Alabama rot – What is it and should we be worried?
If you follow social media you can’t fail to see headlines about a disease called Alabama Rot. But what is it and should you be worried? We have again had several phone calls from concerned clients over the last week, so we thought we should provide some information for you.
What is Alabama Rot?
The proper name for Alabama Rot is “Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy” or CRGV. It is an uncommon but serious disease which has only been seen in UK dogs over the last 5 years. It causes lesions on the skin and occasionally in the mouth which can look like bites, sores, wounds or stings. Some dogs go on to develop life-threatening kidney failure. It can affected any age or breed of dog. It seems to be more common between October and April.
How common is Alabama Rot and is it in my area?
Unfortunately, we have to confirm 3 new cases of cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (often termed CRGV or Alabama Rot). The cases were from Edgbaston (West Midlands), Cannock (Staffordshire) and Alsager (Cheshire).
This brings the total number of confirmed cases to 112 since 2012 with 29 in 2017. Most confirmed cases have been seen between October and April. We would continue to advise owners to be vigilant and to seek advice from their local vet if their dog develops unexplained skin lesions/sores.
There have been 6 confirmed cases in a 20 mile radius of Blue House within the last 5 years. With an approximate number of 8.5 million dogs in the UK, that means 0.001% of dogs have been affected – so it is very, very rare.
What causes Alabama Rot?
The simple answer is we do not know. 5 years of research has so far drawn a blank but investigations are ongoing. There are many theories including environmental causes.
How do I stop my dog getting Alabama Rot?
Unfortunately there is no vaccination or medication you can give your dog to prevent Alabama Rot. The current advice is that there is no need to avoid particular locations (there was when the first few cases were all confirmed around the New Forest in 2012, but subsequent cases do not seem to have the same patterns).
It is advisable to wash mud from your dogs’ legs and paws after walks as this is a possible route of infection.
What are the symptoms of Alabama Rot?
“Unexplained redness, sores or swelling of the skin, particularly on the paws or legs but also the body, face, tongue or mouth) are often the first sign of the disease. It is important to remember that most of the time a skin problem will NOT be caused by CRGV; however the lesions in CRGV can be difficult to distinguish from cuts, wounds, stings or bites.”* If you are concerned then please ask for advice. Even if the skin changes are caused by CRGV many dogs will not develop kidney problems and will recover fully.
How is CRGV treated?
If your dog gets a skin lesion, your vet will advise you of the most appropriate management. This may involve antibiotics and/or cleaning.
Dogs developing kidney failure will need much more intensive treatment and possibly referral to a specialist if Alabama rot is of concern.
In conclusion – Alabama rot is a very rare disease. If you are concerned that your dog may have the symptoms then please contact your vet for advice.
*Some of this information is taken from Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists, who are dealing with a number of these cases.
We had a very Christmassy case last week when Twinken the Ragdoll Cat decided that the Christmas decorations looked good enough to eat - so she did! She snaffled a length of tinsel and promptly swallowed it. The first her owners knew was when she was violently sick and brought up a piece of silvery tinsel along with quite a lot of blood.
Her owners rushed her down to us, very lethargic and painful in her tummy. Sensibly they brought with them some of the tinsel she had eaten so we could assess the issue properly. We decided to x-ray the tinsel first to see how well it showed up (not everything shows up on an x-ray, but we were hopeful that the metal would be visible). Then we sedated Twinken and took some x-rays searching for any signs that there was more tinsel still in there!
Happily we didn't see any more decorations in Twinken's tummy or intestines. We treated her for her very tender stomach with pain relief and medications and put her on a drip. Once her tummy had settled we began to syringe feed her because she really didn't want to eat anything on her own.
Three days later and Twinken is like a different cat! Back to her old self and ready to spend Christmas with her human and feline family in a house which has now been stripped of all tinsel! No more risk of tinselitis in his household!
Please be aware of what your pets might eat this Christmas - all too often these cases end up needing surgery - not something anyone wants to be doing over Christmas!
Feline brothers, Cheddar and Morris, visited Blue House following an overnight stay at Vets Now. Their lovely owner had come home after a long working day to find the little tinkers had found a way into the spare room … where a beautiful bouquet of lilies had been hidden away from them! This is because lilies are extremely toxic to cats and even a small exposure can be catastrophic. Cats can be poisoned through grooming – if they have brushed against the flowers or get pollen on their feet and then lick the pollen off their fur. All parts of the plant are toxic, so chewing on leaves is also dangerous.
The main effect of lily exposure is kidney failure. Cats will experience vomiting, inappetance, depression and as the disease progresses seizures, breathing problems and paralysis. If left untreated death commonly occurs within 3-6 days.
Thankfully, Cheddar and Morris’ owner was very prompt and got the boys to the vets quickly. Over the next three days both cats were hospitalised day and night to receive fluids and nursing care. We regularly took blood samples to check how their kidneys were recovering. Now two weeks on and all is well!
If you have cats, please do not have lilies in your house, however well hidden! Many cats are not as fortunate as this lucky pair!
Molly, a lovely little Jack Russel terrier has been suffering with very itchy and inflamed skin which became particularly bad in April this year. She came to see us in a sad state, she had stopped playing at home and the condition of her skin was really getting her down. Molly’s wonderful owners were doing everything they could for her but despite their best efforts her skin was still getting worse.
We performed a series of in house tests on Molly, taking samples from her hair and skin and examining them under the microscope. The cause of her trouble was soon discovered … Molly had some very unwelcome visitors!
Demodex is a mite found deep in the hair follicles and oil glands of the skin (of both dogs and humans!) and an infestation causes severe hair loss, itching and secondary infection. Thankfully there is an effective treatment. Molly was given a tablet that kills demodex and a long course of antibiotics to clear up her infection. Her owners continued their dedicated routine of bathing Molly in medicated shampoo and soon we began to see an improvement!
Two months on and here we are! Molly runs in to see us and is back to the playful dog her owners know and love.
Scooby and Ella’s owner got a bit of a sinking feeling when he came downstairs to find that they had raided one of the kitchen cupboards. Among other things, they had managed to chew up and empty 2 bags of raisins and currants. After googling this, his heart sank even further when he realised how serious it could be.
After ringing ahead to confirm he was on his way (and that google had got it right!), Kay saw them immediately and proceeded to make both dogs vomit using an injection. Within 5 minutes, both dogs had brought up a large number of the dried fruit which can cause kidney failure from even small numbers, never mind the large quantity both dogs had consumed. They both looked very sorry for themselves as you can see…
After speaking to the Veterinary Poisons Information Service for advice, both dogs were admitted to go onto intravenous fluids for the next two days to protect the kidneys from any damage. They also had to be given activated charcoal to absorb any toxins that hadn’t been vomited up. This had the unfortunate side effect of making their poo black!
After checking their bloods to make sure no lasting damage had been done, both dogs were eventually discharged with a clean bill of health. Please keep raisins, grapes, currants and sultanas locked away in a high cupboard!
Ruby is a bit of a superstar—not only is she a gorgeous and loving dog, she also had a starring role in an advertising campaign for Virgin! Her Tuesday was well and truly spoiled when her owners noticed that she was becoming very unwell following a failed pregnancy. She was rushed to our emergency service where it was discovered that she was jaundiced (yellow tinge to her skin) and pale, and when the vets tested her blood she had dangerously low levels of red blood cells making her severely anaemic. She was at 12%, when normal would be 35-50%.
Ruby had developed IMHA—Immune Mediated Haemolytic Anaemia—a condition where her own immune system was destroying her red blood cells. This is an extremely serious condition which can be fatal. Ruby needed a blood transfusion quickly. Vets Now called the Pet Blood Bank who delivered blood to the practice for a transfusion by courier within a few hours. With intensive monitoring and care Ruby soon started to improve and she was started on steroids to stop her immune system from attacking her red blood cells.
With regular check ups she is now doing really well and making a full recovery. Ruby’s survival was made possible by the blood she received, which had been donated to Pet Blood Bank by one of the many donor dogs around the UK (like Harry, our Hero Dog overleaf). We hold regular collection sessions at Blue House throughout the year, so if you have a fit and healthy dog over 25kg in weight, aged between 1 and 8 years and with a good temperament, your dog could be a lifesaver too! Ask us for more details or look at www.petbloodbankuk.org
Mack’s adventures down the rabbit hole...
Mack is a very bouncy 7 year old Border Collie who was injured whilst out on a run after getting his leg caught in a rabbit hole. He was limping quite badly so his owner brought him in to see us. He had a swollen joint that was very painful when it was touched. We did some X-rays and he was found to have dislocated his hock (the equivalent to our ankle joint).
Mack needed complicated surgery to stabilise his joint. Happily, we have a number of specialist surgeons who can visit the practice to perform more complex procedures. Gareth Harries, a local “Advanced Practitioner” and surgical certificate holder was on hand to fix the problem. A plate was screwed into the row of bones in the joint to encourage them to fuse together so it will not dislocate again. Mack had to be rested and have a bandage splint in place for 6 weeks after the surgery needing regular dressing changes—not much fun for him but he was the perfect patient.
We are pleased to report that he is now doing well and is slowly getting back to his normal running routine—just avoid those rabbit holes!
The 6th of January was an exciting day for the Murphy family as their two year old Pomeranian Fifi went into labour! Things seemed to be going well initially but by early afternoon there was still no sign of any puppies. Fifi was brought to Blue House and examined by Hannah the vet. She was diagnosed with uterine inertia - a condition that occurs when the uterus stops contracting as Fifi was too tired. It was decided that the best course of action for mum and pups was a caesarean section.
8 weeks later and here we are! Princess, Fifi's beautiful puppy, has come back to Blue House for her vaccinations and is reunited with her "midwife" Hannah! She is as friendly and fluffy as her Mum!
Day in the life of a vet student on placement
An average day on placement at Blue House starts at 8am when I arrive at the practice and start making the morning tea, if one of the very efficient receptionists hasn’t already beaten me to it. I then watch any interesting morning consults before heading over to the surgical building to assist the nurses with prepping the in-patients for surgery and settling them into their kennels. Once the patients are asleep I scrub in to assist the vet on their procedures where I can. It’s really good to see the operations as a student because things look very different in real life compared to the pictures in textbooks! I also help with any emergencies that come in; while I’ve been here we have had a collapsed dog, a dog with a stick stuck in the roof of its mouth and two caesareans! The rest of my day consists of watching consults, trying to avoid getting quizzed on cases by Neil and lots of dog and cat cuddles of course.
Alfie, a lovely 4 year old border collie, had only been with his new owners for 2 weeks before an unfortunate accident saw him visiting Blue House sooner than expected. Alfie was chasing a ball in the garden and suddenly pulled up lame, unable to put one of his back legs down.
Alfie was examined and x-rayed by Hannah which showed that the ball of Alfie’s hip joint had popped out of its socket. Unfortunately Alfie was suffering from a condition called hip dysplasia whereby his ball and socket joint is malformed making it easier for the ball to pop out.
It was decided that surgery was required to remove the ball of the joint. In time, a fibrous “false joint” then forms in its place and will allow Alfie to not only be pain free but have good movement in this leg. Alfie was extremely brave and left the practice the same day wagging his tail and giving kisses all round!
Alfie has made fantastic progress. His owners are doing a wonderful job with daily physiotherapy at home and he is currently enrolled in a hydrotherapy course at a local centre to build up the strength in his leg.