The Border Collie is one of the most popular dog breeds in the UK, and is the perfect pick for people who like to spend plenty of time outside and enjoy long walks and lots of exercise! The Border Collie is of course historically a working dog, and while many more Border Collies are kept today as pets than as herding dogs on farms, they are still the number one working herding dog used for farm roles in the UK.
As you might expect from a dog that is highly active and spends lots of time outdoors and on the move, the Border Collie is generally one of the healthiest dogs around, and is also very robust and hardy.
However, like all pedigree dog breeds, there are a range of health problems that are specific to the Border Collie or that dogs of this breed are exponentially more prone to or likely to inherit, which the potential Border Collie owner should be aware of.
The Border Collie has an average lifespan of twelve years, with a natural range of between ten and seventeen years being the norm. Many Collies live much longer than this, however, sometimes even into their twenties!
Collies are rather more prone than other active breeds of a similar size to developing hip dysplasia, an inherited condition that usually becomes apparent by the time the dog is two years old. More information of hip dysplasia in dogs can be found in this article. Another condition that Collies are also sometimes prone to but rather less commonly than hip dysplasia is elbow dysplasia, and the two conditions will sometimes present concurrently. Border Collies that are known to suffer from hip or elbow dysplasia or that have an ancestral history of either condition should not be used for breeding.
Epilepsy is another one of the more common risks for Collies, which is again generally considered to have a genetic factor to it. Epilepsy can lead to seizures, periods of unconsciousness and fuges. While epilepsy in dogs cannot be cured, the condition can usually be managed by means of anti-seizure medication, and many Collies with epilepsy lead full and otherwise healthy lives.
The third condition that makes up the trilogy of the most common Border Collie health problems is a condition called Collie eye anomaly, which is an inherited defect that can lead to blindness. How severe the condition is will vary from dog to dog, and there is no treatment for the condition. The disease is not progressive, and so the dog’s level of vision will not worsen over time due to the condition.
Other eye conditions of the Collie that are less commonly seen include juvenile cataracts and glaucoma, both of which are usually treatable. These conditions are less common than Collie eye anomaly within the breed, but they may accompany the condition and further complicate matters.
There are two types of genetically inherited hearing conditions that can affect the Collie: adult onset hearing loss, and a deafness or hearing impairment that sometimes accompanies one of the genes associated with coat colour pigmentation in the Collie. Adult onset hearing loss is progressive, and usually begins to manifest between the ages of one and eight years old, despite normal hearing during the juvenile life stage. The exact cause of adult onset hearing loss in the Collie and what gene or mutation is responsible for the anomaly is currently not known, but this is currently being studied by the Translational Genomics Research Institute.
Neuronal ceroid lipofusicinosis is a condition that is unique to Border Collies, but is currently only found within show dog lines and not working dog lines. It causes serious neurological impairment and a dramatically shortened lifespan; affected dogs rarely live past two years of age. The condition cannot be cured, but it is possible to DNA test for the presence of the gene within potential parent dogs, and so prevent breeding puppies that will inherit the condition or become carriers of the condition.
Trapped neutrophil syndrome is a hereditary disease in Border Collies that leads to the body’s bone marrow being unable to effectively release white blood cells into the blood stream. This causes a dramatically weakened immune system, and increases the dog’s susceptibility to contracting and being unable to fight off infections and illnesses. Due to this, the condition usually proves fatal. Again, there is no cure or treatment available for trapped neutrophil syndrome, but DNA testing for the presence of the condition or the carrier gene can be performed.
Merle is a type of coat pattern caused by a specific gene, which causes a mottled colouration of the skin and coat and can also lead to odd-coloured eyes, with one of them usually being blue. Often, this coat pattern does not come accompanied with any health problems, but when two merle dogs are bred, leading to two copies of the merle gene being present in the subsequent puppies, this carries an elevated risk of both vision and hearing problems in the dogs.