Common health problems with Border Collies

15 May 2024 - 4 min read
Border Collie amongst flowers

Lively, loyal and alarmingly intelligent, Border Collies have been popular pets for centuries. 

While associated with farm work, the breed is popular with those who want an active, energetic pet. Their strong bonds and affection for their owners make them excellent companions. But you do need some experience to train them properly first. 

Like any other pedigree breed, Border Collies are prone to certain health issues. We list common Border Collie health problems below, how vets diagnose them and how to prevent them.

Common Border Collie health issues

Hip dysplasia 

Border Collie

Hip dysplasia is an inherited condition where your dog’s hip joint doesn't fit together. Dysplasia means bones rub on each other, leading to inflammation (swelling) and pain. The condition can cause arthritis over time. 

This condition can affect your dog to different severities. Some cause minimal discomfort and others cause severe disability. If diagnosed, your veterinary surgeon can identify an appropriate treatment plan involving: 

  • Diet

  • Exercise

  • Physiotherapy

  • Pain relief 

A mixture of the above helps to manage symptoms.

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) 

Border Collie

Also an inherited condition, CEA is a result of a mutated gene determining the development of the eye. In this condition, the blood vessels at the back of your dog's eye don’t correctly develop, resulting in poor eyesight or even complete blindness. 

Both eyes are affected if your dog suffers from CEA. Usually, it's diagnosed in young pups by your veterinary surgeon, breeder, or at home when vision problems occur. The condition is present from birth. Unfortunately, it has very few treatment options and is irreversible.

Idiopathic Epilepsy (IE) 

Border Collie

IE is a seizure disorder, and it's commonly seen in Collies. Vets consider it an inherited disease. Experts describe epilepsy as random, spontaneous electrical overactivity of the brain causing seizures, convulsions, or fits. The condition can be localised to one muscle group or affect the whole body.

Epileptic dogs see symptoms at around one to four years. The frequency and severity of the condition vary, so your dog may be only mildly affected, but symptoms can be severe. Your veterinary surgeon will work with you to treat your pup and help control symptoms if they develop.

Multi-Drug Resistance (MDR-1) 

Border Collie

This condition describes an inherited sensitivity to some commonly used veterinary medications from a gene mutation.

If your dog has MDR-1, they may need to avoid certain medications or be dosed very carefully to prevent negative effects. Some such drugs that your affected dog may experience problems with include: 

  • Anti-parasitic medications

  • Anti-diarrhoea pills

  • Sedatives

  • Cancer-fighting drugs

Your veterinary surgeon will be aware of these sensitivities and make sure your dog has safe treatment, especially if they are known to carry the gene mutation.

Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome (TNS) 

Border Collie hero imageA genetic health condition that affects the efficiency of the immune system, preventing your dog from being able to fight off infection, leading to chronic infection in those affected.

The condition is only found in Border Collies and is present at birth. Often affected puppies are smaller than their littermates and suffer from developmental delays. 

Unfortunately, the condition is usually fatal, with the pup's survival limited to a few months.

How to care for a Border Collie

Border Collie lying down

Genetic testing 

Most of the common health problems Collies suffer from are inherited. This means it's essential appropriate testing and screening happens for breeding adults. Individuals who have inheritable conditions shouldn't breed to prevent the condition from passing on.

Screening involves imaging such as X-rays for orthopaedic conditions like hip dysplasia. Adults with good hip scores are less likely to produce puppies that will go on to develop serious problems. Screening for genetic mutations like MDR1, TNS and CEA usually involves DNA testing. These tests help identify if the proposed breeding adults have affected genes. It prevents the breeding of these individuals. 

Preventative breeding is also for adult Collies with IE. The condition is only ruled out with a clinical exam, blood testing and brain imaging (MRI) to rule out any other causes. Breeders shouldn't use those affected. Responsible breeders will want to prevent inherited diseases from passing to puppies. It's important to check that the breeder has taken steps for prevention when purchasing a pup.

Regular exercise 

You probably won't have much issue with exercising a Border Collie, because they'll be sure to let you know!

They need around two hours of exercise a day given their working background. But this isn't a bad thing - it helps prevent obesity and, in the case of Border Collies, prevents issues like anxiety.

Regular exercise and weight management are essential for any dog breed you get.

Knowing some basic pet nutrition will help too.

Regular grooming 

Regular grooming is essential to prevent any skin issues in your Border Collie. While they aren't predisposed to these issues, you must do it as an owner.

How dog insurance can help

Border Collie insurance can help you prepare for unforeseen health issues.

Dog insurance helps with up to £15,000 vet fee cover, unlimited 24/7 vet calls with FirstVet and a host of other perks.