5 Things Dog Owners Need to Know About the UK’s Alabama Rot Outbreak

Veterinarians in the U.K. are raising the alarm about an outbreak of a canine disease called Alabama Rot which, if left untreated, can cause kidney failure and death. Here’s a quick rundown of things you need to know about this disease.

1. What’s the Situation With the Current Alabama Rot Outbreak in the U.K.?

Vets in the U.K. have sounded the alarm about Alabama Rot because it has spread across at least 16 counties in England, with reports saying that about 46 cases have been confirmed since December 2013. That might sound like a relatively small number, but as Alabama Rot can be fatal—over 17 dogs have died as a result of infection since the disease was first recorded on U.K. soil in 2012—it’s important that while owners don’t panic, they do take this threat seriously and are mindful of the symptoms.

2. What Is Alabama Rot?

Researchers believe that Alabama Rot stems from exposure to certain bacteria, including a rare form of E. Coli.

Alabama Rot was first identified in the United States in the 1980s, but almost exclusively affected greyhounds. A disease that appears to be almost identical then emerged in the U.K. at the end of 2012. However, the strain affecting dogs in the U.K. at the moment appears to be slightly different to the U.S. outbreak as it doesn’t seem to discriminate between specific breeds, sizes or ages of dog.

3. How Do Dogs Catch Alabama Rot?

Dogs may be exposed to Alabama Rot as a result of coming into contact with bacteria while out walking in woodlands, possibly in the form of rotting vegetation or while wading through water from streams or ponds.

The U.K. outbreak does not seem to correspond with any known E. Coli outbreak incident, which is why health agencies are puzzled about the disease’s spread. What we do know is that Alabama Rot does not pass from dog to dog, so there’s no need for quarantines or for restricting a dog’s playtime with other dogs.

4. What Are the Symptoms of Alabama Rot?

The main warning sign of Alabama Rot is the appearance of reddening skin, or skin lesions that look like small wounds or ulcers, and are usually found on the hind legs, face and stomach. If you find these on your dog, this is the time to call the vet. However, for long-haired dogs it might be difficult to spot the lesions. An infected dog may also present a few other symptoms that could be mistaken for a stomach virus or just a general “off-day”:

  • lethargy
  • loss of appetite
  • vomiting

These symptoms tend to start between two and seven days of abnormal skin symptoms appearing, and they are signs that the disease is damaging the dog’s kidneys. This requires immediate veterinary attention.

The good news is that some dogs will not progress to the kidney damage/failure stage and will recover with minimal supports. About a quarter of dogs will have kidney problems but, if treated early, can make a full recovery—though any kidney damage raises the risk of mortality and long-term health problems. Needless to say, vets are encouraging owners to be proactive at the first sign of possible infection so as to maximize the chances of staving off the worst affects of the disease.

A vet can diagnose Alabama Rot with a series of blood tests and a few other tests used to rule out other ailments that present similar symptoms. Renal support with fluids can help to alleviate the symptoms and dialysis may also be a key feature of treatment.

5. How Can I Protect My Dog From Alabama Rot?

Some vets are advising that after taking a dog for a walk it is best to wash off any mud or dirt that may be clinging to a dog’s coat so as to minimize the risks of exposure—though, as the source of this outbreak is not currently understood, there aren’t any better preventative measures available.

That said, while the disease does seem to be spreading, it is relatively isolated and only slowly creeping across the country. That means that if you live somewhere where there hasn’t been a recorded case, it is believed that dogs in your area are not in danger. The majority of cases in the U.K. so far have centered around the New Forest area and the Environmental Protection Agency is looking at possible causes for that, including examining water samples.

The British Veterinary Association’s President and vet Robin Hargreaves advise:

Dog owners in these regions will feel understandably anxious about the recent cases, but it seems that only a very small proportion of the dogs walked in these areas each day have been affected. Owners should make sure they are aware of the signs and symptoms and contact their vet immediately if they have any concerns. We are keeping our members informed about the ongoing situation.

If you do have concerns about your dog and the possibility of Alabama Rot, here is an interactive guide that you can use to get a bit more information on the symptoms as well as the latest information on recorded cases in your region.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

63 comments

Jeanne R
Jeanne R3 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R3 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R3 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R3 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R3 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C1 years ago

Thank you for sharing

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Kamia C.
Kamia T2 years ago

All the dogs get a thorough going over each night for ticks, fleas, anything else. They think they're getting tummy rubs, so it's a win/win.

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Fi T.
Past Member 2 years ago

Protect our angels

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Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey2 years ago

Worrying.

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Jennifer H.
Jennifer H2 years ago

I had never heard of this. It sounds scary and gives us another reason to worry and be vigillant.

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