Health Issues in the Border Collie
Welcome to our section on health issues in the border collie.
When I first started out in Border Collies and started investigating these issues I was needless to say “blinded” by the science of it all, even now looking at them I am still rather blinded by it so I have undertaken to explain it in simple terms that all can understand and save you the bother of being blinded also!
I must STRESS at this point that testing is the simple part and not at all where it stops in producing a healthy pedigree dog. Line history cannot have enough emphasis placed on it. For all the testing in the world if you have no line history pertaining to heritable diseases then you are breeding from a wildcard.
While this may all appear quite dire, the Border Collie on the whole is a very healthy and robust breed next to many and many of the untestable diseases can afflict most any breed of dog.
The are two sections to discuss. The first being testable disease traits and the second currently untestable disease traits.
Section 1 - Testable Genetic Disease Traits
- CEA/CH – Collie Eye Anomaly or Choroidal Hypoplasia
- CL - Ceroid Lipofuscinosis
- TNS – Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome
- IVM - Ivermectin Sensitivity (MDR1)
- DM - Degenerative Myolopathy
- CMDD - Cobalamin Malabsorption Dublin Deficiency or IGS - Imersland-Grasbeck Syndrome
- PLL - Primary Lens Luxation
These conditions are autosomal recessive meaning that at least both sire and dam must carry one copy of the defect gene to produce affected progeny; hence there are three status of each condition:
Clear/Normal – (genotype N/N), this means that the dog does not carry the defect gene therefore can never be affected by, carry or pass on to its offspring. This dog can effectively be mated to any other dog.
Carrier – (genotype N/n), this means that the dog carries just one copy of the recessive defect gene not the two required for affected. This dog will never be affected by the disease but carries it so can pass the defect gene on to its offspring. This dog should only ever be mated with a clear/normal dog and they must be kept in the genepool to aid genetic diversity in the breeds.
Affected – (genotype n/n), this means that the dog carries two copies of the recessive defect gene. This gene will ALWAYS be passed onto the offspring. This dog should never be mated.
CEA/CH - Collie Eye Anomaly
CEA (also known as Choroidal Hypoplasia (CH)) is a recessively inherited disorder affecting the development of the retina, optic nerve and choroids all related to the eyes and vision. CEA is a genetic disease that cannot be cured and can exhibit itself in varying degrees, mild where vision may be not obviously impaired, to severe resulting in retinal detachment and total loss of vision.
CL or NCL - Ceroid Lipofuscinosis
Ceroid Lipofuscinosis is one of a group of diseases known as “Metabolic Storage Diseases” and is also known to affect humans but known as Batten’s Disease.
CL is best described as an accumulation of ceroid lipofuscin, a waxlike lipid waste product created by cell metabolism. In a normal body enzymes remove this type of waste matter but in the case of CL the enzyme responsible for removal is not present.
Affected animals will appear normal at birth and in most cases do not exhibit symptoms until approximately 18 months of age. During this period of time the waxlike waste matter builds up in the cells spread through the body tissues. The brain has little capacity for storing waste products and it is generally accepted that by this age the waste buildup in this area will have begun compressing and destroying any healthy brain tissue.
This is when symptoms would generally start to appear:
- Fear or apprehension of familiar objects, noises and general setting.
- Inability to concentrate, settle and may appear as if the dog has suffered loss of sight.
- Unsteady on feet, dropping balls/toys etc, difficulty with everyday movement like jumping, climbing and foot placement.
- Later stages include a change in temperament which may appear as hyperactivity, aggression/rage, manic over normal situations and dementia.
Animals affected with CL are not expected to live to much more than 3 years of age.
TNS - Trapped Neutrophil Syndrome
TNS is a more interesting condition and perhaps less understood and described than CEA or CL. In a lot of the reading material available there seems to be a lot of blame attributed to New Zealand and Australian bloodlines for this condition yet the distribution throughout the European countries appears to be of epic proportions in comparison to New Zealand or Australia.
TNS is a hereditary disease where the bone marrow produces neutrophils (white cells) but struggles to effectively release them into the bloodstream. Affected puppies have compromised immunity to infection and will eventually lose the battle and die. Symptoms can vary with lameness, chronic diarrhea, fevers and loss of appetite. Persistent bone and gastrointestinal infections are common with this disease.
MDR1 - Ivermectin Sensitivity
IVM is a state of hypersensitivity to Ivermectin. For many of us when we think of Ivermectin we think of cows, however Ivermectin is used in a number of different veterinary products that we use on our pets daily. Where a dog is affected for MDR1 it will be unable to remove the drug and any toxins from around the brain and surrounding tissue. As a result the toxins build up within the surrounding tissue and can cause severe neurological issues. It is important to note at this point that no pedigree border collie has ever been tested as a carrier of this disease which affects many collie breeds.
DM - Degenerative Myelopathy
Degenerative Myelopathy is a disease of the spinal cord that is degenerative and more often seen in older dogs from 8 years old onwards. It is typified by a noticeable change in the dogs hind where it may experience wobbles, ataxia, dragging and knuckling of the feet as the dog moves as the brain and limbs fail to communicate in a timely manner. As this disease is progressive it may start slowly but is estimated to reach paraplegia within 6 - 12 months of onset.
CMDD - Cobalamin Malabsorption Dublin Deficiency or IGS - Imersland Grasbeck Syndrome
This is a poorly documented condition but in plain terms it correlates to Vitamin B12 deficiency and the failure of the B12 to be absorbed within the intestine. The symptoms vary but are generally anorexia, lethargy and failure to gain weight. Cobalamin Deficiency generally affects the border collie from 4 months onwards.
PLL - Primary Lens Luxation
PLL is another eye condition to add to the group. This condition is characterised by weakened zonular fibres within the eye which eventually allow the lens to luxate. The zonular fibres are responsible for holding the lens in place in the eye. This is a severely painful and debilitating condition for a dog. Dependent on where the lens luxates to this can cause permanent blindness.
- Autoimmune Disease
- Discoid Lupus
- Systemic Lupus
- Addisons Disease
- OCD - Osteochondritis Dissecans
- HD - Hip Dysplasia (I know right, you thought this one was cut and dry)
- Cruciate Disease
- Border Collie Collapse
Pemphigus has 4 different types:
- Foliaceus - affects the head, ears, footpads and body, characterised by swollen lymph nodes.
- Erythmatosus - similar to Foliaceus but confined to head, ears and footpads.
- Vulagris - affects the gums, lips and skin particularly underarm and groin but with very deep ulceration and anorexia.
- Vegetans - pustule groups, non generalised join to form larger pustule groups.