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2011 Update

Liver problems There has been no major change to the good health record for the Border Terrier but this past couple of years has seen a small trend in reports of various liver problems. It would be interesting to follow this thread as the diagnosis of unusual liver diseases seem fashionable in the veterinary world at the moment with dissecting lobular hepatitis and small liver disease coming out as two particularly in vogue. So if you have had such a diagnosis let me know via the health report system so we can track the incidence a little more closely. As ever this sort of thing is all kept strictly confidential.

Liver diseases are not uncommon as there are many infections, toxins and immune disorders that can cause damage, not to mention the odd medicine or two. Through my work I have been having quite a discussion with a group who seem to blame vaccines for nearly every illness in dogs and one of the big disagreements between our views is the potential for leptospirosis to cause problems in the UK. It has always been my view that this disease is ubiquitous in the UK being commonly carried by rats and foxes and particularly where there is access to water any dog is at risk. As a result of vaccination dogs suffering from infection tend to get chronic and gradual damage to their liver and so failure of this organ in old age is not uncommon. Similar problems can occur through damage to the kidney too as there are two types of leptospirosis. My reason for saying all this is that it would be useful to know how many elderly borders suffer from such diseases given the BT's reputation for ferreting in rich smelling damp places, or in other words 'being a terrier'.

Cataracts Probably the commonest degeneration dogs suffer as a result of advancing years is the formation of cataracts and where these are related purely to age they are of no great consequence. However there is a form of inherited cataract that is not seen until later in life (late onset cataract). This gives us BT folk a bit of a challenge for the average age fof a border in the KC survey was over 14 years and logically this means many live longer than this. In my own lines several of my oldies have developed a degree of cataract but usually well past the age of ten and more often it is much later than this before it becomes anything like a problem for the dog.

The border is on the provisional list of breeds with suspected inherited late onset cataract problems and personally I would like to see it taken remove from the listing. It is a personal view that these cataracts are more likely age related and given the number of elderly border terriers around it is not surprising this has been noticed. Some of the leading eye specialists would support this view and feel the breed was erroneously fingered when the list was first put together many years ago. We could set up a screening of middle aged dogs to see if the incidence appears to be the inherited form or not. but there is always the risk that this will start a hare running that we could do without. In fact some BT folk have said this but, at the same time, with the current focus on health there will come a time when we will be challenged. It might be better to know where we stand before we are forced to deal with it under duress. It would be helpful if this could discussed within the breed and if clubs would like to take this forward it can be easily set up.

On the Kennel Club front the breed is not regarded as having any significant health issues, which is consistent with the results of our surveys. The KC did get some of the breed health co-ordinators together to discuss 'best practice' and especially in the area of breed health surveys. We of course score quite highly here but sadly I was unable to attend as the chosen date was a busy work-day but hopefully they will hold another event where I can attend in the near future.

Prof Steve Dean BVet Med, DVR, MRCVS
Breed Health Co-ordinator
August 2011.

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