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In late 80-ies, Alabama Rot decimated greyhound population in the USA.

We live in the world were media reporting has very little to do with the truth, and everything to do with sensationalism, fear mongering and, very often, corporate and financial interests. Most of what passes for human "nutritional science" these days is not the result of objective scientific research, but rather the skewed and manipulated "findings" of scientists working for, and entirely beholden to, the food industry and the 'bottom line' of multi-national corporations.

The very same can be said when it comes to the research into the nutritional health needs of  pets.

Yesterday, the British broadsheet The Telegraph published an article with a rather bombastic title: Raw meat could be the cause of dead dogs, scientis warns. 'Bombastic', as in, 'high-sounding but with little meaning; inflated' is precisely what this title and entire article is.

Anyone that managed to make it past the hysterical heading (probably not many) discovered (to their horror):

"A trend for feeding dogs raw meat may be behind the deaths of 40 pets in Britain, a leading scientist who tackled an outbreak of the same disease in America has warned."

This paragraph alone, coupled with the title, is enough to scare the living daylights out of anyone contemplating feeding their dogs anything but processed herbivore food. Of course, it doesn't help that most people nowadays, especially internet readers, have difficulty focusing and reading more than the first few paragraphs, which is generally how urban legends are created. Those that did 'soldier on', however, and managed to get towards the end of the article, would surely have been a little perplexed to then read:

"However, owners whose dogs have succumbed to the disease said they have never fed their dog raw meat, further adding to the mystery surrounding the outbreak."

Confused? So was I! It's too bad though that most of the 'headline-and-first-paragraph-only' readers didn't make it that far because they had already clicked off to 'social network' the big news with their animal loving friends.

If, however, you count yourself among that increasingly rare breed of human that is still able to ingest and digest more voluminous and varied information, you may enjoy these facts (Bon Appétit):

The Telegraph article states:

"vets have confirmed through tests that it is in fact a strain of Alabama Rot, a disease which wiped out hundreds of greyhounds in the US in the eighties".

Alabama Rot is the name for the disease which affects canine kidneys and  causes quick death due to renal failure. It is also known as Idiopathic cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy, or ‘CRGV. 'Idiopatic' means we are not sure what causes this disease, is it infectious, is it environmental toxciosis - we dont know yet.  So how come raw meat got the blame?

In the eighties 'Alabama Rot' decimated the racing greyhound population in the USA and there were some speculations that the disease may be caused by a particular strain of E.coli in contaminated raw meat with which greyhounds were fed. These claims were never proven but the myth about the 'Alabama Rot' connection with feeding raw meat still persists and is available for media spin by irresponsible and/or biased scientists or journalists .

According to David Walker, an expert on this disease:

"Alabama Rot  initially thought to only affect Greyhounds and the dogs reported in the USA presented with skin problems, with or without kidney failure. Examination of samples of the dogs’ kidneys under the microscope revealed unusual and unique changes. These changes were similar to those seen in people with a disease called ‘haemolytic uraemic syndrome’. In a proportion of people with haemolytic uraemic syndrome, the disease is caused by a toxin produced by bacteria called E.coli. This toxin has not been identified in dogs, so at this stage the cause of CRGV remains unknown, although research is ongoing.Lower leg  skin lesions in Alabama Rot

Since December 2012, cases of various breed, age and sex have been diagnosed with CRGV. These cases have been identified in Hampshire, Dorset, Surrey, Cornwall, Worcestershire and County Durham. The affected dogs have initially had a skin abnormality (also referred to as a ‘lesion’) of unknown cause.

Typically the skin abnormalities in CRGV have been below the knee or elbow. The skin lesions may appear as a swelling, a patch of red skin or a defect in the skin (like an ulcer). Over the subsequent two to seven days the dogs have developed clinical signs of kidney failure which can include vomiting, reduced appetite and tiredness. "

Walker concludes: "It is important to remember that this disease seems to only affect a very small number of dogs and that most skin abnormalities will not be related to this disease. Most causes of kidney failure are also not related to CRGV."

Taking all this into consideration, it isn't hard to deduce that feeding raw meat to dogs is extremely unlikely to be the cause of Alabama Rot, a more logical conclusion  would be that skin lesions mark the infectious agent point of entry and consecutive local reaction. This is just one of the possibilites.

For the time being, we simply don't have enough data to draw any conclusions about the source of the UK outbreaks. A scientific paper including all of the case information, clinical pathology findings, light microscopy findings, electron microscopy findings and the results of further investigations, including an epidemiological study of the UK dogs is soon to be submitted for publication. This will allow comparison with the published cases of idiopathic cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy.

Until then please don't listen to panic mongers and continue to give your dogs healthy balanced meals in accordance with the species appropriate diet they deserve. Hint, dogs are carnivores, and they know what's best for them (unlike most humans). Unless someone can provide me with evidence that packs of wolves habitually rampage (or have ever rampaged) through corn or wheat fields in search of their favorite grains, I suggest you go with nature and evolution, avoid feeding your dogs highly processed, mainly vegetable/grain-based "kibble" that will negatively effect their health, and feed them what their bodies have evolved eating.

References: British Small Animal Veterinary Association, David Walker - Veterinary Expert



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