About the Breed

Health Report 2016

Reporting on Border Terrier Health for 2015 is a time for suggesting we pause for a period of time to wait for the completion of several pieces of work. Together there are three projects any of which might contribute to a degree of changes for those breeding Border Terriers.

First there is debate about the future of Schedule B as part of the KC/BVA eye scheme. Schedule B is a list of conditions that do not form part of the eye testing scheme but are nonetheless under investigation. Our breed is included on the list because of long standing concern (by certain ophthalmologists) that our breed may suffer from late onset inherited cataracts.

It is not unusual to see elderly dogs with cataracts and these can arise as a result of age, secondary to medical conditions (e.g. diabetes) or as a result of a physiological change due to an inherited mutation. As many in the breed live well beyond twelve years of age, it is likely several will have been seen by ophthalmologists with developing cataracts. 

Despite the stated intent of Schedule B the results of any testing are not reported to the KC and thus it is impossible to know which Borders have been found to have late onset cataracts and the condition to my knowledge has never been further investigated. As a breed we have never taken an interest in the condition simply because even if it was proven to be a consequence of advancing years, there is no actual mechanism for removing the breed from list B. Furthermore the Kennel Club's 2004 breed health survey provided no strong evidence that cataract was a significant problem in the breed. 

This list has always been something of an oddity within the scheme and there is some possibility that Schedule B will be discontinued but this still leaves the question about late onset cataracts. Of course, an affliction that occurs late in life when many other conditions may be of more serious concern; is associated with a disability but is not the cause of pain or discomfort; and, if needed, can be rectified by surgery, is not necessarily the highest priority for any breed.

What is a priority in our breed is the investigation of Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome (CECS). The prevalence of CECS as a breed associated condition is unknown and is the subject of some controversy. The current evidence from both the breed and KC health surveys suggest the prevalence is low. However, efforts to identify the symptoms associated with the illness have revealed limited information allowing a group of neurologists to make some progress. They have found some cases are linked to gluten and are considering exploring the possibility this is a significant factor in the development of clinical symptoms. This could provide the potential for a serological (blood) test to identify those dogs at risk and other biomarkers might well provide the opportunity to investigate the presence of mutations linked with the condition. A suitable test for detecting clinically at risk dogs would be a significant step forward however this must be considered with a degree of caution. It is not known if gluten is the underlying cause for all dogs suffering suspect symptoms and the search for the rogue gene or genes may yet prove elusive - so we must wait to see where this work leads us.

Finally, the Kennel Club repeated its pedigree breeds health survey during 2014/15 and we can expect the results to be published in the first half of 2016. It will be helpful to compare the results with those of ten years ago especially as this time many respondents will be pet owners (the 2004 survey was largely limited to breeders**). The results of the 2015 survey will help to inform our breed’s health status and possibly lead to the prioritisation of any investigative work for at least the next decade. If you want a prediction it is likely that nothing has changed much (which our own survey tends to suggest) and the two conditions mentioned here are likely to remain the principle concerns in the future - but let’s wait and see.

Prof Steve Dean BVetMed MRCVS DVR
Breed Health Representative

** Editors' note: In December 2003, the Border Terrier Club received Kennel Club Health Survey Questionnaires and Guidance Notes, which we issued to all our UK members with their AGM agendas and other items in large envelopes with prepaid reply envelopes, at the end of January/beginning of February 2004, for return to the Kennel Club. We also mentioned the survey in our 2003 Year Book, which was issued in March 2004,urging ALL our members to return the questionnaires to the KC.
While a number of our members are indeed breeders, from a quick look at our membership at the present date, we estimate that around 70% are not breeders (membership totalled over 800 in 2003 and that number has averaged around 840 to 900 every year since). 

 

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