This section contains updates and news from the Breed Health Group and the Breed Health coordinator. Please click on the links below for further information.

Hereditary Cataracts October 2020

Please find below an updated article from the Breed Health Group in relation to Hereditary Cataracts.

For many years our breed was on Schedule B of the BVA/KC/ISDS eye testing scheme as there was concern that it could be affected by late onset hereditary cataract. Last year the Border Terrier was removed from the list due to the low number of affected dogs which had been found.

This might sound like a positive move but in reality so few dogs were actually screened that it probably did not give a true representation of the possible incidence of this condition within the breed.

Hereditary cataracts are known to be present in many breeds and although there is some difference in the appearance of the cataract and the means of  inheritance between breeds they can be broadly divided into two categories; juvenile where the changes can be seen within the first few months of life and late onset where changes aren’t usually present until between 3 and 7 years of age. Juvenile cataracts will usually be present and of similar size in both eyes and will often lead to significant sight loss or total blindness by 2 to 3 years of age if left untreated. Late onset hereditary cataracts may be unilateral or bilateral, vary in shape and in the speed at which they progress often taking quite a few years before they significantly interfere with vision. By the time they become apparent affected animals may well already have been bred from.

The concept of a condition which develops from possibly as young as 3 years of age being referred to as late onset may seem a little odd but it helps to distinguish these hereditary cataracts from the “senile” ones which are age related and likely to occur in animals older than 10.

In a number of breeds eye screening is regularly performed on all potential breeding stock. Routine eye screening has not been carried out by the vast majority of Border breeders in the UK as we have been working on the assumption that we do not have a significant problem.

However, in some areas of the world such as North America and Scandinavia eye exams are more commonly undertaken and cataracts are the commonest defect being recorded, albeit at fairly low levels. Both juvenile and late onset cataracts have been recorded and it would seem naive to think that the condition isn’t present in dogs in the UK.

Previous requests for reports of confirmed cases have had a disappointing response but a couple of related dogs have recently been diagnosed with late onset cataract and their breeder has kindly put that information in the public domain. This does not mean that we currently have a major problem but it does raise the question as to whether we should perhaps be more proactive with regards to having routine eye screening carried out.

As it can be difficult to differentiate between cataracts which are hereditary and those which have other origins e.g. eye injury or systemic diseases such as diabetes, eye testing is normally carried out by certified ophthalmologists, a list of whom can be found on the BVA (British Veterinary Association) website at:

The Breed Health Group is keen to monitor this condition and we would appreciate our standard questionnaires being completed for any dogs diagnosed with cataracts particularly those confirmed by an eye panellist. Whether the diagnosis has been made by a panellist or a first opinion vet please include the dog’s age at the time of diagnosis along with details of the person carrying out the diagnosis. Any additional information would also be welcome. It would also be appreciated if owners could fill in this form for all dogs which have had a clear eye exam. (To complete the survey please go to: Health Survey)

A good response will help us to formulate future plans for dealing with the condition which may include organising testing sessions at Breed Club Shows when this becomes possible and trying to explore the genetic factors involved.

Remember, the only way breed health can progress is by the sharing of information. Anyone can be unlucky enough to breed a dog affected by a hereditary problem but being open about it may help to prevent issues becoming more widespread.

An update on Spongiform Leukoencephalomyelopathy (SLEM) August 2020

The demise of the Animal Health Trust along with various Covid-19 restrictions has caused a serious pause in the testing of Border Terriers for SLEM.

We are pleased to confirm that Dr Cathryn Mellersh is hoping that the Genetics Centre Team will be able to restart testing in the Autumn and that she hopes by then to be based at Cambridge University.

In the meantime the Border Terrier Breed Health Group recommends that anyone breeding Border Terriers should take care that if they have a bitch that is not known to be clear either hereditarily or by testing, they should only use a stud dog that is confirmed as ‘clear’. In such circumstances the progeny should be registered at the Kennel Club with an endorsement ‘Progeny not Eligible for Registration’. This endorsement will be able to be removed when either the mother or the puppy itself tests clear.

Failure to use a ‘clear’ stud dog in these circumstances risks the litter being affected by SLEM.

We will announce as soon as we become aware that testing in the UK has restarted.

Paroxysmal Dyskinesia (CECS) Study

A plea from the Border Terrier Heath Group – 5th January 2020

Animal Health Trust/Dovecote Veterinary Hospital

CECS/Paroxysmal Dyskinesia Study For Border Terriers

If you have a Border Terrier that has been diagnosed as having CECS/PGSD and has not yet been put on a Gluten free diet you could help the above study by volunteering your dog to take part.

The study is short of volunteers in the above category. Anyone who thinks they can help should contact

Paroxysmal Dyskinesia (CECS) Study

Updated trial information as of the 9th of November 2019.

PGSD CECS Trial Information

The latest news on the CECS study as of the 7th of October 2019. For anyone interested in taking part in a trial, contact details are included. This is taken from the Breed Health Group Website.


An update on Paroxysmal Dyskinesia (CECS)

A brief note on a future CECS study. This is taken from the Breed Health Group Website.


Canine Biliary Mucocoele

The following letter gives an insight into Canine Gallbladder Mucocoele including symptoms, diagnosis and potential treatment options. This is taken from the Breed Health Group Website.


Gall Bladder/Biliary Mucocoele Research

Please click on the link below to read the letter from Professor Steve Dean about research into Gall Bladder problems in Border Terriers. There is also a survey to complete if you want to participate in the research.

introductory letter to BT owners regarding biliary mucocoele project_August 2018

A DNA Test for Shaking Puppy Spongiform LeucoEncephaloMyelopathy (SLEM) in Border Terriers

From Monday October 9th 2017 DNA testing is available from the University of Missouri ( and the Animal Health Trust ( Testing through a partnership with OFA ( , click the “ORDER DNA TESTS” link in left sidebar) should be available after mid-October. Orders placed through OFA use a cheek swab & barcoded card to collect DNA, and testing is done by U of MO. The OFA staff will send a kit and complete instructions for all orders.   Click on the links to the websites for further details.



SPD comment on SLEM gene test

Removing the stigma of genetic disease – column

Effects of Genetic Testing-2 column (1)

The UK Border Terrier Breed Health Group Website is now up and running. As well as incorporating information on CECS and SPS/SLEM etc it contains various interactive questionnaires which can  be used by Border Terrier owners.

It can be found at 






April 2017 GDG Update

PDs in Dogs, Review

Gluten Case