Alabama rot

Nova scotia duck tolling retriever in the woods

What is Alabama rot?

Alabama rot, also known as CRGV (cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy), is a very rare, potentially life-threatening disease that blocks and damages the blood vessels in a dog’s skin and kidneys.

Affected dogs often develop ulcers or sores (usually on the bottom part of their legs) and generally go on to develop kidney failure, which is often fatal.

What causes Alabama rot?

We don't yet know what causes Alabama rot, so diagnosing and treating an affected dog can be very difficult. Researchers believe that wet muddy conditions may somehow be linked to what causes this condition. Many of the dogs that died from Alabama rot had been walking in muddy woodland areas during winter and spring months just before becoming ill.

How common is Alabama rot?

Alabama rot is a well publicised, but very rare disease that is known to have affected around 150 dogs in the UK between November 2012 and March 2018. Reports of Alabama rot seem to be on the increase, which could be because more dogs are becoming affected, or because vets and owners are more aware of the condition.

Where is Alabama rot found in the UK?

When Alabama rot was first noticed, most of the cases reported were around the New Forest area. Since then, affected dogs have been found throughout the UK. Please check your area for Alabama rot cases.

What are the signs of Alabama rot?

Marks, sores or ulcers on the skin (usually on the legs or paws)

Skin ulcers usually appear on the legs or paws, but could appear anywhere on the body, including the head, tummy, around the mouth and nose, or on the tongue.

These marks may appear as an area of redness or could look like a cut, bruise, sting or open sore.

These signs could be caused by a large number of different things, but in a small number of cases this could be the first signs of Alabama rot. Always speak to your vet if your dog unexpectedly develops any of these signs.

Kidney failure (vomiting, being hungry or tired)

Signs of kidney failure usually appears around three days after the marks on the skin, but can appear more quickly, or may sometimes take up to 10 days.

Signs that there are problems with the kidneys include:

    • being off their food
    • a change in drinking
    • being sick
    • not weeing as much
    • being tired

If you’re concerned that your dog might have Alabama rot, it’s very important that you speak to your vet as soon as possible.

How can I prevent Alabama rot?

We don't know what causes Alabama rot, so at the moment there is no guaranteed way of preventing your dog from becoming affected. Researchers believe that there may be a link with walking dogs in muddy areas, so owners could:

  • keep their dog away from very muddy areas
  • wash their dog after a walk if they get wet or muddy

Important things to do!

Spotting the early signs of Alabama rot and seeking veterinary treatment immediately could help with their chances of survival.

  • Be familiar with signs to watch out for (see above)
  • Check your dog’s body once a day for anything that’s different (something that’s a good habit for many reasons, i.e. ticks, cancer etc.)
  • Contact your vet straight away if you have any concerns

How is Alabama rot diagnosed?

Your vet will check your dog’s general health. They will ask you questions about when they started showing signs, where they have been recently and will explore any other possible ways that your dog may have injured themselves.

Are there any tests to confirm Alabama rot?

No. Your vet will examine the marks on your dog’s skin and may run some general blood and urine tests to see how well your dog’s kidneys are working. These general tests may need to be repeated several times over several days to monitor how your dog is doing, even if they seem well in themselves.

How is Alabama rot treated?

Dogs only showing skin ulcers will usually be treated non-invasively, while dogs showing signs of kidney problems will need more intensive supportive care. At the moment Alabama rot can only be confirmed once a dog is dead and so it is impossible to know how many dogs survive. The survival rate is believed to be low, so to give your dog the best possible chance of survival, it is important that supportive care starts as soon as possible.

Alabama rot questions and answers

Which breeds are most at risk of Alabama rot?

Alabama rot doesn’t seem to affect any particular breeds more than any others. Similarly, a dog’s age, sex and weight doesn’t appear to impact their risk of developing the disease.

When in the year are dogs most at risk of Alabama rot?

Most of the cases reported so far have been between November and May. A smaller number of cases have been reported in warmer months.

Do dogs always die from Alabama rot?

Some vets are believed to have had cases of dogs surviving Alabama rot. Unfortunately the only way to confirm a case of Alabama rot is by looking at a sample of a dog’s kidney after it has died, meaning that the number of dogs surviving this illness is actually unknown.

Can other animals get Alabama rot?

So far Alabama rot seems to only affect dogs. There haven't been any cases reported in humans or in other animals.

Why is it called Alabama rot?

The term “Alabama rot” was first used in the 1980s in reference to greyhounds that developed skin ulcers and kidney failure in the state of Alabama. Unfortunately no clinical research was carried out and so it’s unknown whether the cause of the dogs affected in America and the UK are linked.

Help us understand more about Alabama rot

At the moment little we don't know much about Alabama rot and funds are needed to carry out research. If you would like to help improve our understanding of the condition, the following charities are collecting money to fund scientific research:

  • The Alabama Rot Research Fund (ARRF) is a national charity aiming to raise awareness and funds for Alabama rot (CRGV) research
  • A number of different studies are ongoing at the Royal Veterinary College in conjunction with colleagues at Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists. Donations can also be made to the Animal Care Trust 

Think your dog may be affected?

If you're worried about your dog's health, always contact your vet immediately.

We are not a veterinary organisation and so we can't give veterinary advice, but if you're worried about any of the issues raised in this article, please contact your local vet practice for further information.

Find a vet near you

If you're looking for a vet practice near you, why not visit the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons' Find a vet page.