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Understanding Border Collie Health Issues

Border Collie walks in dog wheelchair

The Border Collie is certainly smarter than the average pooch. This medium-sized herding dog breed is actually one of the smartest and most responsive in the world. Border Collies excel as herders. They also need a lot of social interaction, attention, and exercise. 

While you may be familiar with Border Collies from films like Babe (1995), there is one aspect of Border Collies that is rarely discussed: their health. Although Border Collies tend to be relatively healthy, they are prone to a few health issues.

If you are considering buying or rescuing a Border Collie, you need to have as much information as possible. To serve that aim, this article gives a condensed overview of the Border Collie and then discusses their health issues in detail. Knowledge is power when it comes to keeping your Border Collie healthy and treating any health issues that arise quickly and effectively.

The Border Collie Dog Breed

Helping a border collie with mobility issues

Before discussing Border Collie health problems, it is important to understand a little bit more about the breed. Border Collies originated as a mix between Roman herding dogs and Viking Spitz-variety herding dogs. The breed’s name originates from the location of the Anglo Scottish border, where they were born and developed.

Border Collies are a working breed. This means that they need plenty of stimulation and exercise. A bored Border Collie can easily become destructive in your home and yard. Border Collies also need a lot of social interaction and can become anxious if left alone. But, with the right level of exercise and mental health precautions, they can be a loyal companion. 
Border Collies live for between ten and fourteen years on average. As with many dog breeds, and humans, some of the health problems described below appear during old age. Some, on the other hand, will occur in younger dogs.

Common Border Collie Health Issues and How to Treat Them

The American Border Collie Association states that there are many genetic health issues impacting the Border Collie breed and recommends that any prospective Border Collie owner fully research the breed before making a final decision. Once you have fully researched the pros and cons of Border Collies and whether it’s the right breed for you and your family, now it is time to consider their potential health problems. Unlike some dog breeds, the Border Collie is relatively healthy. Yet, the long lifespan of the dog and the age of the breed itself have created a prevalence of certain health issues.

Before bringing a beautiful Border Collie home, make sure you are familiar with the following health concerns, their prevention, and treatment options. That way, you can ensure you can afford to keep your new four-legged friend as healthy and happy as possible.

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Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA)

Health needs of a border collie puppy

Collie Eye Anomaly (or CEA) occurs in puppies and dogs up to about two years old. It is an inherited disorder that affects the choroid. This is a tissue that supplies oxygen to the eye’s retina. CEA can cause the choroid to thin, which can lead to blindness and intraocular hemorrhage in severe cases.

There is no cure for CEA. In mild cases, the disorder may not continue to worsen, and so requires no real treatment. Severe cases could need surgery to lessen some of the symptoms. Discuss all treatment options with your veterinarian.

Hip and Elbow Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is an extremely common orthopedic disease in dogs. It’s estimated that 70% of dogs are affected by the condition. Elbow dysplasia is less common but can occur in Border Collies as well.

Border Collie dogs

As with CEA, elbow and hip dysplasia are genetic conditions. They can affect Border Collies of any age. As the dog’s joints develop the femoral head dislocates partially. As the joint wears down over time, it causes pain, stiffness, an unusual gait, and other symptoms.

Your vet will help you determine a treatment plan based on the severity of the hip or elbow dysplasia. Surgery may be necessary, or the condition can be controlled with pain medication and physical rehab.

A dog wheelchair may be recommended for severe cases of hip or elbow dysplasia when the Border Collie’s leg strength is impacted. A border collie wheelchair can be used to support the back legs or support all legs. Border Collies are an active breed, fully paralyzed dogs in wheelchairs have been able to return to agility training!

“Twix is really improving with his Walkin’ Wheels! He did this course in 28 seconds. Just one second off from what a non-handicapped dog should be able to do. Yay! Go, Twixer, Go! I am so proud of this boy! He has such determination! He is also super HAPPY to be able to do agility again! Thanks to his Walkin’ Wheels wheelchair!”

– Pam’s Dog Academy, LLC

Our 14 1/2 year old Border Collie, Mo, got his wheels this afternoon. We used the instructions and got it assembled in no time and were amazed at how quick he figured it out. So far for the day, we have been on THREE walks. He totally LOVES it!!

– Holly. M

Osteochondritis Dissecans (OCD)

Osteochondritis Dissecans (or OCD) is another joint disease. In this one, the cartilage in the Border Collie’s joints begins to break down. The cartilage acts as a buffer for the joint. Without it, the joint can become unstable and painful. OCD can be seen in puppies as young as four months.

Your vet can recommend a treatment plan for OCD. Most often this will include either surgery or arthroscopy.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

PRA is another eye disorder common in Border Collies. It is a degenerative condition that gradually reduces the dog’s vision. Eventually, it will cause blindness. PRA usually first begins around three, but there are tests to discover at an early age.

There is no treatment for PRA, but you can manage the effects of the disorder. Border Collies are so intelligent that they often adapt very well to the loss of their vision. You will need to ensure their environment remains safe by no rearranging furniture, using safety gates, and walking with a shorter leash.


Epilepsy is another inherited condition in Border Collies, it is actually quite common in the breed. The main effect of epilepsy in Border Collies is seizures. Signs of epilepsy in your Border Collie can occur within the first six months. There is currently no screening test for this health issue.

Most often, medication is used to treat epilepsy in Border Collies. Understanding the signs of an epileptic seizure and how to handle it is also essential for proper Border Collie epilepsy treatment.


Paralyzed Border Collie uses dog wheelchair skis

Border Collies are a wonderfully fun, energetic, and robust breed. They are not prone to many health issues. Many of the genetic disorders that occur most often in Border Collies can be tested for in puppyhood. If you choose to buy a puppy, make sure to get your Border Collie from a reputable breeder, or find out as much as you can about your pooch and his or her background from the rescue center. Doing this will cut down on the likelihood of your Border Collie having health problems.

If health problems like epilepsy, PRA, OCD, CEA, or hip dysplasia present themselves, make sure to follow the advice of your veterinarian. Stay well-informed, and you will be better able to ensure the health and happiness of your Border Collie.

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One comment

  1. Wonderful article, very informative. Breeder part especially true.
    As they get older, they become more emotional needy, need to be near someone, so very good dog for retirees.

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