What Is Alabama Rot? Here's Everything Pet Owners Need to Know About the Deadly Dog Disease

It's also called "Black Death" disease—and vets aren't sure how it spreads.

It's been over three decades since the alarming dog disease Alabama Rot first made headlines. The illness, which was discovered in racing greyhounds in Alabama in the 1980s, has now cropped up in the U.K. where it's spreading across the country.

While vets and experts don't fully understand the illness, which is usually fatal, there are a few steps pet owners can take to protect their pups. Here's everything dog owners around the globe need to know about the sickness.

What is Alabama rot?

The disease, formally called Cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV), damages blood vessels in the kidney and skin often leading to kidney failure and skin sores and cuts, according to .

Unfortunately, there is little known about the disease including the cause and best treatment, but experts have noticed a pattern in cases developing more often in the spring and autumn. "It is quite scary partly because we don’t understand it and it is very serious if a dog gets it," Dr. Huw Stacey, a vet and the director of clinical services at , tells Ikaroo.info.

What are the symptoms?

The first sign of the sickness is typically the development of wounds or lesions on the skin, and/or signs of kidney failure including lethargy, vomiting, and decreased appetite. The abrasions associated with Alabama Rot look similar to ulcers or burns, and may cause swelling. Several days after showing these early symptoms, damage to blood vessels in the kidney leads to kidney failure. A small percentage of dogs also experience fever, diarrhea, bloody stools, seizures, and even jaundice, according to .

Where is it spreading?

There's cause for concern in the U.K. right now where the disease has killed over 126 dogs in recent years with 22 deaths reported since the beginning of 2018. There are no known cases in the U.S. right now, though that could change. "It’s still rare," Dr. Stacey tells Ikaroo.info. "There’s no evidence to suggest it could or will spread to other countries, but that’s not to say it couldn’t."

alabama rot map
Google Maps

What causes it?

Experts aren't sure what causes the disease, nor do they understand how it spreads, but they believe it may be contracted through puddles or bodies of water containing harmful bacteria.

There could also be a link between the disease and woodland or forested areas. "That would appear to be an association, but it’s hard to say that’s a definite association at the moment," Dr. Stacey says. "It's common, but some dogs will walk in those areas and get the disease, but then some dogs who get the disease haven’t."

What are the best practices for prevention?

While the disease is serious, there's no reason for dog owners to panic yet. "This shouldn’t alter any person’s plans to take their dog out for a walk or do anything they want to do with them," Dr. Stacey says. "The best advice is just to be aware of it and be vigilant."

Vets recommend cleaning your dog after they walk through puddles or mud. "My advice, which I am undertaking with my own dogs, is not to walk in woodland and to always wash the mud off your dog after a walk," Graeme Pack, the clinical director at Purton Veterinary Group, told .

What are the best treatment options?

If you suspect your dog may be sick, you should take him to see their vet as soon as possible. Early detection and treatment could save their life. "When a dog does have it, it’s very serious even with the best medical care," Dr. Stacey says. "Only about two in 10 dogs pull through with everything we can do for them."

There's no vaccine for the illness yet, but there are some treatment options for ailing dogs. "If your dog seems unwell or you see any wounds on their limbs or anywhere on the body you can’t be certain you can explain, definitely get it checked out with your vet," Dr. Stacey says.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below
More From Kids & Pets