The Dermatology Service

Cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (Alabama rot) in Scotland

There have been a few confirmed cases of the dog disease known as cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CGRV or Alabama rot) in Scotland in the last years. All the dogs came from different places and there is no association with any one site. There is no reason to believe that owners should avoid walking their dogs in any particular area. The number of cases is still very low but we would advise dog owners and veterinary surgeons to be aware of the condition and be vigilant.

What is CGRV?

CGRV is caused by tiny clots in blood vessels. This blocks the blood supply resulting in tissue damage including skin ulceration and kidney failure.

What causes CGRV?

The cause isn’t known. Most cases are seen in the between November and May, and there may be an association with cold wet weather. It can affect any age, sex or breed of dog.

How is CGRV spread?

It is possible that CGRV is caused by something in the environment, although this has not been proven. It does not spread between dogs, and humans and other animals are not affected.

Is there anything we can do to avoid dogs becoming affected?

Unfortunately, as the cause is unknown it is impossible to give any specific advice to prevent CGRV. There’s little point in trying to avoid certain areas, as CGRV has been seen across the UK and there is no association with any particular sites or types of countryside. Measures could include avoiding waterlogged areas during cold wet weather, and bathing and drying dogs if they get wet and muddy. However, we do not know if this will help or not.

What to look out for?

The initial lesions include inflammation, reddening, sores, swelling, bruising and ulcers. These usually affect the feet and lower limbs, but can be seen around the face, in the mouth and elsewhere on the body. The lesions can be painful and lameness or licking at the affected area may be the first sign. Cuts, wounds, stings or bites are much more common than CGRV but can look very similar. Owners should take their dogs to their vet if they are concerned, particularly if the skin lesions are unexplained.

CGRV can lead to acute kidney injury (AKI) causing kidney failure within 10 days of the initial skin wounds. Symptoms including reduced appetite, lethargy, altered drinking and urinating, vomiting and collapse. Dogs with suspected AKI should be taken to a vet as soon as possible, as they require urgent specialist care.

How is CGRV diagnosed?

A presumptive diagnosis is often based on the clinical signs. Unexplained skin lesions, particularly with swelling, bruising and ulcers, are suggestive of CGRV. Skin wounds followed by acute kidney injury make CGRV highly likely. Blood and urine samples can be taken to detect any kidney disease. Tests will also be done to rule out other problems including skin infections, physical injuries, leptospirosis and other causes of kidney failure. The diagnosis can be confirmed with a skin biopsy, but the results may take several days.

How is CGRV treated?

The skin wounds will need cleaning with appropriate dressings and other treatment. Topical antiseptics or antibiotics may be needed if the wounds are infected, but systemic antibiotics may not be necessary. Painkillers are often required, but some drugs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; NSAIDs) should be avoided if there’s any suspicion of kidney failure. Dogs with kidney failure will need intensive care with intravenous fluids, diuretics and other treatment to support kidney function.  

What is the prognosis?

The prognosis for dogs with CGRV without kidney failure is good, as the skin lesions generally resolve and most dogs will make a full recovery. Unfortunately, most dogs with kidney failure succumb despite treatment.

Useful information

Vet website with links to more information about CGRV - www.AndersonMoores.com

Fundraising site - www.newforestdog.org.uk

Key points
  • Cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CGRV or Alabama rot) is a very rare but serious disease that has been seen in Scotland
  • Initial lesions include inflammation, reddening, sores, swelling, bruising and ulcers on the skin and occasionally in the mouth, which can be mistaken for bites, stings or wounds
  • Some dogs develop kidney failure within a few days
  • There is no association with any one area and owners should walk their dogs and behave as normal
  • Dog owners and vets should aware of the condition and be vigilant
  • Suspected cases should be taken to a vet as soon as possible