Border Collie Collapse

Border Collie Collapse

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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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26 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.

      Thanks
      Gary
      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 episode..it 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.

      Thanks
      Gary
      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?

    Thanks

    • 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.

      Gary
      The Northampton Dog Walker

  4. Since this problem seems to mostly be noted in dogs in the U.K., US and Australia, I thought you might be interested in a report from France.

    I have two BCs who love playing ball. We always worried about our older (9-year-old) over doing things, but the problems we have are with the “baby,” who is 4 ½. We never noticed a problem until last year, because we didn’t have any outside space for ball playing. We bought a garden (what you in the U.K. would call an allotment I believe), thinking it would be great for the girls. And, they DO love it. Just thinking about going there gets them so excited they can barely contain their joy.

    I first noticed Puck having a problem last spring and did some research on BCC. As recommended, I controlled her activity as soon as I saw she was getting too tired, especially in the warmer months, we had et had any episodes for seven or eight months. Then, this weekend, we had one. I probably had let her play for a little too long, and the weather here has been warmer than normal for February (15° or 16°), which is certainly not “hot.” Still, I though perhaps the sudden change in temperature made it difficult for her body to adjust.

    Anyway, like most people, we just have learned to live with it. When we went out yesterday, I threw the gal three or four times, then stopped for a few minutes of rest, then let them play for another few minutes. I think that is the best coping mechanism until someone comes up with a viable treatment option.

    • Hi Randy,

      Apologies for not replying sooner. Your comments are exactly what I have experienced. The week before last we went from temperatures of 3 degrees celsius at the start to 14 degrees celsius by the end of the week. Even this higher temperature is not warm but I did notice Archie overdoing things and had to step in to prevent him from having another Border Collie collapse episode.

      There are a certain set of circumstances that will cause it to happen in our case. He is attracted to very manic ball obsessed dogs. He feeds off that manic behaviour and a switch is triggered where it’s like an addiction. He is unable to pace himself or take a break. It’s for us to monitor him and the weather and step in if we feel he is at risk.

      From what I have read about the condition a treatment option is unlikely. In other breeds where the defective gene has been identified the cause of action has been to stop dogs that carry the gene from breeding to remove the condition from the gene pool. In our case it does not really impact on Archie’s quality of life, it’s just something we have to monitor.

      Enjoy your Border Collies!
      Gary, Ewelina & Archie.

  5. Hi I have a male border collie Max 5years 9month, in the UK but he is originally from Germany as it says on his dog pasport,

    we have had him for just under a year and he has had two of these episodes, both was after playing fetch for 20 mins, he is always fixated on his ball and anything he can fetch, we try to keep his ball play at a minimal 1 time a week as it becomes a problem as he won’t go toilet because he is always waiting for us to pull his ball out, but with us only letting him have his ball 1 time a week this has helped alot,

    Anyway the first time it happened was about 3 month ago in winter 1° after a 10 minutes ball chase, we just put it down to he has done too much and needs to cool down and he was fine after 10 mins of rest,
    The second time was today we was playing with his ball maybe a little too much but was only playing for about 10-20 mins we could tell he was getting tired so stoped went back to the car and drove home in the car he was slouched and couldn’t sit properly, (he is normals staring out of the window and he loves car rides) , he was panting loads and as we got home and out the car he couldn’t hardly walk, staggering, almost falling and couldn’t even walk up stairs, I had to carry him, he just looked like he was going to faint / collapse I gave him plenty of water he drank about two bowls I thought it could be his blood suger levels (I don’t know) so I gave him a digestive biscuit but he couldn’t even bite it he tryed but it just fell out of his mouth so I broke it up and he managed it,
    Anyway after 15 mins of being at home and after the biscuit he was fine back to his normal self like nothing had happened, I was terrified and didn’t know what to do that’s why I turned to Google and found this
    Now what is the best route to take can you guys help me as I never want this to happen again thank you

    • Hi Ryan,

      It certainly sounds like Border Collie Collapse because of the quick recovery but I’d still speak to a vet to rule out any other possibility.

      The only difference in your case is that it’s happened in winter. In our case and most I’ve read it seems to be very manic behaviour combined with hot weather.

      The problem is many Border Collies are obsessive and manic by nature. Our Archie is obsessed by herding but is only attracted to other ball obsessed dogs like yours. The more manic and neurotic the other dog the more Archie seems to like it and feed off it. It’s like a drug to him.

      We have learnt to manage it. We limit his herding in warmer weather and watch him closely. If his tongue starts to extend a lot and there is any froth around his mouth we put him back on a lead to rest. Basically after two episodes we’ve learnt the signs in our dog and we intervene. Border Collies have such an intense working drive they won’t stop by themselves.

      We are always trying to find other activities that he likes that won’t over stimulate him. He enjoys long walks with us and playing hide and seek. There is no game with is that leads to Border Collie collapse. In his case it needs another manic ball obsessed dog to get triggered. In your case it sounds like the ball is the trigger so I’d try and manage that but it’s not easy I know.

      Good luck
      Gary
      The Northampton Dog Walker

  6. We have a gorgeous 4 year old Border Collie cross Kelpie in Perth and she recently had 2 episodes following 15-20 mins of ball chasing in mild heat. She came good very quickly though. The vets have found no cause however believe it is BCC. She is a very excitable dog and as you state has an addiction however with ball chasing and her floppy kong frisbee at the park. It will be interesting to see how we go with such a young excitable dog and limiting her exercise… She is well looked after, uber-healthy and has been fed premium food her entire life. Therefore I too have surmised this to be a genetic mutation.

    • Hi Callan,

      Yes certainly sounds like Border Collie Collapse. The almost manic excitable focus combined with warm weather and a quick recovery seem to be the telltale signs. Once you see it happen it can be quite scary but once you know your own dog it gets easier to spot the signs of it building and then stopping the activity before it happens.

      All the best
      Gary

  7. Hi, we have three collies and our youngest has had two episodes now of collie collapse, we were in the park for only around five minutes and she too was very excitable running round holding her tuggy, when I noticed she was walking a little drunk like and sideways like a crab and prancing high with her front feet. Instantly I lay her down in the shade of the woods until she was calm and more focused then a slow walk back to the car. She had water and I wiped her face with water too and she seemed fine…. it is scary and the I phoned the vets who also thought it was collie collapse and it’s a neurological thing.

    • Hi Sue,

      It certainly sounds like an episode of Border Collie Collapse. The first couple of times it’s quite scary to witness. We have found that we now know the sort of conditions that will trigger it and we will stop the activity if we feel it’s warranted. Even though there is no cure the condition can be managed in my opinion and our Archie still has a very full and fun life doing what he loves.

      Good luck.
      Gary
      The Northampton Dog Walker

  8. I appreciate the stories from owners. Two days ago I experienced a bcc type reaction in my 2 year old border collie Jesse. This was after a strenuous ball retrieval session in warmer weather. He recovered quickly after stopping and cooling. Over the last two days I have observed him closer during exercise and have noticed a couple of wobbly episodes. Seems if I regulate the intensity of exercise and change focus he is fine. I’ve had three border collies and didn’t know this condition existed. I was a rather shocked when it happened. Thought that I had pushed him too hard. I do now remember an episode when he was a puppy which triggered a $400 vet visit. I will monitor him and change up his routine to reduced exercise intensity.

    • Hi Dennis,

      It’s interesting to hear you say ‘change focus’ because that’s exactly what I notice. If we break the herding spell we can stop an episode from happening. Border Collies can be incredibly focused and driven and there is often a manic look in Archie’s eye once he’s started his circling. It’s like a drug and unsupervised he will get go faster and faster. It seems as if there is something chemically going on in his brain that combined with warm weather can trigger Border Collie Collapse.

      It’s not pleasant to witness an attack in your own dog but once you know the signs and the triggers it seems to be something you can manage.

      Good luck to Jesse.

      Gary

  9. Nekünk eddig háromszor volt, egyenlőre nem tudtam el inni vizsgálatra de körülbelül két hét múlva megyünk.
    Szeretnék többet megtudni, amit csak lehet.

    Zsanett

    • Hi Zsanett,

      I don’t speak Hungarian but got a rough translation from Google. I’m not sure that there is much a vet can do to help a dog with Border Collie collapse. Most owners just get good at monitoring the triggers and signs and managing the dog’s activity during high risk times.

      Good luck.

      Gary

  10. I think my 2 year old border collie has this too , he doesn’t have and signs of him limping , but his leg shakes . For a while now we haven’t been worried about it , we just thought it was just a thing he did (he’s pretty crazy) but I don’t know much information about this and would love to find out a lot more ! Does anyone know if it’s something that can effect the dog in the future ? Is it something to be worried about ? Thanks 🙂

    • Hi Kaleigh,

      I don’t think it’s a condition that decreases with age so it’s something you will probably always have to be aware of. It does cause some worry but in our case we know the triggers that cause Border Collie collapse in Archie. It’s not purely about the activity level or how hot it is (though heat does seem to add to the problem). Most of the stories I’ve heard from other owners it seems that we all have manic, crazy dogs. In Archie’s case it’s herding. He loves to do it but works himself into a frenzy if we don’t monitor and cease the activity. Combine this adrenaline with hot weather and you are asking for trouble. I don’t think it’s something we can expect a cure for. Knowing about the signs though means we should be able to manage the condition. If other people ever walk your dog though I would educate them about the condition and what to look for. To be honest I would not let anyone else walk Archie in warm weather for this very reason. I just don’t trust anyone besides my partner to pay close enough attention to him.

      Good luck.

      Gary

  11. Hi, we live with five collie one has epilepsy but it is Wilf our five year old who collapses. He does it when the weather is warm and when he has got himself what we call worked up – if you take him out in my car but not our camper van he always gets hysterical. We had someone decorate the outside of the house and he collapsed when I took him out running. Every time he hears a car on the road – which isn’t often as we live down a small lane he is at the window again hysterical. He has just collapsed an hour ago panting, his eyes going funny – but now is asleep. The vet said he thinks it was heat stroke. But he can, and has run miles and miles and miles – but always wears a cooling coat even in winter. Since we adopted him I always said he wasn’t right he was like a collie on speed. I’ve always thought this was an activity based thing but he’s run literally marathons and seems fine. When I say run a walker could probably overtake me! We got another appointment at the vet tomorrow but are not taking him, am at a loss what to do, karen

    • Hi Karen,

      I think it’s certainly worth mentioning Border Collie Collapse to your vet to see if they know what it is. As you say it does not sound like heat stroke. Hot weather alone does not seem to cause it. I could chase Archie our Border Collie around the garden or park in hot weather and he will be fine. It’s a combination of their trigger activity and warm weather that seems to bring it on. It needs that trigger activity to get them in the frenzied, worked up condition which seems to cause the chemical changes which in turn cause the balance and coordination problems. In our case it will ONLY ever happen when he’s herding a very intense ball focused dog. He feeds of their intensity and it becomes like a drug to him. In your case it sounds like different triggers.

      If your local vet has never come across the condition it might be worth getting another opinion. It might also be worth recording a video of the next episode and sharing it so other Border Collie owners who have experience of this can give you their thoughts. Once you feel confident that it is Border Collie Collapse, it’s not something that you can treat but you can try and limit the conditions that cause the trigger.

      Good luck.

      Gary

  12. Hi Gary,

    I’ve just came across your post. My family have had several Border Collies over the past 15 years. We currently have a 3 year old and 14 week old pup. The 14 week old pup seemed to display similar symptoms to the ones you mentioned above over the week end. He was taken to an out of hours emergency vets where lots of tests etc were done but they couldn’t seem to figure out the problem. They suggested it may be an inner ear infection.

    He was being violently sick and walking lop sided. Then we realised there was a real problem when he aimed to walk into a room but ran into the wall instead. Several days on and he’s improving. He’s not making himself motion sick anymore and seems to be improving with his stability. As you’ll know, over the last few days we’ve had some ridiculously hot weather in the U.K.

    We will be looking into this more and talking with our vet in the hope of working order it what is going on with our pup.

    • Hi Laura,

      Probably a good idea to see what they vets say after some tests. I’ve not known Border Collie Collapse to cause vomiting but would welcome comment from others. It has been very warm recently in the UK but you don’t mention what activity your dog was doing when the episode happened. In every case I’ve heard about it seems to happen only when the dog is very hyper and fixated on the activity they seem addicted to.

      Good luck.

      Gary

  13. My 2.5 year old border collie is suffering the exact same symptoms. She was at her vet today to check her blood to rule out all other diseases. My vet was very well informed on exercised induce collapse syndrome and directed me to the University of Minnesota Veterinary articles on the syndrome and genetics. On another site I have been reading that ‘some’ dogs may benefit from a very low carb diet. I am going to try this and to restrict fetching the ball which unfortunately, is the trigger for my girl. Walks and hikes will have to do. I haven’t had her react negatively yet and I hope it stays that way.

    • Hi,

      Thanks for commenting with your experience. Since it is genetic it would be interesting to know if either parent has shown similar signs. We can’t do that in our case as Archie was a rescue and we don’t have that information. I’m not sure about the low carb diet helping. Archie is raw fed which is high protein and low carb and can’t say we’ve noticed any change since changing to raw (though there have been many other benefits). In our case we’ve just learnt to spot the early signs and stop the activity before an episode starts.

      Feel free to come back and comment again if your research reveals any extra useful information.

      Thanks
      Gary

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