Alabama rot and canine illness: what dog owners should know

Petplan veterinary expert Brian Faulkner discusses two very similar – but very dangerous and largely unknown – conditions.

Alabama rot and seasonal canine illness are two rare, but serious, health conditions. Diagnosis will follow examination by a vet. Here’s what you need to know about them.

What is Alabama rot disease?

Alabama rot was first identified in the US in the 1980s. At the time, it was thought to only affect Greyhounds.

Symptoms consistent with this disease have also been recorded in the UK, however, with the first case being in the New Forest in 2012.

Alabama rot is an extremely serious condition that has been known to cause kidney failure in affected dogs. The disease damages blood vessels in the skin and kidneys, preventing blood from properly flowing through the dog’s body.

In the UK, the condition is not only found in one single breed, sex, age or weight of dog. It has been seen across many different types of dog.

What are the symptoms of Alabama rot disease?

The first symptoms of Alabama rot disease are often skin lesions that begin on the legs, chest and abdomen and which spread across the skin, do not heal and can develop into ulcers. Affected dogs often become very lethargic, suffering from a loss of appetite and potentially vomiting.

Left untreated, a dog with Alabama rot can go on to develop acute kidney failure, so treatment by a vet is vital. If your dog develops skin lesions following a walk (even up to a week later), you should seek advice.

How is it treated?

If you notice skin sores on your dog, especially around the joints, take them to see a vet as soon as possible. Your vet will run a general health screening and examine the sores to rule out any other possible diagnosis.

Blood and urine tests will be used to establish whether your dog’s kidneys are functioning as they should. If the kidneys have been affected, your vet will begin a course of intensive treatment to restore kidney function. The skin sores will need to be dressed and cleaned to prevent any infections occurring.

Alabama rot is very rapid in onset and can be fatal for dogs. Currently, there is no known cause for the condition, so if you notice any of the symptoms, contact your vet as soon as possible to increase their chances of survival.

What is seasonal canine illness (SCI)?

Occasionally during autumn, between August and November, dogs of any breed, size or sex can quite quickly become ill after being walked in woodland areas.

Seasonal canine illness (SCI) was first identified in 2010 after appearing in parts of East Anglia, Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Warwickshire.

Dogs have been known to become very unwell, quickly and without prior warning. This mystery disease is largely unexplained and can be serious for your dog, so it is important to be aware of its signs and symptoms.

Symptoms of seasonal canine illness

As with Alabama rot, symptoms of SCI usually appear up to three days after a dog has walked in wooded areas. These symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea (watery to bloody), abdominal pain, lethargy, anorexia, shaking and trembling (muscle tremors), and fever. The disease has no clear explanation or preventative measures.

How is it treated?

Contact your vet if you notice any of the above symptoms after walking your dog in wooded areas.

The majority of affected dogs will make a full recovery if treated by a vet, who will administer fluids and antibiotics by a drip.

If your dog does contract Alabama rot or seasonal canine illness, having the right dog insurance is vital to ensuring your pet is covered for treatment.

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