Is Alabama Rot Dangerous For The Border Terrier Breed

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I have been meaning to write about Alabama Rot and its impact on the Border Terrier breed for a while. I have completed my extensive research and would like to clarify what Alabama Rot is and whether it poses dangers for Border Terrier dogs.

Is Alabama Rot dangerous for the Border Terrier breed
Is Alabama Rot dangerous for the Border Terrier breed

What Is Alabama Rot

Alabama Dog Rot was first identified in the State of Alabama, USA in the 1980s on greyhounds. However concrete studies did not commence until later on, as the number of reported cases decreased progressively in that time-lapse.

Alabama Rot was first detected in UK in 2012, as a blood vessel disease which affects primarily skin and kidney, causing respectively legions and renal failure – its clinical name is cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV).

The bad news about Alabama Rot is two-fold. On one hand it is still unclear what may cause this blood vessels disorder. Whilst in the States specialised veterinary science links the cause to the presence of E-coli in the affected cases, UK does not follow this currency purely as no signs of E-coli have been reported in the those dogs that have become victims of Alabama Rot. Therefore, the cause still remains unclear, particularly as to whether it linked to a virus or whether it is bacterial.

Dog skin lesions
Dog skin lesions

Which leads to the second bad news. As the cause cannot be identified, it is also impossible to find a vaccine that will stop the spread of this horrible disease.


Alabama Rot Symptoms

Alabama Rot, once caught by your dog, can present violent and severe symptoms really quickly, within a matter of hours.

And that brings me to breaking the third bad news about Alabama Rot: the fact that in most cases it can be lethal for dogs. The cause is, again, the fact that when your dog becomes prey of this disease, it spreads to paws, limbs and eventually, through skin legions, penetrates the blood stream and affects the kidney function really quickly. Again, reports say affected dogs pass away within a few days, if going into renal failure.

It is deemed that, whichever it may be, whether virus or bacteria, dogs may contract the disease after walking on muddy and wet environments. This is because the first symptoms of skin lacerations are always found on their paws.

So, what to look out for in terms of symptoms? This is a list of the most commonly recurring symptoms that dogs suffering from Alabama Rot have presented (as reported by Wikipedia):

  • Cutaneous lesions involving erythema, erosion, ulceration occurring mainly on extremities such as distal limbs, muzzle and ventrum
  • Pyrexia (fever)
  • Lethargy or malaise
  • Anorexia
  • Vomiting or retching
Border Terrier
Alabama Rot: is it dangerous for Border Terriers?

It is advisable that, if after you have had a muddy walk and you find your dog has skin abrasions on his or her paws, you seek immediate advice from your vet.


Is Alabama Rot Dangerous For Border Terriers

So, why relate Alabama Rot to Border Terriers? Purely because I recently came across a report by the Daily Mirror regarding border terrier Darby who passed away to Alabama Rot 48 hours after displaying first symptoms (check out the full story here).

In reality, Alabama Rot has not affected the Border Terrier breed solely, as the death of dogs by the hands of this disease has not been linked to any specific breed.

What is to be said, however, is that unless possible signs are caught immediately, so that your vet or specialist referral centres can intervene, Alabama Rot will lead to death through organ failure. The prognosis is so painful, that often enough your vet will suggest euthanasia to stop the suffering of your dog.


Impact in UK And Worldwide

Alabama Rot UK mapping (credit of Miirror 6/6/18)
Alabama Rot UK mapping (credit of 6/6/18)

Now, especially after my few articles on Spike’s Disease, I have been blamed for picturing owning a dog, and more specifically a Border, like nothing more than doom and gloom. So, I thought of talking some figures here, when it comes to Alabama Rot, to bring back a sense of proportion to the scenario.

In the last few years some 40 deaths from Alabama Rot were recorded in 2016, 19 in 2017 and so far some 30 this year. And that’s why the media have started talking about it again.

These numbers are undoubtedly scary, there is no question about it. However they need to be read in the grander scheme of things.

The percentage of dogs affected and dying from Alabama Dog Rot is extremely low, when compared to the number of dogs that are regularly walked in muddy wooded areas every year, both in UK and worldwide (more specifically in the States).

Yet, it is advisable that you keep aware, and that you wash off mud from your dog’s paws as soon as you can after walking in muddy territories.

I also cannot stress enough how important it is that you contact your vet as soon as you suspect signs of unwell being your dog, following a walk in a muddy environment.


Media Reactions

UK media has responded most promptly and alarmingly to the issue. And, whilst I normally do not like to dramatize issue, nor do I approve of sensationalist news (which in my view are only aimed to raise selling figures), for once I am pleased that the media have taken this route.

The trend reflects the wave of deaths reported in the last few years, where in those years when we had more recorded incidents we find local and national news started talking and raising awareness more actively amongst dog owners, particularly in those areas which have seemed more affected.


Particularly, though, and if you are as keen a social media user as I am, you will find that all major social media platforms have supported the tackling and prevention of Alabama Rot by raising awareness of cases throughout UK and worldwide. And of course, the sooner new cases can be identified, the easier it becomes for veterinary scientists to research more and develop new possible solutions to treat this disease.

If you want to find out more about Alabama Dog Rot, search for #STOPALABAMAROT


My Feeling, My Concern

The reason why I wanted to write about Alabama Rot is, as I mentioned, due to the recent discovery that a little Border became victim of this dreadful and fast progressing disease.

I am not particularly worried that Borders may be more susceptible to the disease or its causes. There is no evidence of this. On the other hand, my Indy is now an older gentleman, and it is highly unlikely that we will have ‘muddy’ walks in the future. My Indy, who turned 14 last week, is becoming more and more accustomed to the leisurely life of an older gentleman.

Nevertheless, if I think of all the ‘muddy’ walks we had in the past when he was a younger boy, I shudder at the increased chances he had of contracting the disease.

Does this mean that we should stop walking our dogs, particularly in rainy weather conditions or in winter? Should we take an over-protective approach where we prevent our dogs from enjoying their daily walks, which are so beneficial for their all round physical as well as mental well being?


A couple of more articles you may be interested in:


I wish I had the right answer for you. My maternal instinct towards my dog tells me we should keep our dogs wrapped up in cotton wool in order to avoid them anything nasty from happening to them.

On the other hand, however, and as a human mother too to an 18-year-old boy, I know that, just like with my son, I could never have stopped my dog from growing into the fine gentleman he is now, by nurturing his most inner terrier instincts through adventurous walks in all sorts of weather.

I am sure you, as responsible dog owners, will know when and where to strike that fine balance.

I hope you found this post informative enough. If so, you are most welcome to leave a comment in the provided space below.

Likewise, if you would like to add up to the information I have provided on Alabama Rot, or indeed if unfortunately your dog suffered from Alabama Rot and you would like to share your experience, by all means do leave your comment below. Your contributions are kindly appreciated.




  1. // Reply

    Hey Giulia!

    I have a jack russell terrier puppy right now and your post was very beneficial to me to know, as it was very informative yet very conversational and easy to read.

    I am glad none of my dogs didn’t suffer from Alabama Rot and I hope they never do. It is always good to know something more, especially on a critical disease like this.

    I hope they find the cure for Alabama rot, as they do with most of other diseases and I hope to see another post from you with the solution.


    1. // Reply

      Rest assured, Hekuran, I shall keep my eyes peeled and will write again as soon as I find out more about it. It is a frightening condition, particularly as it has really devastating consequences in such a short time span.
      Sometimes I fear my readers may think that I thrive on talking solely about health issues that can affect our dogs. I am not as morbid as you may think. I love the joy that my Indy gives me every day, even now that he is an older boy. But I feel sometimes being aware of what can go wrong with our dogs can in most cases prolong their lives without affecting their quality of life.
      Thank you for taking your time to leave a comment, and I really hope to hear from you soon, Hekuran 🙂

  2. // Reply

    There is so much important information in this post! I have a Belgian Tervuren German Shepherd mix, we’re planning to move to a much muddier state (Florida) in a few years and I had never even heard of Alabama Rot! I’m so glad to be a little better informed now!

    1. // Reply

      I am pleased I could reach out to you, Sarah. I have heard of this disease only last year, but the more I started looking into it, the scarier it sounded, due to potentially fatal consequences, but also due to the fact that we still don’t know the exact cause.
      You may want to look into my latest review for a wax which protects dogs’ paws (and other pets’ too). It is called Musher’s Secret Pet Paw Protection Wax, but living in the States you may already have come across it. I do not claim that it will shield your dog away from Alabama Rot – if only it were that simple! But it will certainly prevent your dog’s paws from getting injured by harsh terrain conditions due to extreme weather you can have in Florida.
      I look forward to hearing from you 🙂

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