The Rough Collie’s natural unexaggerated form has protected it from many of the inherited conditions which plague a number of breeds. In fact in shape, size and construction the Rough Collie remains similar to its original forbearers the Wolf, from which we are assured all breeds descend, and therefore enjoys a comparatively healthy existence living a natural canine lifespan of twelve to fourteen years.

In common with all living species, including our own, they do occasionally become unwell, and it has to be admitted that they are also susceptible to a small number of inherited conditions, which responsible breeders endeavour to minimize as much as possible, by the careful selection of breeding stock and the monitoring of their development.

Improvements in animal husbandry and veterinary medicine ensure whelps are reared to maturity which would previously have died. Additionally, in today’s politically correct society, it is no longer acceptable to cull the unthrifty encouraging the continuation of defects which have existed for many generations. Advances in veterinary science mean that breeders now know the cause and genetic makeup of abnormalities that had been either known about or suspected since before the establishment of recognised breeds and such discoveries will continue to uncover as yet unknown conditions but modern specialist breeders, and the clubs which support them, do address each new discovery as the scientific knowledge is made available.

It is not currently thought that the Rough Collie is susceptible to any life threatening inherited abnormalities but it is known that the Rough Collie is predisposed to four inheritable conditions, covered on subsequent pages, of lesser severity.


It was during the 1940s that Irish Setter breeders first made the discovery that Night Blindness in their breed was an inherited condition, and they were fortunate in that it could be detected at an early age. With the encouragement of the Irish Setter Association’s secretary, Mr W. J. Rasbridge, who was also a member of The Kennel Club, breeders of the day instituted a programme of test mating in an effort to eradicating the condition. The almost total absence of Night Blindness or PRA in today’s Irish Setter is a lasting tribute to the dedication of breeders who were prepared to put the breed’s long term well being ahead of their own short term material gain.

Test mating, the pairing of an affected with an unaffected animal, is both costly and heartbreaking in that whole litters, which could contain a high proportion of affected whelps and no genetically clear offspring, had to be reared until they reached an age where signs of the condition could be detected. That affected animals require culling, a practice that would be frowned upon today, and not all breeds, known to suffer with this debilitating eye condition, show clinical signs at a young age make such drastic action inappropriate for the majority of breeders.


Work with the Irish Setter breeders improved diagnostic techniques and by the 1960s a new veterinary speciality in ophthalmology had been established allowing the British Veterinary Association [BVA] in association with The Kennel Club [KC] and the International Sheep Dog Society [ISDS] to introduce a testing scheme whereby a certificated veterinary ophthalmologist would examine the eyes of subjects from know susceptible breeds, reporting the results back to a specially instituted council representing the three sponsoring organisations in addition to the owner.

It is now known that many eye conditions affect the canine race, several closely related to similar conditions in our own species, and most are thought to be genetic in origin, although trauma or injury can cause problems to individual animals, and not all eye abnormalities directly impair sight.

The BVA/KC Eye Scheme is now open to all breeds with the results of Kennel Club registered individuals recorded with their registration details and published quarterly in the Breed Record Supplement. Since 2002 the Kennel Club has also recognised and published the results of animals registered by them but tested under either the Animal Health Trust’s [AHT] own eye screening scheme, or that controlled by the European College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists [ECVO].

Currently the BVA/KC Eye Scheme tests for a total of eleven different known Eye abnormalities, divided into those present at birth (Congenital) and those which develop during the animal’s lifespan (Non-Congenital), these being:


Collie Eye Anomaly

Multifocal Retinal Dysplasia

Total Retinal Dysplasia


Persistent Hyper plastic Primary Vitreous

Persistant Pupillary Membrane



Generalised Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Central Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Hereditary Cataract

Primary Lens Luxation


Of the known hereditary eye conditions the Rough Collie is only thought to be susceptible to the three detailed on the Discover Collie Eyes page.


Good as these schemes undoubtedly are, and they have allowed breeders to reduce the instance and severity of debilitating eye abnormalities, the future must be in the early detection of those subjects who carry hidden genes for these conditions, and scientific advances in DNA testing have, for a number of years, been seen as the way forward. Progress in this direction is however proving to be much slower than was originally anticipated as the mutations which cause these eye abnormalities tend to be breed specific therefore research has also to be breed specific with each requiring a different DNA test before it is possible to diagnose the genetic status of any animal.

Although slow, and at times deplorably slow for breeders who look forward to a time when they will know with certainty the genetic make up of their kennel, progress has been made. The Kennel Club currently records the results of several breed specific genetic eye tests publishing the results quarterly in its Breed Record Supplement.


Rough Collie enthusiasts have always emphasised the importance of eyes to breed type, the 1898 Breed Standard describing them thus: ‘The EYES are a very important feature and give expression to the dog; they should be of a medium size, set somewhat obliquely, of almond shape and of a brown colour except in the case of “merles”, when the eyes are frequently (one or both) blue and white or china; expression full of intelligence, with a quick alert look when listening.’ while the most recent Standard, revised by the Kennel Club in 2008/2009, reads: ‘Eyes — Very important feature giving sweet expression. Medium size (never very small) set somewhat obliquely, of almond-shape and dark brown colour, except in the case of blue merles when eyes are frequently (one or both, or part of one or both) blue or blue-flecked. Expression full of intelligence, with quick, alert look when listening.’ proving how little the ideal has varied in the intervening years.

“A Window Into Their Soul” may sound a fanciful description for Rough Collies eyes; they should however reflect their personality. Displaying their innate steadfastness and gentle nature with its spark of mischief, together with a desire to please coupled with personal initiative and high intelligence"


Commonly referred to by its initials PRA, is a progressive inherited eye abnormality, which causes eventual blindness. First discovered in Collies during the early 60s, the Kennel Club were quick to extend its Eye Scheme to the Rough Collie, and despite the fact that its mode of inheritance was not fully understood breeders concentrated their efforts on eliminating the condition from their breeding stock, their vigilance being responsible for its virtual eradication.

More recent research has established two forms of this condition the more serious of which is now referred to as:

Generalised Progressive Retinal Atrophy or GPRA is of early onset and typically apparent by the time a puppy reaches six weeks of age. Current opinion is that this condition does not affect Rough Collies in their country of origin, although it is known to affect Collies in North America, which explains why the Collie Club of America’s Health Foundation funded the research into its genetic inheritance which has since established a DNA test for the condition. This has little relevance to breeders in the United Kingdom or Europe unless they intend incorporating North American blood lines into their breeding programme.


Central Progressive Retinal Atrophy or CPRA is in many ways a more insidious condition, which can not be detected until it manifests itself sometime after the first year of life, and frequently not until quite late in life explaining why breeders are urged to submit their breeding stock for regular eye screening. The condition’s development is also somewhat unpredictable often taking many years before serious loss of sight is experienced if ever. It is also considered that improvements in canine nutrition may have been largely responsible for today’s low incidence of the condition as it is known that Vitamin E deficiency can affect the eventual outcome and most modern feeds use Vitamin E as a preservative.

The possibility of a DNA test being discovered remains slim as the actual mode of inheritance is still not fully understood, and with the number of confirmed cases being less than 0•25% of all dogs tested under the BVA/KC Eye Scheme there is little encouragement for further research.



Just as Collie breeders were beginning to congratulate themselves on a reduction in the incidence of PRA, a new and far more far-reaching eye abnormality was diagnosed. Initially discovered shortly after PRA was diagnosed in Rough Collies few were to realise the seriousness or extent of this more wide spread condition for another decade due to the concentration of veterinary and breeders efforts on one known to caused eventual blindness.

Collie Eye Anomaly more usually referred to as CEA is a non-progressive congenital, present at birth, hereditary abnormality of the eye which affects members of the wider Collie family. Originally thought to be a simple recessive its mode of inheritance no longer appears to be quite so simple and it is probable that its more severe expressions involve additional gene mutations that have yet to be identified.

Usually bilateral, affecting both eyes, in its milder forms it is no more than a slight lack of pigment to, or thinning of the optic disc which does not appear to affect the sight in any way. In its more severe forms, which thankfully represent less than 9% of the total Rough Collie population, it can manifest itself as Colobomas of varying sizes and/or partially or wholly detached retina, this latter condition producing blindness.

Being a congenital condition CEA can be detected at an early age, and as there are no known genetically clear Rough Collies in this country, the only method of discovering which if any puppies are clear or only mildly affected by CEA is to have the whole litter eye screened for the condition, by a BVA listed ophthalmologist, at the age of 6 to 7 weeks.

Research, funded by three separate health research foundations interested in Choroidal Hypoplasia [CH] plus the American Border Collie Association, has recently isolated the mutation which causes CH in our own species and CEA in the wider collie family. This in turn has allowed the development of a DNA test for the underlying condition, and although more work is necessary before the two more sever forms, which can cause sight deterioration, can be detected in this way it would appear to be the way forward.

Eye Test Certificates issued under the BVA/KC Eye Scheme have changed little during the last thirty plus years — this one, dated 1990, was issued to a Collie who tested clear for CEA and PRA but who had a small scar, due to an accident, on its left cornea, and this fact is noted on the certificate


Alabama rot or idiopathic cutaneous and renal glomerular vasculopathy (CRGV) is a condition, often fatal, in dogs,  It is believed to be caused by toxins produced by bacteria such as Escherichia coli (commonly known as E. coli).  The initial symptoms are skin lesions on the legs, chest and abdomen, with eventual renal failure in about 25% of cases.  It was first noted in greyhounds in the US.

In November 2012 the first cases were identified in the UK.  In January 2014, the outbreak in England was identified as having the same or similar cause as Alabama rot,  although a wide range of breeds were affected. The disease has continued to spread across England, with a case being reported as far north as North Yorkshire in March 2015. A UK map (HERE) confirmed (with post mortem) and unconfirmed (without post mortem) cases of Alabama rot since December 2012.

read more about it HERE

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