There are many hereditary conditions which affect Border Collies, some of
which can be life limiting, all of which can cause much upset to dogs and owners
alike. Most of these conditions can be screened for. At Team
Borderstorm we try and screen out for as many as possible.
If you are looking for a Border Collie puppy, please be aware of these
conditions. Not all breeders test - many don't.
For example, official statistics suggest 1 in 25 of all Border Collies tested
for Deafness have either unilateral or bilateral deafness. Sadly, as most
breeders do not test, the likely incidence is thought to be 1 in 10!
So for all health issues, in any breed, do your homework. I do not
pretend to be an expert, but always take advice from those who are.
By far the best and user friendly website I have found for issues of health
affecting Border Collies belongs to Natalie at Bryning Border Collies, and I
thank her for her permission to reproduce this page!
Hip Dysplasia (HD) is caused by the abnormal
formation of the hip ball and socket joint. Normally the ball should fit snugly
into the hip socket, forming a pivot point. Some dogs are born with a genetic
predisposition for hip dysplasia; at birth their hips are normal but as they
grow, the hip joint becomes a malformed structure so that the ball no longer
fits snugly into the socket and cannot rotate smoothly.
HD is a relatively common problem in most breeds of dog and can be a very
painful and terribly debilitating disease, in bad cases requiring surgery and in
the worst euthanasia.
The Kennel Club and BVA have a testing scheme in an attempt to avoid having
puppies born with this genetic predisposition. This scheme involves dogs over 12
months of age having their hips x-rayed and sent to the BVA panel of experts for
‘scoring’; they produce a score for the joints and angles on each hip to give a
score for left and right. The higher the score, the worse the dogs hips are, the
lowest possible score is 0:0 = 0 and the highest 53:53 = 106.
The BVA publish an annual list of all KC breeds with the average score although
in many people’s opinion this average is artificially low as many people will
not send off poor x-rays and dogs diagnosed with HD will also not be scored. In
most other European countries, the breed clubs make it obligatory that a dog be
hip scored before it is bred from and only those with acceptable hips are
allowed, this is in my view, a much better system.
The current UK average for border collies is 13. This system of scoring varies
around the world but below is a table comparing our system with that used in the
Read More about the
BVA Canine Health Scheme for Hip Dysplasia.
Please note....Hip Dysplasia CANNOT BE CAUSED by 'over-exercise'...the genetic
predisposition for malformation of the hips along with a lot of exercise in a
pup may aggravate the condition but a normal healthy and well reared puppy with
perfectly good hip joints will not develop hip dysplasia through exercise.
Narrow Angle Glaucoma
Glaucoma is the name given to a group of eye
diseases characterised by an increase in intraocular pressure, this causes
pathological changes in the optic disk and visual field defects. It’s a very
painful condition that leads to varying degrees of blindness and in it’s
severest form can result in removal of the affected eye or euthanasia.
Glaucoma can initially be categorised as PRIMARY, where there is an increase in
intraocular pressure occurring in an eye without previous disease or injury or
SECONDARY where an injury or prior disease/infection leads to the condition.
In the case of Primary Glaucoma we can assume it is congenital and inherited.
This is something that has not been seen in border collies until fairly recently
so much of what we know has been taken from research in other affected breeds
such as the flat coated retriever. This hereditary form of glaucoma in border
collies takes the form of narrow-angle glaucoma which is characterised by a
shallow anterior chamber and a narrow angle, in which filtration is compromised
as a result of the iris blocking the angle and impairment of outflow of aqueous
humor leading to a painful build up of pressure within the eye.
There is a physical eye examination that assesses the structure of the eye and
these angles. Gonioscopy is not part of the standard eye examination but can be
carried out by an opthamologist on it’s own or at the same time as a standard
eye exam. It’s quite an awkward test because it involves the dog having a local
anaesthetic in the eye and then a large round lens placed on the eyeball for the
opthamologist to look through. It’s important that the dog stays as motionless
as possible in order that the vet can carry out a full examination. It may be
necessary to sedate dogs that won’t sit still.
Because goniodysgenesis it’s not currently on the BVA list of tests for the
border collie the examiner will not complete that part of the form but will
simply write in the comments section e.g. Normal drainage angles – Unaffected or
narrow drainage angles – Affected and anything else they may have noted. As with
any test of this nature the result is subjective, and in borderline cases what
one examiner may pass another may fail.
It is important to note that gonioscopy is NOT a test for glaucoma, it is simply
an examination of the eye to assess any predisposition for narrow angle
glaucoma. A dog that tests affected for goniodysgenesis will not necessarily go
on to develop glaucoma, indeed many do not. Should a dog test ‘affected’ it is
important that it have regular eye examinations in future. Once a dog is tested
‘unaffected’ it need not be tested again.
While it is accepted that the narrow angle glaucoma is hereditary the mode of
inheritance is not know. In my opinion, it seems unlikely that we are dealing
with an autosomal gene here and much more likely that the cause is polygenic
(i.e. involves more than one gene or modifier) so we may well never have a
definitive genetic test.
In this way we can draw some similarities to hip dysplasia and use gonioscopy
results as a breeding tool in a similar way to hip scores. Selecting unaffected
dogs from unaffected lines as best we can. It will still be possible that an
affected pup can be produced from two unaffected parents, in the same way that
two parents with low hip scores may produce a pup with HD. The selection based
on test results will only decrease the odds of this happening and at this time,
it’s all we have to go on.
As more dogs get tested and more results are published we will be able to build
up a better picture of the extent and heritability of this problem within the
Centralised Progressive Retinal Atrophy (cPRA)
As the name suggests, cPRA is a form of blindness
affecting the light sensitive portion of the eye, this blindness becomes
gradually worse over time (hence progressive).
Due to the progressive nature of the disease, PRA cannot be diagnosed until a
dog is around 18 months old which is when they usually have their first adult
eye test, dogs used for breeding should be tested regularly thereafter.
Puppies registered with the ISDS cannot be ‘pink papered’ until both their
parents have successfully passed their 2 year eye test, the society then issues
a pink coloured registration paper, indicating that the pup is from fully eye
cPRA has been something of a success story in border collies and is now
EXTREMELY rare; much of this is thought to be down to the improvement in dogs
nutrition with the introduction of complete foods, since cPRA is thought to be
mainly down to a defeciency in Vitamin A.
about the BVA Canine Eye Scheme.
Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA)
Very briefly, CEA is a condition that affects the
normal anatomy of the retina and other deeper structures of the eye, this can be
irregularity in structure or even holes/pockets. In it's mildest form it will
not affect the dog, in it's severest it will cause detached retina's/complete
CEA is caused by a recessive gene which both parents must carry to produce
An animal will have 2 copies of every gene, one coming from the sire and one
from the dam.
If an animal has two normal copies of the gene, it is classed as 'normal' and
cannot ever produce affected pups.
If an animal has one normal gene and one defective gene it is classed as a
'carrier', mated to another animal with the defective gene it could produce
affected pups. If mated to a 'normal' animal it will at worst produce more
carriers but may also produce some 'normals'
(Note: A carrier DOES NOT have the disease)
If an animal had two copies of the defective gene it is classed as 'Affected'
and will actually have the disease. If bred from, this animal can only produce
carrier and/or affected pups.
The table below shows the likely outcome of various matings...
The results shown in grey are what everyone wants
to avoid...nobody wants to produce affected pups so these are the matings to
avoid - carrier to carrier, carrier to affected, affected to affected.
Prior to the introduction of a DNA test; eye testing was first carried out on
pups at around the age of 6 weeks by one of only 30 BVA approved veterinarians
around the country. This initial test is for CEA only and this period between 5
and 8 weeks of age is the best time for diagnosis of this condition. If a puppy
is affected it is an indication that both of it’s parents are carriers of the
CEA gene. While the Kennel club does not impose any breeding restrictions from
affected dogs or carriers the International Sheepdog Society (ISDS) does not
allow the registration of affected pups or their progeny and does not allow the
registration of puppies by parents that have produced a CEA/PRA affected pup on
more than one occasion (they allow one due to the possibility of a mis-mating).
The ISDS is striving to eradicate this disease from the breed. Puppies that
successfully pass this eye test are issued with a litter certificate.
Passing an eye examinination at 6 weeks indicates the puppy is not AFFECTED by
the disease but the physical examination cannot tell you which puppies are
carriers of the gene. The recent introduction of DNA testing for the CEA gene by
American laboratory, OptiGen has
revolutionised breeding of border collies to a certain extent...although it can
be quite expensive, we can now DNA test all breeding stock to see which animals
are affected, which are carriers of the gene and which are DNA 'normal'. This
means there need never be any more affected puppies produced...we can ensure
that by breeding carrier/affected animals to 'normal' animals the puppies cannot
ever be affected by the disease. Since this test first became available in
January 2005, ALL our dogs used for breeding are DNA tested in this way.
Visit OptiGen to find out more.
TNS stands for Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome, an
hereditary disease where the bone marrow produces neutrophils (white cells) but
is unable to effectively release them into the bloodstream. Affected puppies
have an impaired immune system and will eventually die from infections they
Many cases of 'fading puppy syndrome' have turned out to be
unrecognised cases of TNS. TNS is a genetic disease with recessive inheritance
(like CL) which means that to have an affected puppy, both parents must be
carriers (ie one defective and one normal copy of the gene but showing no
adverse effects) and about one quarter of such litters will be affected.
Dr Alan Wilton and Jeremy Shearman at the University of New
South Wales in Sydney have identified the gene that is defective in TNS through
study of Australian affected litters. They can trace the path of this TNS
mutated gene through the pedigrees and predict TNS carriers. They have not had
access to the English TNS cases reported recently but are keen to see if it is
the same problem and if they can detect the defect in English lines with current
technology. TNS has also been reported in Working Border Collies in Australia so
the mutated TNS gene may have been around in the breed for a very long time and
all TNS cases have a common cause and origin.
Once thought to be rare, it is now believed that
the disease goes undiagnosed for several reasons. First, not very many
veterinarians know about the disease to look for it. Second, even when looking,
blood counts do not always show lower than normal neutrophil (white blood cell)
counts. Finally, because it is an autoimmune-deficiency disease, young puppies
present a variety of symptoms depending upon what infections they fall prone to.
Thus many cases are not properly diagnosed and have just been thought to be
Making the diagnosis even more difficult is the fact that age of onset varies
depending on which infection is involved at the time. Most puppies become ill
before leaving the breeder but some do not have symptoms until later. The oldest
known survivor was 2 years 8 months. Most affected puppies die or are
euthanized by about 4 months of age.
The research now suggests that the gene is widespread throughout the Border
TNS cases have been positively diagnosed in Australia, Great Britain,
Hungary,the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United States.
TNS carriers have been identified in lines not related to the Australian and New
Zealand lines where the disease was first identified - including 100% ISDS
It is autosomal recessive, which means that both parents have to be carriers to
produce an affected puppy but fortunately the DNA test can now help breeders to
avoid breeding from affected parents, or putting carrier parent to carrier
Ceroid Lipofucinosis (CL)
Also known as 'Storage Disease' (or 'Battens
Disease' when it occurs in humans)
CL is a fatal congenital disease which affects the nerve cells of the body, it
has been found in a number of dog breeds and is fortunately rare in border
Symptoms do not usually occur until the affected animal reaches around 12-18
months old but the disease progresses rapidly once the initial signs appear and
euthanisia is usually the kindest option, there have been no reported cases
surviving past 2 half years of age.
The clinical signs of the disease are:
Unreasonable apprehension or fear of familar objects/surroundings or slight
An abnormal gait, the animal may be unsteady on it's feet and have difficulty
jumping, climbing or placing feet correctly.
Dementend behaviour, characterised by manic hyperactivity and outburts of rage.
Prior to the recent introduction of a DNA test, cases could only be confirmed by
a brain biopsy during post mortem examination to give an accurate diagnosis.
Thankfully this is no longer the case and DNA testing is available via
Dr Alan Wilton at the University of
New South Wales.
As with CEA and TNS, the genetic inheritence of CL is via a recessive gene so
animals will fall into three categories of genetic status:
CLEAR has not inherited a defective gene.
CARRIER has inherited the defective gene from a parent.
AFFECTED has inherited the defective gene from both parents and has, or will
develop, the disease
Using the DNA test, it is now therefore possible to ensure that no more affected
puppies are born.
Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)
What is OCD?
OCD is a condition that occurs in growing puppies of larger breeds, primarily
between the ages of 4-9 months, but can occur as late as 12 months or older. It
is most commonly seen in the shoulder joint but can be seen in stifles, elbows,
hocks or other joints. In approximately one third of the cases of OCD, the
disease is bilateral (in both joints). Occasionally, it is present in several
different joints in the same individual. It is seen twice as often in males as
OCD is thought to be caused by a problem in the growth rate of the joint
cartilage relative to the underlying subchondral bone. The cartilage over the
bone in the joint becomes thickened and the growth of the underlying bone is
altered. Because the joint is an area of movement and stress, this thickened
cartilage is at risk of being torn, especially in the areas most subjected to
trauma, stress and movement, such as the caudal area of the shoulder joint. When
repeated trauma causes a flap of cartilage to tear away from the underlying
bone, the condition becomes OCD. Because of the tear, the joint fluid can come
in direct contact with sensitive areas of the now-exposed underlying bone and
can cause pain. Lameness will usually be present in the dog at this time. If the
cartilage flap remains attached, it will not re-attach and heal back into its
original position. If the cartilage flap tears completely loose from the
adjoining cartilage, it becomes a loose body in the joint called a "joint
mouse". Once the flap has detached, the torn area where the flap originated
usually heals when the lesion is filled in with fibrocartilage, a type of "scar"
cartilage. Joint mice may float around in the joint, eventually being broken
down and absorbed, or they may be nourished by the joint fluid and grow to a
larger size than the original loose cartilage body. Possible complications arise
when joint mice attach themselves to other areas in the joint or become
entrapped it the bicipital tendon sheath, causing irritation, obstruction of
movement and pain. The breakdown of cartilage from these various processes may
cause inflammation, pain and the eventual development of secondary
osteoarthritis in the affected joint.
Is it inherited?
OCD is a considered to be a common disease in large and rapidly growing breeds
of dogs, with most affected breeds averaging over 60 lbs. However, some medium
breeds, such as the Brittany spaniel, bull terrier, greyhound and border collie,
also have a high incidence of this disease. Although the factors that cause OCD
are not completely resolved, direct factors considered to be involved in the
development of OCD are rapid growth and trauma to the joint. Indirect factors
affecting rapid growth include nutrition, hormones, and genetic predisposition
to rapid growth and large size. Indirect influences that may lead to increased
trauma to the joint include conformation and behaviour, which are also influenced
by heredity. Therefore, the genetic link for most types of OCD is considered to
be indirect, that is, an inherited tendency. Certain sites for OCD lesions, such
as the elbow, appear to have a greater direct genetic contribution and a higher
heritability than other sites, such as the shoulder. The most important
contributing factor in OCD of the shoulder, the most common site, is thought to
Border collies have a higher incidence of OCD than might be expected for their
size and the weight bearing stress on their joints. It would seem likely that
behavioural characteristics common to border collies could contribute to the
increased occurrence of OCD in this breed. The high energy levels, athletic
ability, stamina and quick reflexes for fast turns and speed changes many border
collies possess could predispose them to trauma and stress in joints that most
other breeds of similar size would not commonly experience. The overall
increased incidence in males for this disease is thought to be due to the
increased growth spurt in the male around the susceptible time period for OCD
development. As well, it is tempting to speculate that behavioural factors common
to males might also be involved in this increased susceptibility.
How can it be prevented?
As in many other developmental skeletal problems, an imbalance of calories,
protein and nutrients can increase the occurrence of OCD. In general, rapid
weight gain in puppies at the critical time period between 4-9 months
predisposes larger breed dogs to OCD. High intake of calcium and protein has
been implicated in the development of this condition. Therefore, care must be
taken in feeding young puppies special "growth formula" puppy foods or high
protein diets. Puppies need extra calcium and protein but free choice or
overfeeding of these diets can be harmful. It is of interest to note that some
dog food manufacturers have recently responded to health concerns of dog
breeders and owners by formulating puppy foods specifically for large breed
Since trauma is a contributing factor to the development of OCD, it would be
reasonable to monitor exercise in puppies, especially between the ages of 4-9
months. Activities such as excessive running and roughhousing with people or
other dogs should be avoided. In addition, puppies shouldn't engage in intense
activities that encourage abrupt, fast turns, quick stops, or jumping,
especially jumping from heights. Of course puppies need exercise and should be
allowed to be reasonably active, but they should also be watched carefully so
that they don't do too much or do things that might cause injury.
article by C. Denise Wall, Ph.D and quoted from American Border Collie magazine
Epilepsy is a condition that occurs in most, if not
all, breeds of dog as well as cross breeds. It can be very distressing for the
dogs involved and their owners but the causes and possible genetic links are not
known at this time, it is thought that genetic, dietary and environmental
factors can all play a part.
Read More about this condition.