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10 Common Health Problems in Border Collies – What To Know

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Male Border Collie

Border Collies are wonderful pets for active singles and families with children. Their spunky personalities and love of physical activity make them unforgettable companions for your household. While they are a generally healthy and sturdy breed, they may be genetically predisposed to several health issues. It’s essential to be aware of these conditions, so you know how to recognize them if your pup starts showing any signs of them.

Keep reading to find the ten most common health problems in Border Collies.

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The 10 Common Health Problems in Border Collies

1. Hip Dysplasia

a border collie dog looking sick covered with blanket on couch
Image Credit: Lindsay Helms, Shutterstock

The most prevalent health condition in Border Collies is hip dysplasia. This happens when the ball and socket of the hip joint do not fit together as they are supposed to, resulting in the rubbing of the bones together. This can lead to inflammation, pain, and, over time, arthritis.

This condition can be caught early through an orthopedic exam and hip X-rays. The sooner this condition is detected, the better. Surgery is sometimes necessary in severe and life-limiting cases. It’s important to remember that overweight Border Collies can develop arthritis years earlier than their thinner counterparts, so keeping your pup in tip-top shape is of utmost importance.

Signs of hip dysplasia to look for include:

  • Decreased activity
  • Hind-end lameness
  • Swaying gait
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Reluctance to jump or run

2. Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a brain disorder that’s characterized by seizure activity. Several infectious and non-infectious diseases can cause it, but in idiopathic epilepsy, there may be no underlying disease to account for the seizures. This condition is a common hereditary disease in Border Collies, who typically start showing symptoms between one and four years of age. Your dog may need anti-seizure medication to control its epilepsy.

Signs of epilepsy include:

  • Collapsing
  • Jerking
  • Stiffening
  • Muscle twitching
  • Unconsciousness
  • Drooling
  • Foaming at the mouth

3. Collie Eye Anomaly

Border Collie with different eye colors
Image Credit: L.A.Kennedy, Shutterstock

Collie eye anomaly (CEA) is an inherited eye disease present at birth. It affects the retina, choroid, and sclera. It varies from mild to severe, with the latter potentially leading to blindness. An autosomal gene defect causes the condition, and no treatment is available. It can be challenging to detect until your pup begins to go blind.

Signs of CEA include:

  • Eyeballs sinking into sockets
  • Eyeballs seem smaller than usual
  • Cloudy eyes

4. Multidrug Resistance Mutation

Some herding dog breeds, like the Border Collie, can be born with a gene mutation called MDR1 (Multidrug Resistance Mutation). This abnormality can make dogs sensitive to the harmful effects of drugs commonly used by vets. Your vet can easily test for this mutation with a blood test and then recommend products and medications that are safe to use. Luckily, Border Collies have a less than 5% chance of carrying a defective copy of the MDR1 gene, compared to the 50% of Australian Shepherds that have been affected to some degree.


5. Imerslund-Gräsbeck Syndrome

female border collie lying on grass
Image Credit: Elayne Massaini, Shutterstock

Imerslund-Gräsbeck Syndrome (IGS) is a disorder where vitamin B12 cannot be absorbed through the gut. It is found most often in Beagles and Border Collies. This condition is caused by a mutation in the CUBN gene and causes an affected dog’s small intestine to be unable to absorb vitamin B12, instead showing signs of deficiency.

Signs of IGS include:

  • Lack of appetite
  • Failure to gain weight
  • Lethargy
  • Malaise that intensifies after meals

6. Osteochondritis Dissecans

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD) is an inflammatory bone disorder resulting in arthritis. It occurs in Border Collies most often in the shoulder. This condition happens when dogs grow too quickly as puppies causing the cartilage in their joints not to attach correctly. Your pup may need surgery to fix the issue.

To minimize your dog’s risk of developing OCD, feed it a balanced diet to ensure it gets the correct ratio of minerals and proteins. Also, please do not allow it to jump off furniture or climb stairs until its bone can mature.

Signs of OCD include:

  • Lameness
  • Pain
  • Limping
  • Swollen joints

7. Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome

border collie sitting on yellow couch
Image Credit: Ayla Verschueren, Unsplash

Trapped neutrophil syndrome (TNS) is a genetic health issue that affects a dog’s immune system, leading to chronic infections. Affected puppies are often smaller than their littermates and may have developmental delays. They also sometimes have narrower skulls and more slender extremities. Dogs with TNS can begin having infections when they are as young as six weeks old. Some dogs will not show any signs of disease until they fall ill and cannot recover completely.

TNS is incurable and fatal. Most dogs will die after several months. However, medication and treatment can boost the quality of life and prolong life expectancy in affected dogs. In addition, genetic testing is available to test for TNS so breeders can be sure they’re not breeding dogs carrying the gene.


8. Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis

Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis (NCL) occurs thanks to a genetic mutation, resulting in neurological symptoms in affected dogs. Signs of the disease typically begin between ages one and two and can lead to a reduced lifespan.

Genetic tests are available so breeders can ensure they’re not breeding dogs with the mutation.

Signs of NCL include:

  • Anxiety
  • Constant circling
  • Aggression
  • Loss of learned skills
  • Compulsive behaviors
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Visual impairment

9. Patent Ductus Arteriosus

Border collie on couch with dog hair fur
Image Credit: Julia Zavalishina, Shutterstock

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a common congenital and hereditary heart abnormality that Border Collies may be predisposed to. This condition can cause an overload of blood on the left side of the heart, leading to heart failure and death. Before dogs are born, the ductus arteriosus blood vessel provides a shortcut for blood to flow from the pulmonary artery to the aorta without going through the lungs. In normal dogs, the vessel closes at birth, but in those that have PDA, the vessel does not.

PDA is typically treatable and curable if it is identified early enough.

  • Signs of PDA include:
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Loud heart murmur
  • Abnormal pulse
  • Exercise intolerance

10. Double Merle Matings

Merle is a beautiful mottled black/gray/white coloration in Border Collies that’s becoming increasingly popular. Unfortunately, this color variation can be associated with some genetic issues. If your dog’s mom and dad are both Merles, they will produce double Merle pups. These pups are at a high risk of becoming both blind and deaf.

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Final Thoughts

Though your Border Collie may be more at risk for the ten above conditions, it doesn’t mean it will develop any of them. It is essential to know what health problems your pet may be predisposed to so you know what signs to watch for. Never skip your dog’s annual checkups at the vet; they can provide a baseline for your dog’s health so your vet can pick up on any anomalies before they become more severe.


Featured Image Credit: BIGANDT.COM, Shutterstock



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