What is Alabama Rot and How to Treat It?

Alabama rot is a deadly dog disease that only recently caught the media attention and people started talking about it. Specialists, vets, nurses and academics met this week at a conference in Reading to discuss Alabama rot and what could be done to prevent and cure the mysterious disease.

What is Alabama rot?

Alabama rot causes dogs to develop skin lesions on their inner legs which leads to kidney failure within a few days and death in 90% of the cases. The lesions can look like bites, sores, wounds or stings and spread very quickly, within 2-3 days.

Alabama rot causes tiny blood clots to form in the blood vessels which blocks them and can ultimately lead to damage of the affected tissue. When this happens to the kidney, it causes organ failure and ultimately leads to death.

The disease was first reported in the US in the late 80s, but did not appear in the UK until December 2012 when the first case was reported. Since then, 98 dogs have died from it, with 15 cases confirmed already in 2017.

Some specialist believe there is a “seasonal distribution” to the disease. The reason is that all reported cases happen from November to May and then “seem to stop”, increasing the likelihood of environmental indicators.

However, the cause is not exactly known which makes treatment and vaccine problematic. It’s believed that Alabama rot is caused by toxins produced by E. coli. Some theories suggest it’s caused by bacteria, others – by parasites.

alabama rot

What are the symptoms of Alabama rot?

So here’s what you need to watch for:

  • Skin lesions, ulcers, sores or bite marks – all cases start with this symptoms
  • Lethargy, loss of energy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Jaundice such as a discolouration in your dog’s eyes, gums or nostrils
  • Vomiting or gagging could follow at later stages
  • Kidney failure in some cases which proves fatal

In 9 out of 10 cases renal shutdown usually follows.

What to do if you suspect your dog might have Alabama rot?

Take your dog to the vet immediately. If it’s a weekend, take it to an Emergency clinic as soon as possible, as Alabama rot developed in a couple of days.

alabama rot

What is the treatment?

Since the cause of Alabama rot is not known, treatment is limited. However, some dogs eventually fight it off and recover successfully. Vets would usually treat the kidney problems and keep the dog’s immune system boosted.