Should you be concerned about “Alabama Rot”?

Over the past year, there has been increased concern regarding the reports coming out of England of many dogs getting sick with some dying from a condition termed “Alabama Rot.” This syndrome was first seen sporadically back in the 1980s, mostly in greyhounds from the southern racetracks. This most recent report, which has killed at least 30 animals in the past year in England, has involved some other breeds as well. While investigators report that these most recent cases, seen in woodland areas, could be from exposure to certain pesticides or vegetation, other scientists have suspected in the past that Alabama rot could be from exposure to the toxins of a rare form of E coli bacteria possibly seen in raw meat fed to dogs.

Symptoms typically include development of severe ulcerative and crusty skin lesions on the body within several days of exposure, which may be followed by kidney failure in up to 25% of cases. Signs of kidney failure may include severe vomiting, loss of appetite, and lethargy. Treatment is mainly supportive, with a high mortality rate; however, I would advise canine guardians not to be alarmed at these recent reports in the British media, as cases still seem to be sporadic in occurrence. And while some scientists may take this opportunity to blame the trend in feeding raw meat diets to dogs, there is actually no definitive proof of this hypothesis, and in my opinion, the health benefits of raw meat diets in most cases far outweighs the risks.

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