Border collies make excellent pets, and their intelligence and friendly demeanor make them popular among families, K9 sports enthusiasts, farmers, and many other individuals.
Whether you are considering adding a border collie to your household or already have one of these whip-smart dogs to call your own, it is wise to be aware of the health conditions that are common among this breed.
Here are 4 border collie health issues that you should watch for in your purebred or mixed dog.
1) Idiopathic Epilepsy
Epilepsy is a condition that causes seizures. Border collies are one of the breeds that have a relatively high incidence of idiopathic epilepsy. Idiopathic means that the epileptic seizures occur for no clear reason; there is no detectable brain injury or chemical condition to cause the seizures.
A dog with epilepsy will often seem distressed for some period of time prior to a seizure. That period of time might be minutes, hours, or even days. Though such episodes can occur at any time, more dogs have seizures in the evening or during rest periods than during the day or while engaging in some form of activity. Some border collies with this type of epilepsy will have seizures at a fairly consistent frequency, while others will have them randomly.
If your dog is having seizures, which are marked by periods of stiffness, twitching, and temporary unconsciousness, you should take them to your veterinarian immediately.
If it is the first seizure, go to the closest emergency veterinary hospital if it is a weekend or after hours. The vet will perform testing to find out if there is a physical issue. If not, idiopathic epilepsy will likely be diagnosed. Your dog will probably have to take phenobarbital or another anti-seizure medication for the rest of their life.
Another health concern that affects many border collies is hypothyroidism. Hypothyroidism means that their thyroid does not produce enough of the hormones needed for optimal health.
Some signs that your border collie might have hypothyroidism include dry skin, dull coat, weight gain, hair loss, aggression, and behavioral changes.
Diagnosis is a simple blood test. If your border collie has hypothyroidism, your veterinarian can prescribe medication to balance out their thyroid hormones, and the symptoms should resolve over several weeks. Sometimes the dosage needs to be tweaked a few times. When the right dosage is discovered, periodic blood testing will be needed to be sure that the hormones are at the correct levels. Your dog will need to take the medication for the rest of their life.
3) Osteochondritis Dissecans
Osteochondritis dissecans is a disease of the joints that can affect many large breeds but is particularly prevalent in border collies. The condition causes swelling, pain, and lameness. It is most common in puppies under 1 year of age, so if you notice limping, pain, or swelling in one or more limbs, take your pup to the vet.
There are some steps you can take to reduce the chances that your border collie will develop the disease.
- Feed them food formulated for large breed puppies. Puppy food that is not made specifically for large breeds can provide too many nutrients at once, stimulating your pup to grow too quickly and increasing their risk of developing the condition.
- Don’t exercise your pup excessively. Going for a 5-mile run on the road is bad for your young border collie’s joints. Instead, let your puppy play on the grass or limit walks to short distances until your puppy is a year old.
However, it’s important to note that not all cases of osteochondritis dissecans can be prevented.
Diagnosis includes x-rays and testing of the joint fluid. Treatment often requires surgery but in some cases, medication will keep the condition at bay.
4) Hip Dysplasia
Hip dysplasia is another condition that affects many large breeds but is especially common in border collies. This is an issue that affects the hip joints. Hip dysplasia is genetic, and a lot of exercise during puppyhood, particularly on concrete or the road, can exacerbate the condition.
So can overweight or obesity.
Feeding your pup food for large breeds and being careful not to let them get overweight can help prevent the complications of hip dysplasia.
Symptoms include lameness and stiffness in the hips. Your border collie might have trouble getting up from a lying position and you might even hear a grinding sound in your dog’s hips.
Some dogs with hip dysplasia run with their back legs moving together in sort of a “bunny hop.”
Diagnosis includes x-rays and evaluation by PennHIP or OFA. Treatment options for canine hip dysplasia include inflammation control, joint protectants, pain control, and—in some cases—various surgeries. Dogs with hip dysplasia should not be bred, because the chances of passing the condition on to offspring are high.
It is important to find a veterinarian who is familiar with the issues that often affect border collies. With good veterinary care, your furry family member should live a decade or more and bring you many years of happiness.