The Border Terrier, bred originally to be capable of withstanding the rigours of hunting in all weathers, has long enjoyed a reputation for longevity and good health. This reputation is well-founded and is borne out by a number of surveys including a major one conducted by the UK Kennel Club for all breeds.

No breed of dog, indeed no living creature, is completely healthy. However, the Border Terrier appears to be one of the healthiest breeds in existence. Most go through their lives without requiring a great deal of veterinary intervention but no animal is guaranteed good health. These days it is worth considering Pet Health Insurance for any dog, though the owners of Border Terriers will hopefully not need to claim too often. 

The results of the latest UK Kennel Club survey, published in 2016, gave an average life expectancy for Border Terriers of twelve years. This is two years longer than that of all breeds, however it is two years less than the average life expectancy recorded in 2006, but still confirms that Borders are likely to live to an advanced age. 

When looking at all breeds the commonest causes of death were; cancer, cardiac disease and old age. In Border Terriers the top three were; cancer, trauma and old age. There was a high level of trauma-related deaths in Border Terriers; including road deaths and other accidents. This could be attributed to the breed’s independent streak and their ability to “switch off” to their owner’s commands when distracted. Many of the trauma related deaths occurred in younger dogs, which could explain the apparent reduction in average life expectancy.

The survey also highlighted several conditions that were most likely to impact on the general health and welfare of the breed including:

  • Old age
  • Trauma
  • Alimentary problems including inflammation of the gums (gingivitis), stomach (gastritis) and colon (colitis).
  • Skin disease, including ear problems
  • Cancers (non-specific).

According to the survey, of all illnesses and conditions, Border Terriers did seem to have a slightly higher than average level of neurological problems, when compared to other breeds.

In recent years two neurological conditions; Spongiform LeucoEncephaloMyelopathy (SLEM) and Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome (CECS), along with a condition affecting the gall bladder; Gall Bladder Mucoele (GBM), have been under investigation.

Spongiform LeucoEncephaloMyelopathy (SLEM)
Commonly known as Shaking Puppy Syndrome (SPS) amongst the Border Terrier community, is an uncommon neurological condition. This condition normally presents at 2-3 weeks of age, although a few rare cases haven't presented until 8-12 weeks. 

A major advance in the breed came in 2017, when there was the development of a DNA test for SLEM/SPS, which should hopefully mean that we see no more affected puppies. Due to this, the condition is unlikely to be a problem for puppy buyers, but is something which breeders must address. All reputable breeders should know the status of their breeding dogs. However, if the puppy may be bred from in the future, it is important to ensure the puppy’s genetic status.

Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome (CECS)
Commonly known as Spike’s Disease, this is a seizure-like disorder that occurs in a number of breeds, but is a particular concern in Border Terriers. It is believed to have an inherited component, but diagnosis is not straight forward. Symptoms can be very varied but a common factor is that the dog remains fully conscious during the episode, and is normal at other times. This condition is currently under investigation by the Animal Health Trust 

Gall Bladder Mucocoele (GBM)
This appears to be an emerging condition that seems to be affecting Border Terriers more than most other breeds. The condition is, by definition, a disorder characterised by the deposition of thick mucus into the lumen (interior space) of the gallbladder. This can be a potentially life threatening condition if not diagnosed and treated early. There is currently work going on at Nottingham Veterinary School in an attempt to establish the prevalence of the condition.


Our Border Terrier family