I have read of several cases of Alabama rot occurring quite close to where I live. Of course, I am now worried about the risk to my own dogs. Can you give me a brief idea of what to look out for?
Tim Couzens advises…
Alabama rot is an odd condition that has been around for about the last six years with currently around 30 known cases per year. Although we know a bit about the symptoms, the exact cause is still a mystery, but there is a suspected link with dogs that have been walked in woodland. Most cases seem to occur between November and May, with February the month that tends to see the most cases. However, some have been seen over the summer months as well.
Whatever the cause – possibly some form of toxin – it causes skin lesions and, in more serious cases, damage to the kidneys as well. The skin signs to check for can look like abrasions, through to severe areas of ulceration with the centre composed of blackened dead skin. Unfortunately, these symptoms can mimic other skin problems, making diagnosis quite difficult. In more serious cases, the blood vessels in the kidneys are damaged, leading to kidney failure and other symptoms of vomiting, diarrhoea and fits.
These problems seem to be caused by damage to the blood vessels, which become obstructed, leading to tissue damage. On this basis, there are several homoeopathic remedies that could potentially help from a first-aid perspective – Secale (ergot), Anthracinum (anthrax) and some of the snake venom remedies, such as Crot horr (rattlesnake) or Bothrops (yellow viper). It would be best to consult a homoeopathic vet for more advice and to select the most appropriate remedy potencies.
Graham Finch advises…
Sadly, Alabama rot is a very nasty disease with a high mortality – up to 90 per cent, in some studies. It causes renal failure together with skin signs. Treatment is difficult, requiring specialist care. To my knowledge, the cases that have been reported are sporadic and various maps of cases appear to have been withdrawn from the internet. I’m not sure what conclusion we draw from this.
It has been suggested there is some environmental cause, but this is yet to have been identified, either here or in the States, and it is thought that dogs may well take some time to develop signs – possibly weeks or even months following exposure.
The usual rule must apply, if you are worried your dog is ill in any way then best to get him checked at your own vet’s.