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How to Spot 'Alabama Rot'

by Laura Crotch-Harvey MSc BSc (Hons)

Alabama rot…It doesn’t sound very nice, but what does it mean? Is your dog about to fall prey to a deadly dog disease or is the hysteria a storm in a teacup? We asked our nutritionists to shed some light on the latest concern in the dog world.

What is Alabama rot in Dogs?

Alabama rot is a disease that affects all dog breeds, ages and weight. If the disease is not spotted early on it can lead to serious health problems such as kidney failure and in the worst cases it can even prove fatal.

Other names for the disease include Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy (CRGV).

The blood vessels going to the skin and kidneys are damaged due to tiny clots which stop the blood getting to the area and the area starts to decay. Once the kidneys are affected the dog is much less likely to survive so it is best to try and catch it early on. Unfortunately, as so little is known about the disease it is very hard to treat.

Where does the name of the disease come from?


The name originates from the USA where it was first identified in the 1980s. At this time, there was a lot of Greyhound racing going on in Alabama where the disease began to occur. At this point, it was thought that the disease would only affect Greyhounds. Of course, now we know this is not true.

The question remains as to whether Alabama rot is a new disease or simply one that was not picked up on in the past. Since November 2012, more than 75 dogs from 27 counties across the UK have been recognised to have signs similar to those Greyhounds in the USA in the 1980s.

Rot refers to the decaying aspect of symptoms which include leg, chest and abdomen skin lesions. Kidney failure occurs later in the disease and at this point is usually fatal.

What are the symptoms of Alabama rot?

Those worried that their dog could contract Alabama rot should look out for symptoms such as:

  • Skin ulcers and sores- these occur a week or so before other key symptoms. Unfortunately it is impossible to tell from skin lesions alone whether the dog has contacted Alabama rot. However, it is best to consult a vet who can bear this in mind should more symptoms occur.
  • Dogs develop further problems around between 1 and 10 days after the skin lesions appear. These symptoms can include: a loss of energy and appetite, jaundice and skin discolouration, vomiting and kidney problems.

What should you do if you think your dog has Alabama rot?

If you are worried that your dog may be suffering from Alabama rot, take them to a local vet immediately. It is hard to diagnose but if the vet is suspicious they should carry out a full blood and urine analysis. However, we need to remember that the signs may not show until a few days after the skin lesions.

Lots of treatment options exist but it still isn’t known which is the best. Some dogs are given antibiotics and daily blood tests are often carried out to monitor the kidneys. Many dogs will be give intravenous fluid therapy or dialysis.

Unfortunately, despite these treatments the outcome is still poor, if the dog develops kidney injury then over 90% will not survive. To add insult to injury, It can only be definitively confirmed if the dog had Alabama rot by carrying out a post mortem after the dog has died.

What causes Alabama rot and can you prevent it?

At the time of writing, there is no official cause of Alabama rot. Despite ongoing research into Alabama rot there is still a lack of understanding into this condition so the cause is still unknown. Many possible causes such as common bacterial infections and toxins have been ruled out. It is possible that the cause is something in the environment but nobody has been able to pinpoint what this could be.

As there is no definite cause, it is difficult to advise on how to prevent it, but frequent washing of your dogs paws and legs – particularly after muddy walks – is believed to help.

by Laura Crotch-Harvey MSc BSc (Hons)

I've worked at Burns since 2015 and head up a busy, dedicated team of pet nutritionists at our Kidwelly head office. No two days are ever the same. We are often busy going the extra mile for our customers and offer free advice via LiveChat, telephone and email.