CRGV (Alabama ROT) NOT JUST in the New Forest
be vigilant and seek advice if your dog develops unexplained skin lesions.
Updated March 2018
In recent years, you may have heard about a mystery dog illness that causes symptoms similar to Alabama Rot. The correct term for it is idiopathic Cutaneous and Renal Glomerular Vasculopathy (CRGV) - Idiopathic means that the cause is unknown.
The mystery illness is not limited to the New Forest; there have been a total of 152 confirmed cases across the UK since 2012, with 29 cases in 2018. The first reports came out of the New Forest but it has also been confirmed in many different counties in the UK, recent cases were in Lincoln, Axminster, Plymouth, Worthing, Tooting, Dulwich, Little Hulton, Sale and Hayle. Dog owners are not currently advised to avoid any particular locations. Although an environmental cause for this disease is considered possible it has not been proven with testing to date.
Over the last 4 years, more CRGV cases have been seen between November and May than between June and October, suggesting a possible Winter / Spring seasonality. CRGV has not been seen in animals other than dogs. Owners of dogs affected by CRGV have not been affected by this illness.
The advise for dog owners is still to be vigilant and to seek advice from their local vet if their dog develops unexplained skin lesions or sores. Although an environmental trigger for this disease is suspected, this has not been proven. For help recognising some of the signs and to see a map of confirmed cases visit www.vets4pets.com/stop-alabama-rot/.
What is CRGV?
Alabama Rot is a disease that has been known about since the late 1980s in the USA, caused by a toxin released by E.coli bacteria.
CRGV has similar symptoms to Alabama Rot, it is a condition that causes acute kidney failure usually with concurrent skin wounds. Despite extensive testing the actual cause is still unknown. The disease does not appear to pass from dog to dog. It hasn't been seen in animals other than dogs and owners of dogs affected by CRGV have not been affected by this illness.
In a recent article in the Sunday Telegraph (March 2018), David Walker from Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists, said diagnosis could not be confirmed until the disease had spread to the kidneys as currently the disease cannot be diagnosed on the basis of blood tests.
What to look for
* Is there a wound, lesion or blister on your dog’s leg or face?
Affected dogs develop sores on their limbs usually below the elbow or knee. These can appear as swollen lumps that ulcerate or skin wounds. If you notice a wound, lesion or blister on your dog's leg or face, then you should seek veterinary attention. This may be hard to spot but you may notice your dog licking itself more than usual. Most lesions will not be caused by this condition.
Most of the time a skin problem will not be caused by CRGV; however, the sores in CRGV can be difficult to distinguish from cuts, wounds, stings or bites, so if in doubt it is better to seek advice from your vet. Even if the skin changes are caused by CRGV, many dogs will not develop kidney problems and will recover fully.
* Is your dog quiet, has it started vomiting or stopped eating?
Within 7 days dogs then start to vomit, lose their appetite and become tired. The kidney failure can be irreversible and lead to death.
A presumptive diagnosis is made on clinical signs. A definitive diagnosis requires post-mortem examination of kidneys and skin and can take 4-6 weeks to be confirmed.
If you are at all worried about your dog then visit your vet as soon as possible. Should your dog be affected then early recognition and aggressive management of the condition is likely to lead to the best outcome.
If your dog develops a skin lesion your vet will be able to advise you on the most appropriate treatment and will decide if your dog needs antibiotics and if the area needs covering. Some forms of painkiller (called non-steroidals) may be best avoided. Dogs developing kidney failure (acute kidney injury) will need much more intensive management and your vet may recommend referral to a specialist.
Advice about walking your dog in the New Forest
As the actual cause or trigger of the disease is unknown it is very difficult to give specific advice on prevention. Suggestions from The Dogs Trust include the following:
- Where possible stick to dry paths and keep your dog out of muddy or wet areas
- After a muddy New Forest walk, wash your dog thoroughly.
- Examine your dog after every walk for lesions or wounds and if you spot any go to your vet (this is also good practise to check for ticks)
- If your dog licks a specific place repeatedly check it for skin lesions. If you find anything that looks like a lesion go straight to the vet.
Although the problem is being treated very seriously, many thousands of dogs are walked in the countryside every day and it is important to remember that only a very small number of dogs have been affected by CRGV.
Investigations into CRGV
Research into new diseases requires a lot of funding. This pays for the development of new diagnostic tests, investigation of the causes of the disease and ultimately the development of more effective treatments. The Alabama Rot Research Fund (ARRF) is a National charity aiming to raise awareness and funds for Alabama Rot (CRGV) research. The first CRGV conference took place in May 2017 to progress the ongoing research.
Locally, research has been supported with financial assistance from New Forest District Council, Forestry Commission, Bridge Pathology and Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists. A large amount of work has also been performed on a good will basis by interested scientists. To help facilitate further investigations into this disease, New Forest Dog Owners Group has set up a fund and collect donations. The fund will be opened with a donation of £2,000 from NFDOG and all contributions are welcome.
Heather Gould (Chairman of NFDOG) said, “Since the fund opened we have collected over £15,000 to help this research. Projects authorised have covered histology, microbiology toxicology, ricin intoxication and genetic faecal testing. A number of possibilities have been ruled out, but, as yet, nothing definite has been identified. This makes it really important that, while cases continue to occur over the country, this research should continue.”
You can donate via the NFDOG website at: www.newforestdog.org.uk/researchfund.
Tests have been carried out on both the environment and the affected dogs. All of the more common, well-known causes of acute kidney failure were excluded in all of the dogs. Detailed further investigations have been performed on blood, urine, faeces and post mortem tissue. This has included bacterial (including e-coli), viral, and heavy metal testing, which has been negative.
Additionally, kidney tissue has been examined by a number of Veterinary pathologists and human nephropathologists (specialist kidney pathologists). Water testing for hazardous chemicals in the New Forest was also performed. Testing is ongoing and any significant results will be made available.
Donate now and help up stop Alabama Rot. To donate, visit http://www.arrf.co.uk/donate.html
Published May 2017. Updated March 2018.