Fox Has a Pox

Fox Greyhound Dec 28, 2013
Fox on December 28, 2013
Fox is my brother.  Well technically he is since he’s one of Grammy’s four-legged kids.  I typically prefer to think of myself as his Auntie.  Fox was adopted by Grammy and Charlie because he was a handsome guy but mostly because he had spent a year at the rescue and despite having been heavily marketed both in the newsletter and to potential adopters, he’d had no takers.  Fox seemed to resign himself to a life as the kennel mascot.

Grammy is a sucker for an underdog.  She only had to hear his story and they adopted him immediately.  We didn’t know it at the time but Fox and Blue share the same dam, Royal Dream.  At 11 years old, Fox is
about a year older than Blue.  He will turn the big 12 in June.

We all love Fox deeply but he is the truest example I have found that animals can be autistic.  He’s super reserved, uptight, demanding and way down deep, needy and loving.  Somewhere a couple of years into life with Fox, Grammy noted that he was having some medical issues that seemed to involve pain in his extremities.  The first vet examined him and subjected him to a barrage of tests and x-rays.  There was
Fox Greyhound Mar 8, 2014
Fox on March 8, 2014
nothing definitive but Fox was given a diagnosis of lumbar spine issues with potential stenosis and/or Cauda Equina Syndrome.

As the years went, Fox’s issues continued.  At times his problems flared up and at times he seemed fine.  Fox had further workup by a second vet during one of his occasional crises.  More x-rays and tests.  This vet felt that his issue was centered on his cervical spine.

Each time Fox was seen by a new vet the diagnosis changed but mostly centered on some part of his spine.  Tests showed nothing conclusive and Fox continued with intermittent pain in various body parts (neck, front legs, back legs, hips).  As a result Fox spends much of his time on varying combinations of pain meds. 
Then a couple years ago Fox had an episode where he developed bald patches that looked like hot spots.  First he got them on his butt cheeks.  When those healed up a bit he got one on his front shoulder.  Hair grew back on one butt cheek but his shoulder and the other butt cheek continue hairless to this day.  The skin in those areas is alternately clean and dry or red, weepy and scabby.  Sometimes Fox chews at them, and other times he takes no note.

Shortly after this occurrence Fox began to experience abnormal swelling in his feet.  Sometimes all feet were involved and sometimes varying combinations.  Sometimes they would swell enough that the skin split and he’d bleed.  After courses of steroids the issue would resolve for a few months and then start over again.  The swelling eventually started creeping up his legs so that now when he swells it’s the whole leg and foot.
Fox's elbow wound
Fox's elbow wound
At some point the hair on his feet began to fall out.  The skin on his feet is frequently hot and red.  We joke that his feet look like the feet of a naked mole rat (Google that one).  When his feet did swell up they would be so painful that he couldn’t bear people touching them.  After a number of flare ups Fox was taken to see his current vet for another work up.

Her initial diagnosis was some sort of auto-immune disease.  She wasn’t sure which one but it made sense given his pattern of flare ups.  Grammy and I suspected Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) but Dr. Amy did not feel like Fox’s symptoms really matched that illness.

The problem was that Fox’s symptoms didn’t really fit any other auto-immune diseases either.  Fox improved after each flare up with steroids, pain meds and sometimes antibiotics.  Then Fox began to have difficulty standing.  Fox had always been a bit unsteady due to the odd pains that seemed to come and go but now he got downright wobbly.  He was off balance and frequently caught himself just before he fell over.  But Fox always soldiers on and he accepted this new issue with grace.  He continued using the stairs, going in and out by himself (most of the time) and getting up and down from his bed. 

Fox's toe
Fox's toe wound
Fox had a serious crisis on Christmas day 2013.  We were scared that our time with him had come to an end.  He was given a large dose of steroids and antibiotics.  He spent 24 hours on IV fluids.  When he came home the steroids he took gave him incontinence and a corresponding unquenchable thirst.
He began to lose weight.  Fox has always loved his food but now he has begun to spend all his time desperately hungry and thirsty.  The more he ate and drank, the more he wanted to.  The more he ate and drank, the more weight he lost.  When he came home from the vet the day after Christmas, he had developed a large open weeping sore on his right front elbow.  It was so large and deep that fascia and bone were visible.

We begged Dr. Amy for an answer.  She dug in and after a lot of research she gave us the diagnosis of Alabama Rot. 

Alabama Rot is a disease that most greyhound owners have probably vaguely heard of but have no idea what it is.  That was certainly the case with us.  It first appeared at Alabama greyhound racetracks.  Medically very little is known about the disease.  It is thought to be the equivalent of hemolytic uremic syndrome in humans.  It is also called cutaneous and glomerular vasculopathy.  There is no known cure for it. 

Initially there wasn’t much to offer for treatment.  Management and monitoring of the symptoms was PentoxifyLLI (400 mg) but so far it doesn’t seem to be much help. 
Charlie bandages Fox's foot
Charlie bandaging Fox's foot
essentially it.  These days they are trying a drug used to treat humans with the corresponding human version of Alabama Rot.  They are meeting with only small success in helping to manage the symptoms and extend the lives of dogs affected.  Fox was started on this drug which is called

No one knows what is causing Alabama Rot.  It is called idiopathic for that reason.  There appears to be quite a battle between breeders, track owners, retired greyhound owners and researchers as to whether or not Alabama Rot is caused by the type and quality of food fed to racing greyhounds.  Currently researchers feel the disease may be related to food poisoning and nasty cooties such as E. coli.  This seems to be how humans get the human version.  There are an equal number of researchers who don’t believe there is any relation between these bacteria and Alabama Rot.

About 25-30% of Alabama Rot cases move into the kidneys and eventually cause kidney failure.  Even if it does not move into the kidneys, it still tends to shorten the life (and diminish the quality of life) of any dog that contracts it.  We are lucky that as of now, Fox’s kidneys are not affected.

For now, Fox continues on his steroids and pain meds.  He has some continued incontinence.  Though Grammy feeds Fox constantly and has more than doubled his food intake he has gone from 75 pounds down to 61 pounds.  Since he hasn’t been weighed in a couple weeks, we can’t swear to it, but it looks like maybe he has reached a plateau on the weight loss and is currently holding his own. 

Fox greyhound
Our sweet boy will be 12 in June
His elbow sore has not healed and recently after a fall on the ice in the back yard due to his wobbliness, it was exacerbated.  He has also developed a terrible open sore on his right rear foot that may have started out as a corn but which has become a hot mess.  Fox continues to lose hair in various places.  He still swells up intermittently and sometimes he has some bruising.  It has been a very tough winter for Fox.

At the last check up with Dr. Amy, she told Grammy the thing that no one ever wants to hear…that we may soon be reaching the time where the kindest thing to do will be to let him join our Girly Girl.  It’s very hard to hear since his eyes remain bright, lively and very engaged in this world.  He wobbles like a Weeble (dating myself, I know-some of you may have to Google that), but he still walks.  He goes up and down the stairs unaided.  He has never met a morsel of food that he didn’t like and he is still full of love for his family.  There is no indication that his brain and soul are ready to give up but his poor body is rotting away all around him.

We’re all holding our breath in hopes we get to celebrate his 12th birthday with him in June.  We have already decided there will be a party that day to honor a life well lived.  We also hope that by sharing his story it may help someone else recognize this generally unfamiliar disease far sooner than we did.


  1. I've heard of Alabama Rot, too, but I know very little about it just like you. I'm really sorry that poor Fox is going through this. We've been through SLO at our house twice, but we have never dealt with another type of autoimmune disease. I hope that Fox enjoys a lot more time with your family!

  2. Wow. I've never heard of Alabama Rot. Thanks you for sharing information about it, very interesting but very sad that there isn't much to be known about it. I wish Fox the best and hope you all get to celebrate his 12th birthday!

  3. Also knew very little about Alabama Rot. Will keep it in mind if I see the symptoms. Wishing Fox an early 12th birthday.

  4. Thanks for sharing this troubling situation with us. It is so hard to see our loved ones suffering!

  5. Dr Amy is seeing Fox this Monday so fingers crossed on the weight. He hasn't been able to put any weight on that leg and it is swollen again but I argue that it is because Charlie put the bandage on too tightly. It is worse when he first gets up but that could also be arthritic issues which we know he has. Fox has always been an enigma. By the way, Dr. Amy had us put gold bond powder in between his toes before wrapping the foot and just for the heck of it put some on a rash I have and damn, that burns!! Fox is stoic as always, seldom lets you know it hurts in any way. I've also been having dreams about our past dogs coming to see me in my dreams and they have wings on, when GG shows up I will know the end is very close, bittersweet.

  6. Sorry to hear of Fox's troubles. I wish him improved health in the coming months.

  7. My heart aches for Fox and Grammy :( It's so very very hard when the spirit is still very willing but the body is failing. I've never heard of Alabama Rot. It sounds horrific. I guess you've tried everything on Fox's open wounds ... have you tried Manuka Honey? If you haven't it won't hurt like the gold bond powder even if it doesn't do any good. Very best of luck with him. I know he's getting the best of care.


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