About the Breed

Health Report 2009

The unasked for attention on pedigree dogs which was driven by an extremely biased programme on BBC TV has resulted in a renewed drive by the Kennel Club on health issues across the spectrum of the UK breeds. The outcome has been, among many other things, changes to all breed standards and a common Code of Conduct across all breeds (both are included in this Year Book). Fortunately, because of the good health record of the border terrier this has not resulted in much change for the border terrier itself but it has generated a flurry of activity around the close of 2008 to answer the health questions posed by the Kennel Club (KC) to all the breeds.

This article sets out what the clubs have jointly said to the KC and perhaps the most useful outcome for the breed is the formal confirmation of the arrangement that was already informally in place to the effect that your author has been asked by all the breed clubs to be the single point of contact for the KC on border terrier health issues.

We have told the KC that the findings derived from the KC's own Health Survey are consistent with the Health Survey conducted jointly by a number of the border terrier clubs. As a result we have confirmed there are no diseases in Borders which appear to exceed the 'All Breed Average' identified for common diseases across the range of breeds surveyed. The Border Terrier Health Survey carries data on around 900 dogs and has been ongoing since 2001. We added some further detail to our comment to illustrate the depth of the information we have derived from our own survey. This was summarised as follows:


  • The Border Terrier Health Survey shows that the commonest conformational defects are retained testes (7%); tail kinks (3%); undershot jaw (3%).
  • A low incidence of deafness, cataract and heart murmurs was also noted, all associated with advancing years.
  • On the subject of cataract the breed is discussing an investigation, with the help of the veterinary ophthalmologists, to determine if this is because of an inherited factor or simply age related.
The Kennel Club have access to insurance data detailing the types of health claims made to cover veterinary fees. These showed that the commonest conditions encountered in insured dogs are gastroenteritis, traumatic wounds and injuries and unspecified hind leg lameness. We responded to these findings as follows:

Gastroenteritis - not an unexpected condition in dogs of all ages and often due to diet or infection

Traumatic wound/injury - As an active game terrier occasional injuries are not uncommon

Unspecified hind leg lameness - In the breed there are very low incidences reported of Legge von Perthes Disease and cranial cruciate ligament rupture. Neither has a significant incidence but both are kept under observation by the breed. Occasional reports of hip dysplasia are also reported but this of little significance in a small breed.

We added further comment as follows:

  • Liver shunt repair is another occasional reason for surgery and this is another condition we have under observation.
  • Seizures also feature in the breed at an incidence of around 4%. We did not specify CECS (Spikes Disease) as this is currently considered to be neurological condition and accurate diagnosis and therefore incidence figures are not reliably available.
  • Skin diseases (most notably demodectic mange) and ear infections are also reported sporadically
The Kennel Club surveyed the available scientific veterinary literature for each breed and commented that Renal Dysplasia had been reported in BTs. To evaluate this I obtained the summary of the paper and reviewed it and as a result our response was:
  •  Renal dysplasia - the paper concerned describes two exceptional clinical cases in the USA and has no significance for the breed in the UK.
Finally the KC asked us to comment on the inherited diseases that might be considered as significant in the breed. The Kennel Club had not identified any significant inherited disease using the criteria of the all breed average as an incidence level to trigger concern. We have stated that, of the conditions the breed is aware of, none are exceptional and of those that could have a significant effect on health either the condition is of very low incidence and kept under observation or related to advancing years and of less significance to the health and welfare of the dog in comparison to acquired disease over a dog's life span. The incidence of inheritance for each is unknown but most significant conditions with a possible genetic association would be:

1. Age related cataract
2. Demodectic mange
3. Seizures
4. Liver shunt

However we stressed that none of the above conditions exceeds the all breed average and are of such low incidence their impact on the breed is difficult to evaluate. In order to put the list above into perspective the top five conditions that generally threaten health and welfare in the breed were confirmed as:

1. Old age
2. Trauma
3. Alimentary tracts conditions (Gingivitis/Gastritis/colitis)
4. Skin disease (non specific including aural inflammation and infection)
5. Cancer (non specific)

The health situation in the breed and the revised breed standard will be reviewed during 2009 once the KC have considered our response but I predict there will be little change for the border terrier whose reputation for longevity and good health is well known. Let's all try and keep it that way please.

Prof Steve Dean BVetMed MRCVS DVR
Breed Health Representative

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