Whitehall Collies


Tri-headed white rough collie sitting

We Collie breeders take genetic testing very seriously, seeing what devastation mutations in overbred dog populations can cause. Our parent club, the Collie Club of America (CCA), formed a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization called the Collie Health Foundation in 1986. It aims to address the breed’s most significant health problems with research, testing, and education. CHF has granted over one million dollars to research that benefits all breeds of dogs, but our primary attention goes to serious diseases that have cropped up in Collies in the past:  Bloat, Grey Collie, Epilepsy, eye diseases (most notably PRA), Dermatomyositis,  and Degenerative Myelopathy.  Collie breeders can understand their transmission and breed away from these conditions through the reports produced by our research grantees, combined with thorough genetic testing. We have done so with much success.

What kinds of genetic testing do you do?

I send DNA samples from all our breeding dogs to Wisdom Health, which runs a breeder panel that can detect 212 mutations (most of which do not affect Collies.) They send us an exhaustive report, which we make available to any interested puppy buyer. The information helps me choose knowledgeably for my breeding program. If a prospective puppy buyer wants this testing done on their choice puppy, we are happy to comply.  However, if I know genetic reporting on the parents, I can clear the puppies “by pedigree” from the few dangerous known genetic mutations Collies can have.

A Note About Eyes

One misunderstood condition Collies carry is Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA), also called Choroidal Hypoplasia.  It is indicated by small pits in the inner surface of the back of the eyeball.  Most Collies have a minor version of this genetic anomaly.  It does not affect their vision and does not get worse over time.  As an ethical Collie breeder, I commit to testing each puppy at eight weeks of age when a veterinary ophthalmologist best detects this condition.  I furnish the results of this test to the puppy’s buyer.  If anything is detected compromising normal vision, the buyer is informed before committing to buy the dog.  In our particular bloodline, I have only encountered an issue once (a dystichia, or misplaced eyelash.)  The puppy grew out of it and is normal.

Normal Eyes

Some breeders in the US, and many in Europe, emphasize breeding “normal-eyed” Collies. I applaud that, but I don’t select against mild CEA in my breeding program, and here’s why.  CEA is a condition carried by 70-80% of Collies.  It does not affect their longevity, vision, or quality of life. Disqualifying otherwise healthy breeding stock simply because they have mild CEA seems like playing “genetic whack-a-mole.” I prefer to select healthy Collies moving positively to improve the breed and avoid other more impactful conditions.

MDR1 (Multidrug Sensitivity)

Herding breeds share a mutation that lowers the ability to clear certain drugs from their system. Among them are ivermectin, some of the anesthetics for surgery, and some cancer treatment drugs.  We do test for the mutation in all breeding stock.  We also treat every Collie as though it is affected, because many are.  So, I avoid all the drugs deemed a threat to herding dogs.  It is easy to do because there are safe substitutes available. I provide every puppy buyer with a list of these potentially harmful drugs.  Most veterinarians are up to speed on this, but I remind them on any permission-to-treat forms I sign, just in case!

Overall Collie Health…

Is excellent.  The expected collie lifespan is 12-14 years, which is average for dogs their size unaffected by chronic disease. Good nutrition, proactive veterinary care, and exercise are the recipe for a devoted companion that lives a long, healthy life.

Other links to health-related articles on this site:

DrBecker-TheTruthAboutSpayingAnd Neutering.pdf 

Drug Sensitivities MDR-1.pdf

White Rough Collie standing in backyard
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