A new dog disease in Ireland: the first case of Alabama Rot has been diagnosed in Dublin

A Confirmed case of Alabama Rot has been identified in Dublin

A case of Alabama Rot ( Cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy or CRGV) has recently been diagnosed in Dublin: this is the second confirmed case to be identified in this country. The first was in Co. Wexford in January 2015. This low incidence of disease means that the risk to other dogs in Ireland is infinitesimally small but as with any new disease, however rare, it can be helpful for people to learn the facts about it.

The dog presented with a large, necrotic ventral skin lesion, lethargy, inappetence, vomiting, icterus (jaundice), thrombocytopenia (low platelet count), azotaemia (high kidney parameters) and increased liver enzyme activities. These are typical of Alabama Rot, but diagnosis is complex, requiring follow up studies including biopsies etc.

The owners live in Ranelagh and the dog was walked in the Massey Woods in the days prior to presentation. The case was managed at the University College Dublin Veterinary Hospital in early February 2017, but the final post mortem result was not received until late March. There is no treatment which has been demonstrated to be effective in these cases, and management consists of supportive care and aggressive management of acute kidney injury. Despite the best possible treatment, many dogs do not survive.

What is Alabama Rot?

  • Alabama rot or CRGV is a condition, often fatal, in dogs, first identified in greyhounds the USA in the 1980s.  There are some theories that it may be caused by a toxin from E. Coli bacteria, found in rotting woodland vegetation or in woodland water courses and ponds.
  • The initial symptoms are skin lesions on the legs, chest and abdomen,with eventual kidney failure in about 25% of cases. It was first noted in greyhounds in the US in the 1980’s, and the first cases were identified in the UK in 2012. Since November 2012, more than sixty dogs across the UK have been affected.
  • A range of breeds have been affected in the UK suggesting the disease does not solely affect greyhounds. There does not appear to be a breed, body weight, sex or age predilection.
  • Clusters of cases have been seen in the New Forest area of England, but the disease has been identified across the whole of UK and there may be a seasonal distribution with cases being identified between November and June.

What signs of illness should owners look out for?

  • The risk of this disease is very, very small, so there is not need to make any significant change in behaviour. This list of signs of illness is purely to inform people, not to make them anxious or to suggest that there is a problem to be afraid of.
  • Dogs with CRGV often initially present with skin lesions in the form of blisters or ulcers on the muzzle/oral cavity,  limbs or underside, any time between a few hours and up to 5-7 days after contact with the (unidentified) toxin.
  • The lesions may appear necrotic (dead-looking)  or erythematous (reddened), along with oedema (swelling) of the limbs.
  • While the animal may then appear healthy again, the onset of lesions may be followed between 1-10 days by further clinical signs of fever induced lethargy, inappetence, pyrexia (fever) and/or vomiting.
  • Cases may then progress to oliguric or anuric renal failure (i.e. passing tiny amounts, or no urine, due to kidney failure), then subsequent death.
  • Blood tests on an infected animal will often reveal azotaemia (high kidney parameters) and possibly thrombocytopaenia (a low platelet count), anaemia (a low red blood cell count) and hyperbilirubinaemia (raised liver parameters), while urinalysis will reveal dilute urine and possibly glucosuria (glucose in the urine) and casts (abnormal cellular debris in the urine).

What is the risk to other animals and humans?

  • CRGV does not spread from animal to animal, nor is it zoonotic (i.e. it cannot be spread to humans).
  • It is not listed as a disease notifiable to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

Where can I find out more about Alabama Rot (CRGV)?

Summary and conclusion

  • Alabama Rot (CRGV) is an exceptionally rare disease
  • People should not take the risk out of proportion.
  • Tens of thousands of people walk their dogs in woodland areas without any problem at all, with dogs loving this type of enjoyable exercise.
  • People should not change their behaviour, but simply, they should be aware of the disease
  • If a dog develops a strange skin rash of any kind, they should be taken to the vet promptly.
  • There are many causes of skin lesions and it would be a mistake to presume that every dog with a strange skin rash is Alabama Rot.
  • While in the past, owners may have not felt a need for early veterinary intervention for a dog with a skin rash, it now seems prudent to take these sorts of signs more seriously, at an earlier stage.

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