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Get a GRIHP! on Border Terriers

    border-terrier-image-2.pngThis article on Border Terriers is part of a series to highlight the Big Picture of health, welfare and breeding and to help develop Globally Relevant Integrated Health Profiles (GRIHPs) for many breeds.  See IPFD's Get a GRIHP! on Breed Health Initiative

    There are many others doing great work to advance health, well-being, and welfare in this wonderful breed.  We reference and link to terrific work, developments, reports, and research from the UK, USA, Sweden, Finland, and more below.  Thanks to all of those working on behalf of Border Terriers. 


    This is a 'living document' - so if anyone has more material to share or point us to - please let us know!

    Breed at a glance

    The Border Terrier is a very healthy breed. It has a courageous, tenacious, and independent nature. In many countries, thanks to these traits, Border Terriers are still popular hunting dogs, but also are quite suitable as a family dogs. In the absence of training, the dogs will quickly determine their own rules. With a good education and the patience, the dogs can be obedient, but they nevertheless retain their wilfull character.

     Key Health Conditions

    Several health conditions are known to occur in Border Terriers, most of them however rare. The most common conditions that can impact the members of the breed are:

    • Orthopedics (patella luxation);
    • Neurological issues including Epilepsy and an episodic movement disorder called Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome (CECS) sometimes known as paroxysmal gluten-sensitive dyskinesia (PGSD) or Spike's Disease;
    • Dental disease (was the most common disorder recorded in Border Terriers in the current study [UK], with 17.63% dogs recorded with periodontal disease)
    • Endocrine disorders such as Cushing's syndrome, hypothyroidism and diabetes mellitus; 
    • Gallbladder mucocoele (GBM) see:;
    • Shaking Puppy Syndrome (SPS/SLEM) (see:; and
    • Cataracts.
    • The Swedish Agria insurance statistics also lists Neoplasia among the most common diseases (requiring veterinary treatment) and causes of death. 

    The occurrence and prevalence of health conditions mentioned above may vary from country to country and from family line to family line.  Health tests and screening are important tools for breeders to use in selection breeding mates.

     What do caretakers need to know

    border-terrier-image-Katri-Kolhi.pngMany Border Terriers live active lives past 12 up to 14+ years of age.

    Daily Exercise: These dogs require daily exercise. They were developed to hunt and to cover ground running with packs of hounds. They will chase and are not reliably tender interacting with small pets such as rabbits, guinea pigs, birds or outdoor cats. Borders should always be walked on a lead unless released in a completely safe, fenced area - the dogs are unreliable off leash. It is important that fencing be secured at ground level as the dogs can be prolific diggers.

    Grooming: The Border terrier's coat should be brushed regularly - he is a low to moderate shedder. Hand stripping of the coat twice a year is strongly advised. See the BTCA's  Grooming Guide. Regular teeth brushing is suggested.

    Expected Demeanor: Border terriers are known to be athletic, enthusiastic, and can have a stubborn streak, so training and interaction should be a part of living with one of these dogs. They are typically good with other dogs, love their people unconditionally, and are active responsive companions that can and do think for themselves, so constant monitoring is advised. They are known as chewers - especially if bored and left alone for long hours.

    The Border is a versatile companion and may do well competing in dog sports such as tracking and agility as well as field and hunting trials.

     Statistics and Health Strategies

     Population Statistics

    Border Terrier registrations multiple KCs.JPG

    US: AKC: Border Terrier ranking: 2021: #91;  2020: #97; 2019: #85; 2018: #88; 2017: #92; 2016: #86; 2015: #82; 2014: #85 and 2013: #81.

    Kennel Club country-specific registrations appear to remain rather steady with no wild fluctuations in the number of dogs produced/registered annually over the past 10 years.

     Health and Longevity Statistics

     Agria - Swedish Breed Profiles

    agria logo.PNGCONTEXT: For many years, Agria Animal Insurance, Sweden (Agria Djurförsäkring, Stockholm, Sweden) has supported veterinary research and provided statistics on diagnoses for health and life claims to Swedish breed clubs. See Breeds with Swedish Insurance Data and Agria Breed Profiles (where breeds are compared to All Breeds)! We recommend that you download the Agria Breed Profiles for the Border Terriers and study them for full available information. Some excerpts are shown below! The great benefits of the Swedish insurance data are that they include almost 40% of the national population of dogs, so are very representative; note that animals at very old ages are likely under-represented. Most importantly, information is available on all insured dogs, not simply those who get sick or die. This allows calculation of population-based rates (expressed as events per 10,000 years-at-risk) as well as risks and proportions. Statistics are presented as overall morbidity (rate of one or more veterinary care events [VCE]) or mortality (death), by general diagnostic categories, and by specific diagnoses.

    Border Terrier: 2006-2011 2011-2016

    Extracts from Veterinary Care Events - MORBIDITY

    Relative Risk Morbidity of Border Terrieris compared to All Breeds: 0.91. (The risk in the breed is lower, i.e., 0.91 times as high than for All Breeds).



    Most frequent general causes: digestive, neoplasia, symptom/whole body, injury.


    Largest relative risks compared to All Breeds:

    • tumour in brain/central nervous system: 7 times the risk in All Breeds (but still very low!)
    • Cushings disease: 4-5 times the risk in All Breeds, and
    • foreign body_respiratory ~ 3 times the risk in All Breeds.


    Only knee/patella problems more common (very slightly) than in All Breeds.

    Note: breed is mentioned to have HD but that doesn’t show in morbidity statistics where HD is less than half as frequently treated compared to All Breeds.


    Extracts from Agria Breed Profile (Life) - MORTALITY

    Median Age (years) at death: 9.6 (All Breeds: 7.4).


    Mortality - Relative Risk Mortality of the Border Terrier compared to All Breeds: 0.72. (The risk in the breed is 0.72 times as high, i.e., lower, than for All Breeds.)


    Most frequent general causes of death: injury, neoplasia, neurological, digestive. Of those, injury and neurological are more common than in All Breeds.


    Most frequent specific causes of death: accidents/trauma/disappearance, epilepsy, digestive, Cushings.

    Largest increased risk compared to All Breeds: ~7 (Cushings as well as tumour in brain/central nervous system).


    Finland: Mortality Data 2012-2021

    • Average lifespan 11 years 9 months
    • The most common specified causes of death are at advanced age with natural/euthanasia at 14 years 4 months and cancer at 11 years 6 months.

    Source: Koiranet:

    border terrier fi cod.PNG

     Breed-specific Breeding Strategies

    Finland: JTO:

    Sweden RAS: 

    Norway RAS: terrier RAS v1.pdf

    US: CHIC:

    UK: from Border Terrier Health, 2021 health report: "the focus of attention continues to be on those diseases which have become important in recent years: 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."

    Denmark RAS:

     HGTD DNA Tests for Border Terriers

    The Harmonization of Genetic Testing for Dogs (HGTD) Basics: The HGTD Searchable Database - Search by Breed, Search by Disease / Test and Search by Genetic Test Provider (GTP) / Lab + Genetic Counselling Resources. HGTD catalogs information provided voluntarily from genetic test providers (GTPs) including information on their company and services, quality measures and expertise, tests offered and more. As of January 2021, the HGTD Database includes 82 academic and commercial genetic test providers (GTPs) in 22 countries. Our searchable genetic phenes (phenes = characteristics/genetically controlled feature) database currently holds information on 300+ phenes across all breeds/types and provides information on each phene: links to the Online Mendelian Inheritance in Animals database (OMIA), gene + mutations, a simple and advanced disease description, inheritance details, links to original publications, patents/licenses, comments from the original researchers/experts on application, and breed specific information (such as research/validation) - where possible. Breed Relevance Ratings (BRR) support evidence-based usage and application of genetic tests. The HGTD database relevance rating indicates the level of available evidence supporting the application of a specific genetic test for a specific breed/type. Currently, the relevance rating is based on a wide variety of evidence sources. This includes peer-reviewed research papers, recommendations from the original researchers/test developers, input from additional experts including veterinary specialists, and breed experts. It is hoped that, by being more informative about what we currently know or do not know about a specific test for a specific breed, that dog health advisors and owners can make more informed decisions. Remember, this Breed Relevance Rating is not everything we need to know about the disease or characteristic; it is focused on the genetic test.

    HGTD - DNA tests for Border Terriers


    Border Terriers are generally considered to have few breed-specific inherited diseases, though may be susceptible to conditions common generally to terrier-type dogs. Inherited eye conditions in terriers are of concern, and breeders may wish to consider clinical eye examinations for puppies and dogs in addition to genetic testing.

    ♦ BIG PICTURE THINKING ♦Please take into consideration - Most of the conditions with genetic tests are rare in the general population, but valuable for breeders to use to efficiently reduce risks while supporting good genetic diversity in the breed as a whole. See the Genetic Diversity section below. Also be aware that there are many DNA tests that are available for ALL breeds, that while the test itself is valid, the condition may not be a major health concern or included in health strategies for every breed. See the HGTD for a full list of DNA tests including "Trait" and "Parentage" tests.

    Test: Primary Lens Luxation (PLL)

    green paw.jpg

    HSP comment: Primary lens luxation is a serious, extremely painful eye condition in dogs that can lead to blindness. It is sometimes secondary to other conditions including glaucoma and cancer, and more rarely, trauma to the eye. Sensible usage of this test in breeding decisions will help remove this variant from the population and reduce the risk of dogs developing this welfare impacting condition. As this variant has been observed across many (if not all) breeds of terrier, cross or mixed-breed dogs who have terrier heritage should also consider this test.

    Test: Shaking Puppy syndrome (SLEM)

    green paw.jpg

    HSP comment: Spongiform leukoencephalomyelopathy (SLEM) more commonly known as shaking puppy syndrome begins to effect puppies as they attempt to stand and walk causing uncontrollable shaking of their hind limbs. Many puppies are euthanized due to poor quality of life. This form of SLEM appears to be unique to the Border Terrier, and while thought to be rare, is important to remove from the breeding population. The currently available test is not yet published research but has strong evidence to support usage.

    Other breed-specific tests offered currently without evidence of relevance: Degenerative Myelopathy, Coat colour dilution, MLPH-related.

    For the most up to date information please search for Border Terrier in HGTD.

     Health Screening Tests for Border Terriers


    Border Terrier Health, 2021 health report: "The focus of attention continues to be on those diseases which have become important in recent years: 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 Kennel Club: Important health schemes and tests

    "We strongly recommend that all breeders, both assured breeders (ABs) and non ABs, use the following (or equivalent) schemes, tests and advice."


    No mandatory health checks for parents of registered litters.

    JTO Finland: 

    Aims and concerns:

    • More males needed in breeding to widen the effective population
    • More dogs should be screened for hip dysplasia to get a better information of hip dysplasia in the breed
    • At least other parent of a litter must be SLEM-free
    • Reducing allergies, atopies
    • Reducing and understanding CECS (Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome) in the breed, higher age for breeding
    • More official eye checks (ECVO)
    • Mapping dystocia in breed

    Finnish statistics:

    Hip dysplasia: 70-90 % of screened dogs were healthy or borderline (A or B during 2012-2021.

    border terrier hd - fi.JPG

    Eye statistics 2012-2021 – most common findings: cataracts and distichiasis (Koiranet 4.7.2022)


    No mandatory health checks for parents of registered litters.


    Aims and concerns:

    • Keep the inbreeding under 2 %
    • Epilepsy and Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome (CECS) noted in breed
    • Problems with teeth and gums
    • SLEM (Spongiform Leucoencephalomyelopathy; Shaking Puppy Syndrome) noted
    • Helping breeders to find correct information of health
    • Increasing reaction of shooting noticed in tests and hunting trials

    Swedish statistics:

    Hip dysplasia: 31 dogs screened during 2012-2012: 20 healthy or borderline (A or B), others dysplastic (C – mild, D – moderate, E – severe dysplasia).

    border terrier hd sw.JPG

    Elbow dysplasia: 14 dogs screened during 2012-2012: 12 healthy and 2 with mild dysplasia.

    Eye screening, findings by statement year 2012-2021:

    border terrier eyes sw.JPG

    Source SKK Avelsdata: 4.7.2022


    No mandatory health checks for parents of registered litters.
    RAS Norway: terrier RAS v1.pdf  
    Aims and concerns:

    • Managing inbreeding coefficient
    • Noted Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome (CECS) as a problem
    • Allergies as well as skin, gastric and dental/gum issues should not increase
    • Hip dysplasia seems not be causing symptoms in the breed
    • Stifle issues with crucial ligament ruptures noted as rare, same as Legg-Perthes
    • Maintain working qualities in breed

    Norwegian Statistics (source: Dogweb 4.7.2022):

    Hip dysplasia: 13 dogs screened during 2012-2022; 9 healthy or borderline (A or B), others dysplastic (HD grad C and D). No dog had severe hip dysplasia (HD grad E).

    Elbow dysplasia: Only one dog radiographed; healthy

    Eye diseases: seven dogs have been ECVO screened as healthy, one dog with lacrimal punctal atresia.


    Club Français de l'Airedale Terrier et de Divers Terriers

    Border Terrier Health - special information pages

    Hip & Elbow screening requirements

    Grille de Cotation

    border terrier grille de cotation.JPG



    Recommended tests:

    • ACVO Eye Exam
    • Patellar Luxation
    • Hip Dysplasia
    • Cardiac Evaluation
    • Spongiform Leukoencephalomyelopathy (SLEM)

    Results are available at the link above. (Internal PDF:BORDER TERRIER BREED SUMMARY REPORT.pdf)  Excerpt...

    ofa summary all tested report.PNG

    Blue Book Eyes: Border Terrier (results see pgs. 190-193)


    Nederlandse Border Terrier Club

    No mandatory health checks for parents of registered litters.

    The Dutch Border Terrier Club has set up breeding regulations, where only SLEM-test is mandatory. If dog’s parents have been tested clear, the dog doesn’t need to be tested.

    Health site recognises also Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome (CECS).


    No mandatory health checks for parents of registered litters.
    Breed Club site:  
    RAS Denmark:  

    Aims and concerns:    

    • Seizures and cramps
    • Stomach problems
    • Immunological problems
    • Cruciate ligament ruptures
    • Heart disease (rare)
    • Cushing’s disease (rare)
    • Taking care of hunting properties of the breed

    Specific issues have been added on club’s website: Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome (CECS), GBM (Gallbladder mucosele), and SLEM (Spongiform Leucoencephalomyelopathy; Shaking Puppy Syndrome):


    B.Thiel - Border Terrier.JPGA few mandatory health checks for parents of registered litters.
    Border Terriers are under combined all-terriers club. The club is registering the dogs.
    Breeding requirements:
    Combined breeding requirements for terriers:  

    • Mandatory for the Border Terrier: gene test for SLEM, unless clear by parentage.

    Breed specific site:  Klub für Terrier von 1894 e. V. (KfT) Border Terrier
    Breeding statistics:


     Border Terriers - Health Screening Summary - by country

    R1-Mandatory for registration

    Condition UK US Finland Sweden Norway Denmark The Netherlands France Germany
    Hip Dysplasia   R2 R2 R3 R3     R2  
    Elbow Dysplasia     R2         R2  
    Eye Diseases   R2 R2 R3          
    Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome (CECS) R2 R2 R2 R2 R2 R2 R3 R2  
    Spongiform Leucoencephalomyelopathy (SLEM; shaking puppy syndrome) R2 R2 R2 R2 R2 R2 R2 R2 R1
    Cushings Disease R2 R2 R3     R3      
    Cardiac conditions   R2 R3            
    Patella Luxation   R2 R3            
    Gallbladder mucocoele (GBM) R2 R2 R2 R3   R3      

     Genetic Diversity - Border Terriers

    Genetic diversity matters are, at a minimum, on the radar of every Border Terrier breed club. Kennel and Breed Club education exists and in some countries restrictions of number of litters/pups exists and/or close relative (mother/son, siblings, father/daughter...) breedings are not permitted.
    Managing genetic diversity, understanding what resources and tools are available can be a challenge for clubs and breeders.
    "There are several resources available to both individual breeders and breed organizations (clubs and kennel clubs) that can help to monitor and track genetic diversity, and estimate an individual dog's diversity relevant to a breed population. Each have advantages and disadvantages but can play a role in improving genetic diversity, including: 
    • Pedigree-based COI estimations (Coefficient of Inbreeding)
    • Genomic COI calculations

    Often associated with COI:

    • Popular sire tracking. Access to breed-wide data will vary by country, breed/kennel club. Some clubs restrict numbers of litters born to sires/dams to reduce the impact of popular sires. 
    • Breed diversity reports/research. Some kennel clubs, breed clubs, researchers and commercial genetic test providers have undertaken breed reports on population differences, including genetic diversity and inbreeding, popular sires/dams, etc. "

    Comment... As a rule when sorting through the questions about genetic diversity, genomic COIs are usually much higher than pedigree-based. Advice - seek out combinations with a lower than breed average in both pedigree and genomic COI. Also, when looking at pedigree-based COIs, it is important to know how many ancestral generations have been used in the calculation. Advice is to keep 4-5-generation COIs at 6.25 % or lower. If that's not possible, then lower than breed average.

    And most important when it comes to maintaining the population's genetic diversity: Do Not Use Popular Sires.


    Population analysis of the Border Terrier breed (UK, 2015)

    The analysis utilises the complete computerised pedigree records for the current UK Kennel Club registered Border Terrier population, and statistics were calculated for the period 1980-2014.

    See: Lewis, T.W., Abhayaratne, B. & Blott, S.C. Trends in genetic diversity for all Kennel Club registered pedigree dog breeds. Canine Genet Epidemiol 2, 13 (2015).


    See: Bannasch, D., Famula, T., Donner, J. et al. The effect of inbreeding, body size and morphology on health in dog breeds. Canine Genet Epidemiol 8, 12 (2021). | for data files (Fadj1 value) and an observation made in the body of the study: "There were interesting exceptions to the correlation of inbreeding and health. The Border terrier, Basenji, Collie, and English setter breeds have high inbreeding but low morbidity. "

    The images below are from MyDogDNA in 2016. See this and other images from MyDogDNA on Terrier breeds at:

    Undoubtedly more border terriers have been tested by this genetic test provider since 2016 so the measure of genetic diversity as shown on the MyDogDNA website (now Wisdom Health) may have changed.


     Illustrated Standards

    BORDERTERRIER Rasstandard med kommentare

    Border Terrier Club of America Illustrated Standard



     References and Resources

     DogWellNet Resources

    DWN's Pedigree Dogs DB - Border Terrier

    HGTD - Border Terrier

    Agria Breed Profiles

    Border Terrier: 2006-2011 2011-2016


    O’Neill, D.G., Darwent, E.C., Church, D.B. et al. Border Terriers under primary veterinary care in England: demography and disorders. Canine Genet Epidemiol 4, 15 (2017).

    Gutierrez-Quintana R, McLaughlin M, Grau Roma L, Hammond G, Gray A, Lowrie M. 2019. Spongiform leucoencephalomyelopathy in border terriers: clinical, electrophysiological and imaging features. Vet Rec. 2019 Sep 28;185(12):375. doi: 10.1136/vr.105240. Epub 2019 Jul 25. PMID: 31346136. |

    Martin-Vaquero, P., da Costa, R., Simmons, J., Beamer, G., Jäderlund, K. and Oglesbee, M. 2012. A Novel Spongiform Leukoencephalomyelopathy in Border Terrier Puppies. J Vet Intern Med, 26: 402-406.

    Black, V., Garosi, L., Lowrie, M., Harvey, R.J. and Gale, J. 2014. Phenotypic characterisation of canine epileptoid cramping syndrome in the Border terrier. J Small Anim Pract, 55: 102-107.

    Allerton F, Swinbourne F, Barker L, Black V, Kathrani A, Tivers M, Henriques T, Kisielewicz C, Dunning M, Kent A 2018. Gall bladder mucoceles in Border terriers. J Vet Intern Med. 2018 Sep;32(5):1618-1628. doi: 10.1111/jvim.15249. Epub 2018 Aug 5. PMID: 30079451; PMCID: PMC6189338.

    Lowrie M, Garden OA, Hadjivassiliou M, Harvey RJ, Sanders DS, Powell R, Garosi L. The Clinical and Serological Effect of a Gluten-Free Diet in Border Terriers with Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome. J Vet Intern Med. 2015 Nov-Dec;29(6):1564-8. doi: 10.1111/jvim.13643. Epub 2015 Oct 25. PMID: 26500168; PMCID: PMC4895653.

    Lewis, T.W., Abhayaratne, B. & Blott, S.C. Trends in genetic diversity for all Kennel Club registered pedigree dog breeds. Canine Genet Epidemiol 2, 13 (2015).



    IPFD and The World Small Animal Veterinary Association

    See our series of Meet the Breed articles in the WSAVA Bulletin and associated Get a GRIHP! Articles on


    1. Welsh Corgi
    2. Dachshund
    3. French Bulldogdogwellnetlogo.pngWSAVA logo.png
    4. Australian Shepherd
    5. Saluki
    6. Golden Retriever
    7. Bernese Mountain Dog
    8. Black Russian Terrier
    9. Pug
    10. Finnish Spitz
    11. Rhodesian Ridgeback
    12. Rottweiler
    13. Whippet
    14. Belgian Shepherd
    15. English Bulldog
    16. Irish Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
    17. Dalmatian
    18. Border Terrier
    19. Staffordshire Bull Terrier
    20. Siberian Husky
    21. Dobermann
    22. Shih Tzu
    23. English Setter
    24. Beagle
    25. Chihuahua

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