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Alabama Rot, cause still remains elusive

28 December 2015

Since November 2012 more than 100 dogs have died in the UK from what is thought to be Alabama Rot - a disease which has inflicted greyhounds in the US for over 30 years.

Here in the UK, however, this disease shows no predilection for breed, age or sex. Cases have been reported from all across the UK, with clusters of cases seen in the New Forest in Hampshire, Leigh in Greater Manchester and just 30 miles from us here at NDSR, in Guildford, Surrey. Cases reported are typically dogs that have been walking through muddy woodland areas.

Worryingly, the condition is known to cause acute kidney injury (sudden onset kidney failure). Ulcerated skin lesions are often noted in the initial stages on the extremities/limbs. Within a few days, dogs develop acute kidney injury. The prognosis for dogs with kidney injury is extremely poor, only a few dogs have survived after intensive treatment. Signs of kidney failure include lack of appetite, vomiting and lethargy. A few dogs have developed skin lesions alone with no detectable kidney injury. Most of these dogs have survived.

Histology of lesions (examination of tissue under the microscope) indicates the dogs are suffering from a thrombotic microangiopathy. This means that there is inflammation and damage to the tiny blood vessel walls within the tissues, resulting in small blood clots that cause reduction in platelets (important for clotting), anaemia (reduced red cell count) and ultimately damage to vital organs like the kidneys.

Tests to look for causative agents like leptospirosis, toxins produced by bacteria like E coli and viruses have so far drawn a blank. Unfortunately, the cause is as yet unknown. It is also not known whether this is an emerging disease or a previously unrecognised one.

Research is currently ongoing. A dedicated dog owner who lost her beloved cocker spaniel to the disease in December 2015 raised over £5,000 for research into Alabama Rot in just one week in memory of her dog, Pippa.

Always wash your dog after a muddy woodland walk and if you are concerned that your dog is showing any of the signs of Alabama Rot, immediate veterinary attention is required.

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