Eddie Houston, Breed Health Coordinator, has written the following article on
For many years our breed was on Schedule B of the BVA/KC/ISDS eye testing scheme as there was concern that it could be affected by late onset hereditary cataract. Last year the Border Terrier was removed from the list due to the low number of affected dogs which had been found.
This might sound like a positive move but in reality so few dogs were actually screened that it probably did not give a true representation of the possible incidence of this condition within the breed.
Hereditary cataracts are known to be present in many breedsand although there is some difference in the appearance of the cataract and the means of inheritance between breeds they can be broadly divided into two categories; juvenile where the changes can be seen within the first few months of life and late onset where changes aren't usually present until between 3 and 7 years of age. Juvenile cataracts will usually be present and of similar size in both eyes and will often lead to significant sight loss or total blindness by 2 to 3 years of age if left untreated. Late onset hereditary cataracts may be unilateral or bilateral, vary in shape and in the speed at which they progress often taking quite a few years before they significantly interfere with vision. By the time they become apparent affected animals may well already have been bred from.
The concept of a condition which develops from possibly as young as 3 years of age being referred to as late onset may seem a little odd but it helps to distinguish these hereditary cataracts from the "senile" ones which are age related and likely to occur in animals older than 10.
In a number of breeds eye screening is regularly performed on all potential breeding stock. Routine eye screening has notbeen carried out by the vast majority of Border breeders in the UK as we have been working on the assumption that we do not have a significant problem .
However, in some areas of the world such as North America and Scandinavia eye exams are more commonly undertaken and cataracts are the commonest defect being recorded, albeit at fairly low levels. Both juvenile and late onset cataracts have been recorded and it would seem naive to think that the condition isn't present in dogs in the UK.
Previous requests for reports of confirmed cases have had a disappointing response but a couple of related dogs have recently been diagnosed with late onset cataract and their breeder has kindly put that information in the public domain. This does not mean that we currently have a major problembut it does raise the question as to whether we should perhaps be more proactive with regards to having routine eye screening carried out.
As it can be difficult to differentiate between cataracts which are hereditary and those which have other origins e.g eye injury or systemic diseases such as diabetes, eye testing is normally carried out by ophthalmic specialists, a list of whom can be found on the BVA (British Veterinary Association) website at:
The Breed Health Group is keen to monitor this condition and we would appreciate our standard questionnaires being completed for any dogs diagnosed with cataracts particularythose confirmed by an ophthalmic specialist. Whether the diagnosis has been made by a specialist or a first opinion vet.please include the dog's age at the time of diagnosis along with details of the person carrying out the diagnosis. .Anyadditional information would also be welcome. (To complete the survey please go to: XXXXXX)
A good response will help us to formulate future plans for dealing with the condition which may include organising testing sessions at Breed Club Shows when this becomes possible and trying to explore the genetic factors involved.
Remember, the only way breed health can progress is by the sharing of information. Anyone can be unlucky enough to breed a dog affected by a hereditary problem but being open about it may help to prevent issues becoming more widespread.
Six of the seven Border Terrier Clubs have agreed to form a health group to consider the health status of the border terrier. In particular the group will consider the evidence associated with two conditions of immediate concern to the breed. Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome is the first condition. It has been reported over several decades and has attracted limited veterinary research. The second condition is ‘shaking puppy syndrome’ a neurological illness recently anecdotally reported in very young puppies. The group will seek to provide interim advice to breeders on both conditions, alongside developing a research plan to more clearly identify the clinical symptoms and epidemiology of both illnesses and to seek potential inheritance factors that may assist control or elimination of both conditions. The group will also consider the general health status of the border terrier and comment on other diseases that could be listed for further research. The members of the new group will be Dr Eddie Houston, veterinary surgeon and Chairman of the Border Terrier Club, Prof. Jeff Sampson, previously a geneticist at the Animal Health Trust and the Kennel Club and Dr Andrew Harbottle, a border terrier owner and a research scientist working in the field of biomarker discovery. Prof Steve Dean will attend the meetings as the Joint Clubs’ Breed Health Co-ordinator. To get the latest information from the UK Border Terrier Breed Health Group www.borderterrierhealth.org.uk .
Please see the Breed Health Group Website, https:/borderterrierhealth.org.uk , for details on two Open Registers that have been created to list dogs suffering from 1) Cushings Disease and 2) Gallbladder Mucocoele. A protocol for the diagnosis required for Cushings Disease is also described.
Breed Health Report 2019
Please see Steve Dean's 2019 Breed Health Coordinator's Report for Border Terriers at
Breed Health Group News, 3rd January 2020
There is an update on the Breed Health Group Website about the Paroxysmal Gluten-Sensitive Dyskinesia Study. Briefly, Mark Lowrie has advised that he is struggling for diagnosed CECS affected dogs that are not already on a gluten free diet to take part in the study. If you can help please contact him.
Breed Health Group News, 4th July 2018
A 10% discount on the SLEM Test is now available to all members of the seven breed clubs. A code, available from Bill Shorthose, Club Secretary, needs to entered at the checkout line to apply the 10% discount. Useage of this will be monitored by AHT and the continuing availability of the discount will be review in due course.