Border Collie health problems
Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)
Osteochondritis Dissecans is a disorder affecting bones that ultimately results in arthritis. Border Collies are most commonly affected in the shoulder. It often occurs in dogs that grow too quickly which is why it is so important to feed an accurately balanced diet designed to provide the correct ratio of minerals and proteins.
To minimise the risk of a dog developing this condition, it’s advised that pups should not be exercised on a hard surface, be allowed to jump out of cars or off furniture or climb the stairs until their bones have fully matured.
Affected dogs often show signs such as lameness and pain before they reach a year old, although it can occur in older dogs. Treatment for Osteochondritis Dissecans depends on the severity of the condition but once the dog has recovered it’s rare for the condition to recur.
Another inherited disease that affects many breeds of dogs, Border Collies included. Feeding a correctly balanced diet while the pup is growing may help to reduce the severity of disease by ensuring a slow growth rate in affected pups.
Some cases may be very mild and not cause any significant trouble while other dogs can develop severe arthritis and pain as they get older. X-rays can be done on adult breeding dogs to evaluate their hip scores. Dogs with good hips scores are less likely to produce puppies that will go on to develop serious problems.
Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA)
Collie eye anomaly is an inherited disease that affects both eyes if present and is often detected in Border Collies and other herding dogs. This is a condition where the blood vessels that absorb scattered light and support the retina don’t develop properly. The condition ranges from being a very mild disorder to causing complete blindness.
As it’s a genetic condition the only way to prevent it to test breeding dogs to identify the risk of passing the disorder on to their pups.
This condition is normally noted at quite a young age, usually within the first year and it cannot be reversed.
Border Collies can also be affected by other eye diseases including glaucoma. This is a condition which causes a build-up of fluid and pressure in the eye, leading to damage of the optic nerve and the retina which can rapidly lead to blindness.
While it can be caused by a dog’s genetics, glaucoma can be triggered by other conditions like tumours, infections and inflammation.
Multi-Drug Resistance (MDR1) Gene Mutation
This genetic mutation only affects some Border Collies (and other members of the herding and sighthound breeds). Dogs with this genetic mutation have a reduced or complete inability to metabolise certain drugs. This can result in these drugs building up in the dog’s system, resulting in adverse effects that wouldn’t normally be expected in dogs without the mutation.
Genetic tests are available for this condition, although it should be noted that many Border Collies with this mutation do not, in fact, display any side-effects to the type of drugs concerned when they are used at normal, recommended doses.
Merle to Merle Matings
It is becoming more common to see the beautiful mottled black/grey/white or dark red/light red/white Border Collies out and about. While these are certainly beautiful colour variations within the breed, it is important to know that this particular colour (Merle) is associated with certain genetic problems. If both the mum and dad of a litter are Merles (double Merle pups), the pups are at very high risk of both blindness and deafness.
This is a disorder that can affect the teeth of some Border Collies and results in their teeth wearing down very quickly, often requiring dental treatment and extraction of severely affected teeth. It is somewhat rare and there is now also a genetic test for it so responsible breeders can screen potential parents for it, helping to reduce the chance of it appearing in puppies.
Another important thing to take into consideration is the behaviours that Border Collies have been bred for. Border Collies have a strong desire to herd things and to chase. This can manifest as herding other dogs, children, people or anything that presents itself as a good herding opportunity. If the desired target does not let itself be herded, some dogs may then nip in order to achieve the end goal.
While this is entirely normal for the breed when herding sheep, it is often not viewed as socially acceptable, especially if small children or frail adults are involved. Herding is closely linked to chasing and some Border Collies can develop a habit of chasing undesirable things such as cars, motorbikes, cyclists, joggers, birds or even shadows. While funny as a puppy, this can lead to some real problems as they get older, especially if living in an urban environment.
Also associated with the above behaviours is hyper-arousal. Border Collies have been bred to notice every tiny movement, changes in direction, reading body language and being very responsive to external stimuli. As a result of this, some Border Collies can be very easily hyper-aroused when exposed to an urban environment where there are lots of noises, sudden movements, dogs barking, cyclists, trucks, buses and children running around or scooting past unexpectedly.
This can be very difficult to manage if you don’t have the support of an experienced trainer and can be misinterpreted as aggression if the dog is barking and lunging at the offending objects.
Border Collies are also prone to boredom and chewing (as are many other dogs) however if you are only providing exercise and no mental stimulation, these super-intelligent dogs will find ways to entertain themselves at your expense.
Spend some time researching feeding toys and games and learn how to trick train your dog to provide them with the additional mental stimulation that they thrive on in addition to playtime in the garden.
Even better, if you have the time and inclination, learn a new sport with your Border Collie – agility, dock diving, herding, Search and Rescue, trailing or disc competitions are a few to consider.