The potentially fatal canine disease “Alabama Rot” has been back in the news recently with another confirmed case in the UK hitting the headlines. The illness whose proper name is “Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy” or CRGV for short, strikes fear in dog owners as there is no known cause and more importantly no treatment.
First identified in greyhounds in Alabama (hence the condition’s name) in the 1980s, CRGV was diagnosed for the first time in the UK in November 2012. As of December 2016 there have been around 80 confirmed cases in the UK. The condition can affect any breed of dog as well as any age or sex and has been seen throughout the UK .
Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy is so called because it causes lesions on an infected dog’s skin prior to developing kidney damage which often proves fatal . Damage to the blood vessels of the skin and kidney is caused by tiny clots being formed which block the vessels causing ulceration of the skin and severe organ damage in the kidney. It is not known what causes this to happen although there are tenuous links with walking dogs in muddy conditions which may result in the transfer of a bacterial infection.
Early symptoms of the disease include unexplained lesions and sore on the dog’s legs, paws, mouth and body. It is important to note that sores and lesions that seem unrelated to any injury are grave cause for concern and should be reported to the veterinarian immediately. Other symptoms that follow include lethargy, loss of appetite and jaundiced discoloration of the eyes and gums as the dog progresses towards kidney failure. However, as these lesions are hard to distinguish from wounds or stings that a dog may sustain unrelated to CRGV, it is vital that veterinary advice is sought without delay if any lesions not easily explained by injury are presented as early treatment can give a dog a greater chance of survival.
Treatment is limited but antibiotics may be offered together with covering of lesions and pain relief. Dogs that progress to kidney failure will require specialist management and most will eventually die.
As there is no known cause for CRGV developing a vaccine is problematic. It has been suggested that washing a dog’s legs after a muddy walk may assist in the prevention of the disease but there is no real evidence for this. CRGV has been reported across many counties in the UK so there are no key areas to avoid.
Vet practice Anderson Moores has spent three years researching CRGV and point out that although it is an extremely serious disease, numbers of confirmed cases remain low with only 94 confirmed cases across the UK between November ‘12 and April ’17. It is worth reiterating that most dogs with sores, wounds, bites or sting type lesions will prove to have exactly those things ie a sore, wound, bite or sting but owners should have the threat of Alabama rot in the back of their mind and if in any doubt as to the origin of their dog’s injury move fast to obtain veterinary advice.