Border Terrier Health Update (April 2018)


Health Survey


Since the on-line reporting function was launched in Sept 2017 36 health reports have been submitted by this route (as of the end of March 2018). A brief analysis of these reports is as follows:


No. of Reports – 36 (16 dogs 20 bitches)        No. of owners reporting – 23


Only one person considered their dog to be unhealthy. However 9 reports mentioned conditions  owners were concerned about. These included: Occasional periods of shivering/shaking, arthritis, allergies, weepy eyes, epilepsy, liver failure, myelodysplasia, colitis, cutaneous asthenia, respiratory symptoms, CECS.


During 2017 a further 14 hard-copy reports were received. Of these 10 dogs were considered by their owners to be healthy. The conditions mentioned in this group of reports included: mammary tumours, poor vision (description suggests cataract), pulmonary heart valve malfunction, occasional shaking, dermatitis.


Historical information

Between 2007-2016 the Health Survey received the following information (healthy dogs numbers in brackets):


2007 – 4 reports (2) –   Conditions: Colitis and Grade 2 heart murmur

2008 – 20 reports (16) – Conditions: Colitis, lymphosarcoma, OCD (shoulder), aggression, Perthes.

2009 – 25 reports (17) – Conditions: HD, Otitis, Seizures, CECS (2), pyometra, dermatitis,                                                   sneezing.

2010 – 11 reports (4) – Conditions: aggression; dermatitis, eosinophilic encephalomeningitis,                                             seizures (2), CECS, renal failure.

2011 – 3 reports (2) – Conditions: aggression

2012 – 12 reports (5) – Conditions: aggression, severe endometriosis, cardiac disease, brain                                             tumour, spondylosis, liver disease, seizures & vomiting, IBD associated with                                 dermatitis and ear infection.

2013 – 8 reports (1)  – Conditions: Lumbar spine malformation, Glioma (brain tumour), seizures (5)

2014 – 11 reports (6) – Conditions: seizures (2), suspected brain tumours (2), CECS (3), atopy.

2015 – 6 reports (6!) – Conditions: aggression, CECS, epilepsy, retained testis, deafness/ poor                                         vision

2016 – 10 reports (5) – Conditions: cyst (removed), diabetes mellitus/pancreatitis, Diabetes                                              insipidus, irregular heart beat, cerebellar ataxia


Published information


Border Terriers under primary veterinary care in England: demography and disorders

Dan O’Neill et al – Canine Genetics and Epidemiology (2017) 4:15



Background: The Border Terrier is a working terrier type that is generally considered to be a relatively healthy and hardy breed. This study aimed to characterise the demography and common disorders of Border Terriers receiving veterinary care in England using de-identified electronic patient record data within the VetCompass” Programme.


Results: Annual birth proportion for Border Terriers showed a decreasing trend from 1.46% in 2005 to 0.78% in 2014. The median adult bodyweight for males (10.9 kg, IQR: 9.612.3, range: 6.325.0) was higher than for females (9.1 kg, IQR: 8.210.3, range: 5.221.6) (P < 0.001). The median longevity was 12.7 years (IQR 9.314.3, range 1.017.5).


The most prevalent fine-level disorders recorded were periodontal disease (17.63%, 95% CI: 15.6219.79), overweight/obesity (7.01%, 95% CI: 5.698.52) and otitis externa (6.71%, 95% CI: 5.428.19).


The most prevalent grouped-level precision disorders were dental disorder (18.54%, 95% CI: 16.4820.74), enteropathy (11.68%, 95% CI:10.0013.53), and skin disorder (10.17%, 95% CI: 8.6011.93).


Syndromic analysis showed that the most prevalent body locations affected were the head-and-neck (37.75%, 95%CI: 35.1440.43), abdomen (18.61%, 95% CI: 16.5520.81) and limb (11.53%, 95% CI: 9.8613.37). At least one organ system was affected in 834 (62.85%) Border Terriers. The most prevalent organ systems affected were the digestive

(32.03%, 95% CI: 29.5234.61), integument (26.68%, 95% CI: 24.3129.14), connective/soft tissue (11.15%, 95% CI: 9.5112.97) and auditory (9.87%, 95% CI: 8.3211.60).


At least one affected pathophysiological process was described in 881(66.39%) Border Terriers. The most prevalent pathophysiologic processes recorded were inflammation (31.

65%, 95% CI: 29.1534.23), nutritional (9.04%, 95% CI: 7.5510.72), mass/swelling (8.89%, 95% CI: 7.4210.55), traumatic (7.99%, 95% CI: 6.599.58) and infectious (7.76%, 95% CI: 6.389.33).


Conclusions: This study documented a trend towards reducing ownership and relatively long-livedness in the Border Terrier. The most common disorders were periodontal disease, overweight/obesity and otitis externa.


Predisposition to dental and neurological disease was suggested. These results can provide a comprehensive evidence resource to support breed-based health plans that can contribute positively to reforms to improve health and welfare within the breed.



Health initiatives


Clinical and anecdotal illness trends


A request for information concerning dogs that had suffered, or were currently being treated for, four specific conditions was sent out during 2017. The response we received was as follows (numbers of dogs in brackets): Brain tumour (5); Cushings Disease (14); Juvenile Cataracts (2); Gall Bladder Mucocoele (8). Other conditions also mentioned were – Perthes DIsease, Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, liver tumours, and prostate cancer.


A follow up clinical survey is planned to examine the prevalence of Gall Bladder Mucocoele in Border Terriers. This will be a study carried out in conjunction with a UK Veterinary School (Nottingham). Cushing’s will be considered alongside the work being carried out in dogs generally on this condition. The other conditions will be monitored and considered as part of a wider Breed Health initiative with the Kennel Club.


Breed Health and Conservation Plan


The KC has an ambitious project to create health plans for each breed aimed at prioritising research into health conditions. This will attempt to direct research effort towards those diseases that have a significant effect on the health and welfare of dogs. The Border Terrier is scheduled to be considered during 2018. A meeting will take place in early June to consider a draft document produced by the KC based upon available evidence.




A meeting took place in February where the AHT briefed members of the Breed Health Group, representatives from the breed clubs and those who had provided research funds to the AHT, on a plan to search for genetic mutations in dogs suffering from CECS. Once this work commences the initial funds will be directed towards obtaining samples from dogs diagnosed with CECS and a similar number of unaffected Border Terriers as comparisons.


The initial phase of sample collection will take some months to complete and when these are available the more costly work of genetic research will commence. Further funding will be required and current estimates suggest this will be in the region of £30k.



Of course the past year has been dominated by scientific scrutiny of data relating to Spongiform Leuco-Encephalo-Myelopathy (SLEM) and the eventual launch of the genetic test. The test can be used to determine the status of individual Border Terriers and is a valuable tool for breeders. It permits breeders to select mating pairs to avoid producing puppies clinically affected by SLEM (Shaking Puppy Syndrome). The test can also be used to confirm a diagnosis but hopefully this will be an academic point from now on.


For further details of SLEM developments see my 2017 Breed Health Report at


Health Group


The Border Terrier Breed Health group will meet during May and will consider progress on the health issues identified last April and will consider the draft proposal from the KC on Breed Health and Conservation along with the evidence being used to produce it.


On the same day the Health Group will meet with the Breed Clubs to discuss the health of the breed and future plans to address various problems in the breed.


Prof Steve Dean

Breed Health Co-ordinator