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There haven’t been any major changes on the health front this year and the conditions regarded as significant continue to be: Spongiform- Leuco-Encephalo-Myelopathy (SLEM), Gallbladder Mucocoele (GBM), Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome (CECS) aka Paroxysmal Gluten Sensitive Dyskinesia (PGSD), Cushing’s Syndrome and late onset Hereditary Cataract.


The hoped for research projects into Gallbladder Mucocoele haven’t materialised and existing research has been on hold so unfortunately there isn’t anything new to highlight on that front. Cases continue to be reported via our health survey – 22 this year - and we remain keen to have details forwarded of as many cases as possible in order that we may place them on an Open Register for the condition. Details of all affected dogs are welcome but of particular interest are those whose pedigrees are known i.e., Kennel Club registered as this information may be of use to anyone wishing to research a possible genetic basis to the disease.

We do know that dogs suffering from endocrine diseases, particularly Cushing’s Syndrome, but also hypothyroidism and diabetes, are at increased risk of developing a mucocoele. Studies put the risk of a dog suffering from Cushing’s Syndrome developing GBM as being 25 - 30 times greater than average. Owners might like to consider asking their vets to check liver enzymes at least annually when these dogs are being monitored for their other illnesses. If elevated, have an abdominal ultrasound done as the earlier mucocoeles are detected the better the success rate in treating them. Many dogs with GBM do not show signs until they reach a crisis situation by which point the odds of successfully treating them are drastically reduced.

Over the last 4 years I have logged details of 44 cases of GBM, not all with pedigree details. This is a not insignificant number and hopefully details of these may be of use in the future.


There currently are no research projects into CECS which we are aware of in the UK and no useful data to report from any overseas projects.

This year there has been quite a marked increase in the number of cases of CECS reported on the survey, 26 in total. It is important to note that these are owner reported, not all were

veterinary verified and that many of the respondents didn’t also complete our separate CECS questionnaire.


This year 16 cases of Cushing’s Syndrome have been reported making it by far the most widely reported endocrinopathy. A total of 45 cases have been reported via our health survey in the last 4 years and as for GBM we are keen to have details of confirmed cases, particularly of dogs with known pedigree details.

Conditions like Cushing’s Syndrome, GBM and CECS are all likely to have complex means of inheritance and we are some way removed from understanding what the genetic bias towards these diseases is. These diseases are not exclusive to Border Terriers but the higher incidence of them in our breed would suggest some genetic component.

Without knowing what the genetics of these conditions are the only advice which can be given at present is not to breed from affected dogs or to repeat matings which have produced an affected animal. Unfortunately, both Cushing’s Syndrome and Gallbladder Mucocoele tend to occur in middle aged and older animals which will probably already have finished their breeding career.

As multiple genes are likely to be involved in these conditions we should perhaps be paying more attention to inbreeding coefficients to reduce the risk of doubling up on these, as yet unknown, genes. The degree of inbreeding is not the only consideration when planning a mating but it is an important one and the idea is to produce puppies with an inbreeding coefficient below the breed average which at present is 8.9%.


All eye test results last year were clear for late onset hereditary cataract and the results published in the Breed Records Supplement for the first three quarters of this year, 68 dogs in total, have all been clear. These are excellent results and would suggest that this isn’t a major problem in the breed in the UK at present but advice remains that the “gold standard” of dog breeding is to continue with having breeding stock eye tested. It would help me greatly if owners could report test results directly back to me/the Breed Health Group at

3 cases of juvenile cataracts have been reported via the health survey so it is important that breeders remain aware of eye issues.


I am pleased to report that this year has been another where there have been no reports of any affected puppies being born and as long as breeders remain vigilant and only breed from tested stock there is no excuse for any being produced. Remember, at least one member of a breeding pair must be CLEAR and that CARRIERS or dogs of unknown status can only be mated to animals known to be CLEAR.

The Canine Genetic Team (CAGT) are now settled at the Faculty of Veterinary medicine at Cambridge University and SLEM testing kits can be ordered directly from them. The test results for those dogs tested by CAGT are forwarded directly to the Kennel Club and added to the animal’s profile. If the SLEM test is run by another laboratory please forward the results to the Kennel Club.

 I would reiterate that there is nothing wrong with breeding from a CARRIER as long as it is an animal of quality which has positive attributes to contribute to the breed. The gene for SLEM is only a small part of a dog’s genetic makeup and one which we can prevent from expressing itself by careful pairing of breeding stock. However, be mindful to test all offspring from such matings.

Test results for the first three quarters of 2023 are available, a total of 172 dogs having been tested. Of these 158 were CLEAR and 14 were CARRIERS.


Our ongoing health survey helps us to monitor health conditions within the breed and hopefully pick up on any new conditions which may be emerging. The more questionnaires completed the truer the picture and forms submitted for completely healthy dogs are equally valuable as they help to validate general health status.

As of 12th December when I am finalising this report we have had 263 questionnaires submitted for 2023 – an absolutely fantastic response. Whilst such a large number of replies has obviously thrown up conditions not previously reported it doesn’t look as if any of these are likely to be overrepresented in the Border Terrier as compared to the general canine population.

13 of the responses received were from overseas: Canada (6), USA (4), France (1), Germany (1), Australia (1).

One possible area of concern is the number of dogs reported by their owners as being aggressive/ reactive. There were 29 animals reported as being in this category, approximately 11% of the total. There is much debate as to what extent a dog’s character is influenced by rearing and early life experiences as opposed to genetics but genetics definitely play an important part. Border Terriers should have an equable disposition unless challenged and breeders should be selecting for sound temperament i.e., we should not breed from dogs which are unduly nervous or which have aggressive tendencies.

I would like to extend my sincere thanks to everyone who has taken the time to complete a questionnaire and would encourage as many owners as possible to follow their lead. Questionnaires can be found on our Breed Health Group site: and either completed online or downloaded and a paper copy sent directly to myself. Confidentiality will be respected if you so wish.

Of the 263 dogs reported on 90 had no health conditions noted, 33 were regarded by their owners as being unhealthy and of the other 230, the vast majority were perceived by their owners as being generally healthy. Some dogs suffered from multiple and complex issues.

The conditions reported this year were:

ENDOCRINE (29): Hypothyroidism (4), Diabetes (6), Hyperparathyroidism (1), Cushing’s Syndrome (16), Addison’s (2).

DIGESTIVE (67): Pancreatitis (8), Hepatitis (1), Foreign body (7), B6 deficiency (1), Liver shunt (1), Anal gland abscess (3), Bilious vomiting/acid reflux (5), Gallbladder (26) - Gallbladder mucocoele (19), Sludge (5), Gallstones (1), Mass (1).

NEUROLOGICAL (43): Cerebral oedema (1), Meningitis (1), Deafness (2), Spinal injury (1), Canine cognitive dysfunction (senility) (4), Brain tumour (2), Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome (26), Fits other (6).

NEOPLASIA (21): Perianal tumour (2), Lipoma (5), Mammary tumour (2), Brain tumour (2), Mast cell tumour (1), Warts (1), Unspecified abdominal (1), Parathyroid adenoma (1), Epuli, (2), Other oral tumours (4).

ORTHOPAEDIC (32) : Osteo-arthritis (17), Limb fractures (3), Pelvic fracture (1), Spinal Spondylosis (2), Hip Dysplasia (3), Rupture of the anterior cruciate ligament (6) - 5 bilateral and 1 unilateral.

REPRODUCTIVE (10): Preputial defect (1), Pyometra (2), Caesarean section (1), Ovarian cyst (1), Female infertility (1), Mammary tumours (2), Cryptorchidism (2) - 1 bilateral, 1 unilateral.

BEHAVIOURAL (51): Anxiety (6), Obsessive behaviour (2), Timidity (2), Poor housetraining (2), Excessive prey dive (1), Excessive vocalisation (7), Hyperactivity (1), Destructive behaviour (1), Aggression/reactivity (29)

URINARY (7): Urinary incontinence (3), Urinary tract infection (1), Chronic kidney disease (2), Bladder stones (1).

CONFORMATIONAL DEFECTS (11): Kinked tail (3), Undershot jaw (4), Overshot jaw (2), Preputial defect (1), Nasal malformation (1).

DENTAL/ORAL (32): Dental with extractions (20), Gingivitis (1), Lingually displaced lower canines (3), Gingival hyperplasia (1), “Crowded” teeth (1), Oral tumours (6) - Epuli (2), others (4).

OCULAR (16): Cataracts (5) -3 juvenile, 2 diabetic, Detached retina (2), Glaucoma (1), Unspecified blindness (1), Ectropion (1), Distichiasis (1), Eyelid mass (1), Enucleation (1), Recurring infection (1), Blocked tear ducts (1), Sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome (SARDS) (1)

DERMATOLOGICAL (18): Pedal eczema (2), Allergic dermatitis (10), Recurrent otitis (3)

Skin tumour (3) – warts (1), unspecified (1), mast cell tumour (1).

CARDIOVASCULAR (6): Congestive heart failure (1), Congenital defects (5) - mitral valve dysplasia (3), pulmonic stenosis (1) and unspecified (1).

MISCELLANEOUS (8): Suture dog bite wounds (2), Repair abdominal injuries from encounter with pig (1), Grass seed removal from foot (1), Remove torn nails (2), Splenectomy (1), Immune mediated haemolytic anaemia (1).


We are very fortunate in that ours is a relatively healthy breed and one of the best ways of maintaining this is by sharing health information about our dogs. Please keep letting us know about what is happening with yours.


Eddie Houston B.V.M.S, M.R.C.V.S 

Breed Health Co-ordinator


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