Border Collie Collapse

Border Collie Collapse

In this article I want to discuss a condition known as Border Collie Collapse. It’s also sometimes referred to as Exercise Induced Collapse (EIC). Ewelina and I feel our own Border Collie Archie probably has this condition. We have yet to visit a vet to have it diagnosed but from the symptoms and our research we feel confident Archie is affected.

What Exactly is Border Collie Collapse

Studies into Border Collie Collapse continue but essentially it’s a nervous system disorder brought on by strenuous exercise. For Border Collies this exercise usually takes the form of working sheep, manic herding behaviour or it can even be dog agility or flyball which Border Collies typically excel at. The symptoms can start as quickly as 5 to 15 minutes after the strenuous activity starts and is often combined with the higher temperatures of summer. It’s believed that it’s a genetic mutation that causes it and affected dogs are being tested to try and identify the common gene.

It’s similar to the Exercise Induced Collapse seen in Labradors for which the defective gene has been identified. It’s not the same gene in Border Collies though so tests continue.

How to spot Border Collie Collapse

The first signs are usually that your dog starts to have a stiffness or wobble about their walk. Owners often wonder if there might be a hip problem but it sometimes also looks like the dog is ‘drunk’. The signs of muscle weakness can continue and the dog will eventually collapse if they don’t lie down and rest. With hip problems stiffness can happen even without the exercise. If after 30 minutes rest your Border Collie seems to return to normal it’s a very clear sign that it’s probably Border Collie Collapse.

In our case Archie has had symptoms about 3-4 times so far. In each case it happened during warm weather. There is some evidence that affected dogs seem to be highly excitable and this certainly describes Archie. Whilst Archie is not overly ball obsessed he has a strong addiction to herding. Ironically we have not seen this behaviour around sheep but fast moving, ball focused dogs we come across. If Archie sees a likely dog to herd he will sprint over and begin to circle them. Usually he will have a fixed stare and often the circling will get faster and faster. It’s like endorphins have been released and it can be hard to break the spell.

Border Collie Collapse – Solutions

Unfortunately there is no treatment for the condition. It seems the veterinary profession are hoping to identify the defective gene and then prevent affected dogs from breeding. Whilst it can be fatal it’s rare if you know what to look for. Any change in the way your dog walks and you should stop the activity and find a shaded or cool location for your dog to relax until they return to normal. In hot weather we stop Archie’s manic herding within a couple of minutes. As many Border Collie owners will know it’s not always easy to stop what appears to be an addiction and something that was bred into them. The desire to work can be incredibly strong in Border Collies. We can tell when Archie is working too hard by the length of his tongue, saliva and a few other telltale signs.

If you have experience of Border Collie Collapse or think your dog may also be affected feel free to leave a comment. To read more about this condition please click the link below which will take you to an article on the Agilitynet website.

Agilitynet article 



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6 thoughts on “Border Collie Collapse”

  1. Hi, just thought I’d leave a quick comment. My border Collie Chase seems to have had 2 of these episodes that you describe above. First when he was 5 months old just out lead walking in November. He spent the night at the Vets but to no real conclusion. He recovered over night.
    The second episode was today and it was temperature was in the 20’s. Chase was herding my Mum (he is rather obsessed) and I don’t use a ball anymore as he has arthritis in both front wrists. He had a good 45 minute off lead walk in the morning with no problems but in the afternoon with my Mum within about 5 minutes Chase had collapsed into the hedge and couldn’t get his legs back for at least 5 minutes. My sister was able to get him out of the hedge and bring him water but it took him sometime to come out of it. Was scary for them to witness. Chase is a highly strung chap and also has dog and human aggression. But for 3 years we have managed ok. Just don’t think he could cope with a lot of tests at the Vets. And by what I’ve read there is no test for BCC or cure other to manage his exercise and excitement.

    • Hi Tracey,

      Thanks for your comment. The condition is similar to one found in Labradors. In the case of Labradors they have identified the gene that causes it so can test dogs to see if they have it. You are correct that you cannot test for it in Border Collies at present. I would still be tempted to visit a vet in your case just to be sure it’s not something like epilepsy. In our case it only really happens in very warm weather. Archie also has to be very focused and excitable. If I could see your dog doing it I could probably agree that it’s the same condition but I’m not sure based on what you describe. You mention first instance was after 45 minutes out lead walking. That sounds very untypical. Usually it happens only after short intense exercise.

      We have managed the condition simply by closely watching him and if he shows signs of being over excitable in hot weather we will stop him and take him away from the source of that excitement.

      Good luck with it and report back if you find out any more.

      Northampton Dog Walker

  2. Hi my 14 month collie meg has this when I talked to the vet the wanted to do test on her but I started her on a higher protein dog complete and after 5 weeks on it she has not had another was frightening to see her collapse the first time, hopefully the higher protein food will help

    • Hi Frances,

      Archie is raw fed which is high in protein. I’ve not read that this can help but your comment is interesting. It is scary when you witness them having the problem. In Archie’s case it only happens when the temperature is high and he mixes with other very manic, excitable dogs. We can almost detect the sort of conditions that are likely to trigger it and we can stop him and take him away from the source of the excitement before it happens.

      Archie could walk miles with us without issue. The condition seems to be triggered by a combination of slightly manic behaviour and hot weather. Now we know the signs we seem to be able to manage things so he has not had another episode recently.

      Let me know how you get on, I’m always keen to know how it affects other Border Collies.

      Northampton Dog Walker

  3. We have two collie cross retriever dogs , 7 year old sisters. One suffers from border collie collapse ( or so the vet thinks). However, it’s interesting that this is deemed to be after exercise only. Our girl has had two episodes when laying in our warm living room ( in front of the fire). Has anyone else experienced this with their dog?


    • Hi Wendy,

      Interesting that you have experienced this at rest (albeit in front of a warm fire). In my experience in Border Collies temperature is a factor but I feel it goes deeper than that and the dog seems to need to be in an excited state. I’ve approved your comment so others can reply in the hope that the more case study evidence there is, the better professionals can better understand it. I’ve read the condition is also seen in labradors and I wonder if it’s also something retrievers can get? I’d read that they had identified the gene responsible in labradors and I wonder in the case of this breed whether it’s linked to high exercise like it seems to be in Collies.

      Our dog Archie hasn’t had an episode in months but then the weather hasn’t been hot enough and we can spot the triggers better and stop him becoming manic if needed.

      Good luck with your 2 dogs.

      The Northampton Dog Walker

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