Border Collies can be one of the physically healthiest breeds I see in my veterinary practice but they can also be one of the most mentally and emotionally troubled.
How Long Do Border Collies Live?
Based on information provided by the American Kennel Club (AKC), Border Collies are expected to live between 12-15 years.
How To Pick The Healthiest Border Collie Puppy
Having a healthy Border Collie starts first and foremost with picking the right breeder. There are two ways you can go about finding a quality breeder:
- Use the AKC site to find one
- Go through the Border Collie Society of America to find a reputable breeder
- If you’re lucky enough to already know and love a Border Collie, find out who the breeder of the litter was. That’s a great start.
If you’re getting a Border Collie from a rescue organization, try to find out the medical history of the dog as completely as possible. Understand that, while problems can emerge at any time, chronic health conditions that have been dealt with (successfully or unsuccessfully) for years are going to be your responsibility going forward.
What Are The Most Common Diseases That Border Collies Can Suffer From?
In my practice, the most common diseases that I see in Border Collies include:
- Hip Dysplasia
Any dog can be individually prone to conditions such as allergies, dental disease, and obesity. I just don’t see them enough in my Border Collie patients to say that they are more prone to them than many other breeds.
Anxiety disorders encompass a wide range of potential behavioral issues. You’re not going to see this as a “health concern” on most dog breed lists but it should be listed on certain breeds. Border Collies happen to be one of them.
The reason for this is that the Border Collie is a very high-motor dog. They need a lot of stimulation (both physical and mental) in order to function properly. When they don’t get that, they have a hard time dealing with it mentally. This can evolve into an unhappy dog that destroys your house when you’re not home or simply barks incessantly when outside.
For this reason, any potential owner of a Border Collie must be a highly active person themselves. They should be prepared to work a great deal with their Border Collie in basic obedience and getting them on a regular workout schedule. For those Borders that exhibit the potential, they also should consider more advanced training such as agility.
If you own an anxious Border Collie, your first move should be to increase your interaction and activity with them. Not to put them on medication.
Hip dysplasia is a fairly well known condition that should be minimized in the Border Collie breed by responsible breeders screening their dogs for it early.
Ultimately the disease occurs when the hip joint isn’t properly developed so that the joint functions as it should. The bones don’t develop properly to provide the normal amount of surface to cushion the joint and make it comfortable.
When dysplasia is present, the bones end up rubbing together excessively and wearing away at the cartilage that is present. Over time this causes the bones to try and stabilize the joint by producing excessive bony tissue/bone spurs. This condition is pretty painful and can range from causing no visible symptoms to a dog that can’t walk at all due to the pain.
Xrays are the only way to definitely diagnose this disease. If caught when a dog is still growing, there may be a surgical treatment that could help mitigate the disease’s severity later in life.
Border Collies put far more miles on their bodies than the vast majority of dogs so having hip dysplasia will affect them more than a more sedentary breed.
This is a condition that is, and has been, so prevalent in the Border Collie population that the famous James Herriot wrote about it in one of his most famous dog stories. It’s still, unfortunately, still associated with the Border Collie to this day.
For most breeds of dogs, if they begin to have seizure activity before the age of 6, I usually will suspect epilepsy as the underlying cause (rather than brain tumors, etc). If it’s a Border Collie, I will 100% put the diagnosis at Epilepsy once I’ve done some basic bloodwork to rule out any extra-cranial disease.
Compared to even a decade ago, treating epilepsy has gotten less toxic and more effective with new drugs that have entered the market. Whereas the first line drug of many vets used to be phenobarbital (which could really damage the liver long-term in many cases), nowadays I reach for Keppra/Levetiracetam which is both much safer and now cheaper in generic form than phenobarbital for larger dogs (at least where I practice).
Early Onset Adult Deafness and congenital deafness are known issues in Border Collies and have been for some time. Currently there is a great deal of research going into the root genetic cause and the hope is that soon there will be a way to screen with a DNA test.
Fortunately, Border Collies are such intelligent dogs that being deaf won’t affect their relationship with their owners as much as
How Can I Get My Border Collie To Live Longer and Healthier?
Exercise And Stimulation
A happy Border Collie is an active and mentally stimulated Border Collie. These dogs will have far less anxiety and issues and this will naturally result in a healthier and longer life.
Whether you take your dog to the dog park every day, train them to do lots of fun tricks, or enter them in advanced agility competition, giving your Border Collie the active life they demand will reward you with many years of a fun and healthy life.
Preventative Medicine/Wellness Exams
I’m a veterinarian so of course I’m going to tell you that regular wellness exams at the vet is extremely important. A good vet can spot conditions sometimes earlier than even the most dedicated owner can.
When your Border Collie reaches 5-6 years of age, there are two things that you should consider doing:
- If you haven’t already had it done, have the vet run some bloodwork to check out all the internal organs. Primarily we are screening for kidney and liver disease, but there are literally hundreds of disease conditions that can be picked up by basic lab tests. Start doing this every year to catch issues early.
- If there’s any level of dental disease and you haven’t already had a dental cleaning done, do one now. It will hopefully get ahead of more chronic issues down the road.