Collies, like every breed of dog, have some health issues that are specific to their breed. We test our dogs for everything we can, but there is no perfect dog, and we are deeply committed to responding in an ethical manner if any of our puppies ever has a genetic health problem.
We have heard many stories of people who purchased a purebred puppy from a breeder and signed a health guarantee, only to have the puppy develop a health issue and the breeder didn't return emails, blamed the puppy buyer, and/or refused to honor the guarantee. It has also happpened to us personally, more than once. Sadly, a guarantee is only as good as the person who signed it--if a breeder chooses not to honor it, the puppy buyer does not have much recourse. Also, the vast majority of contracts require that the buyer return the puppy to the breeder in order to receive a similar replacement puppy. As anyone who has ever owned and loved a dog will instinctively understand, NO ONE wants to return their beloved family pet to a breeder for any reason, no matter how sick it is. Also, if a breeder has sold you a sick puppy, do you really want another puppy from the same lines?
Our contract provides that you may return your puppy to us, for any reason, for a two week period after you receive him or her, and receive a full refund of the purchase price. After that time we offer a five year genetic health guarantee. If your puppy develops any genetic health issue, minor or more serious, we hope that you will contact us and we can help you deal with the problem. And we ask that you let us know if you can't keep your puppy for any reason, so that we can take him or her back or help you find your puppy another loving home.
To see a sample of our contract and five-year guarantee, click HERE.
One of the big reasons we got into breeding collies was that we wanted people to have a good experience buying a purebred puppy. We've been on the other side and we've had bad experiences and we know how heartbreaking they can be.
The most common health issues in collies are listed below, with a link to more information on each.
The MDR1 gene mutation causes collies to react dangerously to certain drugs. Several years ago we purchased a collie puppy "Sally" from a Canadian collie breeder. Sally was advertised as being MDR1 normal/normal, meaning she did not carry the MDR1 gene mutation, and should have been no more sensitive to medications than any other dog. Sally developed generalized demodectic mange at six months of age, and our vet recommended the most effective treatment--Ivermectin. One small dose of Ivermectin put Sally in a coma, from which it took her over two weeks to recover fully. We had her tested at WSU after she recovered, and she was actually MDR1 mutant/mutant; she had two copies of the mutated gene.
It is very important to know your collie's MDR1 status so you can let your vet know about it and avoid situations like what we went through. We test all our dogs and puppies through Washington State University, the developers of the MDR1 test.
Most collie breeders routinely breed dogs with a mild form of collie eye anomaly, but a growing number (like us!) are making an effort to breed normal-eyed dogs and reduce the incidence of this disease, which in its worse forms can cause blindness. At the same time, as awareness grows about CEA, some breeders are going too far in the other direction and breeding for normal eyes only while ignoring other issues such as poor temperament, bad hips, skin problems, etc.
Storm and Dandy are both normal eyed CEA carriers, and in each of their litters so far they have had five puppies with CERF normal eyes, and two puppies with very mild CEA. Mild CEA is basically something which is visible to the ophthalmologist when they are examining a dog's eyes, but which does not cause any problem with a dog's vision during its lifetime.
We have had firsthand experience with hip dysplasia in a collie. We purchased a five-month old collie puppy as a potential stud dog, and when he arrived at our house, his rear legs seemed weak, and he slipped and fell frequently. We immediately had his hips x-rayed and it turned out he had moderate to severe hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is not as uncommon in collies as it was once thought to be. (Of the close to 3000 collies whose hip x-rays were evaluated by OFA, 2.8% were found to be dysplastic.) Testing all breeding dogs will help to ensure the problem does not become more widespread.
Even if a dog is genetically destined to have hip dysplasia, keeping him thin can help reduce clinical signs of the disease. This is especially important in puppyhood. Click HERE to read some good information about hip dysplasia and growing dogs.
Collies frequently have thyroid issues, primarily hypothyroid, and yet only 227 collies have had thyroid testing through the OFA. 82.8% of the collies tested through the OFA were normal thyroid, like Storm and Dandy.
Collie PRA is not as common as it once was, but a genetic test has recently been developed for this disease. Dandy has been tested and is a noncarrier.
The demodex mite is present on all dogs, but sometimes a dog's immune system isn't working properly and the mite is able to thrive and reproduce on the dog's skin, leading to demodectic mange. There is no genetic test for demodectic mange, but it is quite common in collies. In fact, we have heard breeders refer to it as "puppy mange," implying that it is a normal part of collies' growing up. (We don't agree!) In some cases "puppy mange" can become generalized and it can be VERY difficult to treat. It may even be a lifelong problem or require euthanasia.
Because generalized demodex is known to have a genetic component, veterinarians recommend not breeding any dog who had demodex as a puppy, or any close relatives of a dog who had demodex as a puppy. However, the latest research suggests that susceptibility to demodex may be caused by reduced diversity in the MHC (major histocompatibility complex) set of genes. Read about the MHC by clicking HERE.
Click HERE for an article about the benefits of microchipping your dog.