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Alabama rot, cause still remains elusive

13 May 2015

Since November 2012 more than 40 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, Guildford in Surrey and Leigh in Greater Manchester. There may be a seasonal distribution with cases reported between November and June and in dogs that have been walking through woodland areas.

The distribution of confirmed cases across the UK. Close-up shows the distribution of cases within the South of England

The distribution of confirmed cases across the UK. Close-up shows the distribution of cases within the South of England

 

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.

 

Tongue lesions

Tongue ulcer

 

Tongue ulcer

Tongue lesions

 

 

Superficial ulcer affecting medial thigh

Superficial ulcer affecting medial thigh

 

 

Deep ulceration, erythema and exudation on a digit

Deep ulceration, erythema and exudation on a digit

 

 

Erosion to carpal pad, before cleaning

Erosion to carpal pad, before cleanings

 

 

The same lesion after clipping and cleaning

The same lesion after clipping and cleaning

 

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 by David Walker at Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists and the Animal Health Trust.

If you are concerned that your dog is showing any of the signs of Alabama rot, immediate veterinary attention is required.

For latest information please visit: alabamarot.co.uk

 

Image credits: Laura Holm, David Walker and colleagues at Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists