Guild of Shepherds & Collies

5 Common Illnesses of Border Collies

As a Border Collie Pet Parent, Be Aware of These Common Illnesses

common illnesses

Ah, the Border Collie ... the breed most known for their extreme intelligence and high drive. Not to mention their loyalty and high trainability, which make them excellent family dogs. It’s no wonder the Border Collie has increased in popularity, jumping from 52nd in popularity in 2009 to 39th in 2014. Like all breeds, however, the Border Collie is prone to a few common illnesses that I would like to draw attention to today.

Epilepsy & Seizures

Border Collies are prone to seizures, and sadly they are one of the breeds that are most prone to idiopathic epilepsy (meaning, they have seizures and we don’t know why). A study published in the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) states, “Rough and Smooth coated Collies appear to have a less severe clinical manifestation of idiopathic epilepsy when compared with other breeds such as the Australian Shepherd or Border Collie."

Unfortunately, other than your dog actually having a seizure, there aren’t other symptoms to acknowledge. However, it is noted that most seizures occur at night or in the morning, often while your pet is sleeping. I had a Spaniel mix who suffered from epilepsy, but lived to the age of 14 before she passed from heart failure (which was unrelated). It is important to know that dogs with epilepsy can live very long and healthy lives.

Because there isn’t much you can do in the way of preparing for a seizure, all you can do is prepare yourself mentally for what needs to be done should a seizure ever occur.

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA)

This hereditary disease affects the blood vessels that provide nourishment to the retina. Border Collies are at a much lower risk (2-3%) than Rough and Smooth coated Collies. Unfortunately, this disease is not often detected until the dog begins to show signs of blindness. This disease occurs in stages, and some are more severe than others. Therefore, if you think your dog is having difficulty seeing, you will want to take them to see your veterinarian immediately.


Hypothyroidism is caused by a decreased production of T4 and T3 hormones in the thyroid gland. Typically, this disease presents symptoms between 4 -10 years of age. Symptoms include, but are not limited to: unexplained weight gain, lethargy, weakness, hair loss, poor coat condition, and recurring skin issues. If you believe that your Border Collie is suffering from Hypothyroidism, you should speak with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Hypothyroidism can be treated with daily medication and dietary restrictions.

Canine Hip Dysplasia

While Border Collies are not among the breeds that are most likely to suffer from Hip Dysplasia, they can suffer from this disease. While there are several symptoms that might indicate the presence of Hip Dysplasia, you are most likely to notice an aversion to exercise, difficulty standing up, or even an unusual gait. Depending on your dog’s level of discomfort, their symptoms may be treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS).

Osteochondritis Dissecans

This disease most often affects males and is often diagnosed in puppies. OCD is caused by rapid bone development that results in inflammation of the smooth cartilage in joints. Due to the inflammation, many dogs are in pain. Symptoms of this disease include painful, swollen joints and difficulty walking.

While the Border Collie is often considered a healthy breed and not exceptionally prone to the above diseases, it is always good to be prepared from a pet parent perspective.

Has your Border Collie been diagnosed with any of the above illnesses? What was your experience with treatment?

Further Reading and Resources:
Canine Epilepsy Research Project - List of Breeds, Severity


Article By Rachel Sheppard, Exclusively for Guild of Shepherds and Collies

Meet Our Evangelist: Rachel Sheppard
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