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.

Eddie Houston, the Border Terrier Breed Health Coordinator, has asked that we make people aware of the research being undertaken by Nottingham University.


Researchers at the University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science are interested in investigating the characteristics of Cushing’s Syndrome within the Border Terrier breed and would be interested in hearing from owners of dogs affected by the disease, and also in details of dogs which have previously died from it.

This is one of the conditions being monitored by the Breed Health Group and we would encourage as many owners as possible to respond. We would also be grateful if these owners could also fill in our own health survey form.

The link to the Nottingham survey is: (opens an external site)

Nottingham University Cushings Survey

The link to the Border Terrier Breed Health Group Survey is: (opens an external site)

Breed Health Survey

Eddie Houston

Breed Health Co-ordinator

Eddie Houston, the Border Terrier Breed Health Coordinator, has now release the 2020 Breed Health Report which is copied below, it is also available on the Breed Health Group website.


This year has been an unforgettable one for all of us. The spectre of coronavirus has impacted on many aspects of our lives including health research into animal disease.

Sadly, this year has seen the Animal Health Trust forced into liquidation. Founded in 1942 the AHT was an independent animal charity which received no Government funding and employed in excess of 200 vets, scientists and support staff. The Trust provided clinical referral services for both small animal and equine cases and was highly regarded for its work in the fields of infectious and genetic diseases, oncology and stem cell research.

In 2009 the Kennel Club entered into a partnership with the Genetics Research Department at the AHT and over the years this has proved a fruitful union doing much to advance our knowledge of the genetics of a number of important canine diseases and leading to the development of DNA tests for 22 of them. These tests are applicable to around 50 different breeds so their use has helped to reduce the incidence of the conditions within the gene pool and to directly avoid the birth of thousands of dogs doomed to be afflicted by painful or life limiting conditions.

Like many charities the Animal Health Trust had been struggling with funding in recent years and unfortunately this was greatly exacerbated by the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to the Trust officially going into liquidation on 31st July of this year.

At breed level the AHT partnered the University of Missouri in the development of the DNA test for Spongioform Leuco Encephalo Myelopathy (SLEM) and was the laboratory which provided the test in the UK .It was also storing a large number of DNA samples intended for use in research into trying to establish the genetic basis of Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome(CECS) also known as Paroxysmal Gluten Sensitive Dyskinesis(PGSD).

Dr. Cathryn Mellersh, leader of the team at the Kennel Club Genetics Centre at the AHT, has managed to arrange for the DNA material being held at the AHT to be transferred to the University of Cambridge where it is hoped that much of the research and testing will recommence. Unfortunately this has caused problems with SLEM testing. At present this means that the only laboratory which offers SLEM testing is that of OFA/University of Missouri. They are prepared to accept samples from the UK, so if anyone urgently needs tests done before they resume in the UK they could utilise their service .If it proves likely that there will be an extended period before the test becomes available again in the UK we will look at perhaps making more use of this facility. The latest news on that in January is, however, positive and it is hoped that the Kennel Club and the University of Cambridge will soon come to an agreement which will enable testing to re-commence.


On the subject of SLEM I am pleased to report that there have been no confirmed cases of any affected puppies having been born this year. Although it may have been difficult to have potential breeding stock screened this year we now have a sizeable number of dogs known to be CLEAR, either by testing or hereditarily. Provided at least one member of a proposed mating pair is known to be CLEAR no affected puppies will be born.

Breeding advice continues to be that it is irresponsible to mate a CARRIER or UNKNOWN to anything other than a CLEAR and that any pups from such matings should not be bred from until their genetic status has been ascertained.


One of the casualties of the Animal Health Trust closure has been a delay in Mark Lowrie’s further research into CECS/PGSD. The proposed investigation into trying to identify possible genetic factors involved in the condition has been put on hold. Hopefully the project will continue.

Gall Bladder Mucocoele(GBM) has again been the subject of much interest this year. We know that after a meal, cholecystokinin(CKK) is released by the duodenum and that its function is to cause release of digestive enzymes from the pancreas and also contraction of the gallbladder with the release of bile into the intestine via the common bile duct.

Research by Barker et al has shown that dogs affected by GBM have reduced levels of CCK as opposed to unaffected animals. They also show an increased immune response of IgA, an immunoglobulin which has a role in maintaining mucous membranes within the body. It is postulated that a combination of these two factors results in gallbladder hypomotility thus allowing for the accumulation of bile and mucus within the biliary system. It is also suggested that PGSD could be an underlying causal factor but further studies will be needed to confirm this.

Last year it was announced that Border Terriers had been removed from the list of breeds being monitored for late onset hereditary cataract. Very few cases had been recorded over the years so this seemed like a sensible move. However, though true that few cases had been confirmed it was equally true that only a small number of animals had been tested.

We know that cases are being recorded in North America and in Scandinavia so it would be naive to assume that we don’t have the condition in the UK. Unfortunately previous requests for details of confirmed cases have met with a poor response. However, this year possible cases have been recorded in two littermates and their breeder has kindly put the information into the public domain. The Breed Health Group is keen to try to establish if this is a significant issue within the British Border Terrier population and if we need to be encouraging more widespread eye testing. It would be appreciated if owners could fill in a questionnaire for all eye tested dogs, clears included. These may be downloaded from the Breed Health Site— .


There has been a better response to our request for owners to fill in questionnaires this year and including the respondents to the CECS/PGSD one we have had 75 returned including 10 from overseas. These questionnaires help us to monitor both existing and emerging health issues and it would be great if as many owners as possible could fill them in for all their dogs even those which they regard as being completely healthy.

Of the 64 dogs from the UK ,age range 8months-18years, 16 were reported as having no health issues. The remaining 48 animals suffered from a range of conditions with a few unfortunates having multiple health issues.

The conditions reported were:

ENDOCRINE (12) consisting of: Cushing’s Syndrome(8), Hypothyroidism(3), Diabetes(1)

ORTHOPAEDIC(4):Osteoarthritis(3), Bilateral rupture of anterior cruciate ligament(1)

CARDIOVASCULAR(3):Congestive heart failure(2), Patent Ductus Arteriosus(1)

DIGESTIVE(16): GallBladder Mucocoele(9), Pancreatitis(2), Inflammatory Bowel Disease(5)

NEOPLASIA(7):Lipoma(3), Mammary(1,) Soft tissue sarcoma(1), Testicular(1), Warts(1)

NEUROLOGICAL: CECS(10), Other seizures(2)

BEHAVIOURAL ISSUES(3): Aggression(2),Excessive timidity(1)


OCULAR(10) :Progressive Retinal Atrophy(1), Underdeveloped optic nerve(1), Diabetic cataract(1), Senile cataract(1), Cataract detected at BVA eye exam(6)

4 clear BVA eye examinations were also reported.

We also received 11 reports from overseas- Canada, Denmark, New Zealand and the Netherlands.

3 dogs had no health issues and conditions reported in the others were: CECS(1), INFLAMMATORY BOWEL DISEASE(1), MAMMARY TUMOURS(1), ALLERGIC SKIN DISEASE(1).

5 Eye exam results were declared,1 of which had bilateral cataracts and the other 4 were clear.

It is encouraging that owners have been responding to our requests for details of confirmed cases of Cushing’s Syndrome, GBM ,CECS/PGSD and also cataracts and I hope that more will continue to do so.

The Breed Health Group declared our intention to set up an Open register for Cushing’s Syndrome and we are considering it for other conditions. We appreciate all survey forms completed and would ask as many as possible of those reporting these conditions to give permission for their dog’s details to be published.

Remember, sharing knowledge is the best way to maintain good health within our breed.

Eddie Houston B.V.M.S, M.R.C.V.S

Breed Health Coordinator

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