deadly illness that is lurking somewhere on our walks, possibly in the wet soil, dank leaves or mud. It could be anywhere and it could be where your dog is walking and that is pretty terrifying. But the positive is that it's not always fatal and dogs who have received early treatment ARE recovering. So if we are all aware and vigilant and seek vet treatment without delay we stand a good chance of stopping the rot and saving them.
Tell your family, your friends, your neighbours and legitimately accost strangers in the park with your knowledge to spread the word because like us you may be shocked by the lack of it out there.
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