Breed focus: Border Terrier

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Named for the location they originated; the border between Scotland and England, the Border Terrier is a popular breed within the UK. They were accepted into the UK Kennel Club in 1948 and are part of the Terrier Group.

The Border Terrier was bred as a working dog, with legs long enough to keep up with men on horseback. They would search out underground burrows, locating prey such as foxes and rabbits for the hunters. Thus, it is little surprise that they are nimble athletes with a high prey drive, even to this day.

Most would agree this breed is slightly less driven and tenacious than other terriers and is often more relaxed around people. This makes it an excellent family pet, and one that tends to do well with children. However, they cannot be trusted around small animals such as cats and rabbits as they have a natural instinct to chase them.

Sporty by nature, the Border Terrier is the perfect candidate for a range of disciplines including Flyball, agility and even ‘doggy dancing’. They are quick to learn and thoroughly enjoy taking on new tasks and solving puzzles.

Given their body shape and size, this is generally a healthy breed. They tend to live to about 12 to 14 years. There are a few medical issues to discuss:


While there are many things that can cause a dog to have seizures, epilepsy is a condition whereby seizures happen for no diagnosable reason. Border Terriers tend to have their first fit between the ages of 1 to 5. Signs include collapsing, paddling of the limbs, vocalising and soiling themselves. It is important we confirm the diagnosis by ruling out other medical issues, such as an infection of the central nervous system. Treatment will usually consist of long-term anti-seizure medicine. As this condition requires check-ups and treatment for the duration of the dog’s life, the cost of epilepsy can be significant over a dog’s life time.

Atopic Dermatitis

Those that are itchy may rub their face, lick their paws or scratch at their skin. We can sometimes see pink skin, especially at the armpits, paws and bellies. Triggers can include certain foods, pollen, grasses and dust mites. For most, their signs are controlled with courses of anti-itch medicine, medicated washes and antibiotics as needed. Ideally, we would perform allergy testing and immunotherapy may then be a treatment option. However, this can cost from £900 – £2,000.

Patellar Luxation

When a Border Terrier has a luxating patella, their owner will usually notice that they ‘skip’ on one of their back legs from time to time. Some dogs experience pain and may vocalise, while others seem unfazed. An orthopaedic vet check and x-rays are needed to make a diagnosis. For those with more severe luxations, surgery is advised. As this is a specialist procedure, we can be looking at a bill of £900-£2,000 per leg.

Canine Epileptoid Cramping Syndrome

Some will also know this condition as ‘Spike’s Disease’. This is a genetic disorder that is passed on from parent to pup. Signs include muscle cramps, dizziness and abdominal discomfort. Affected dogs are sensitive to gluten and the treatment is to avoid all gluten. Many owners opt for a hydrolysed gluten-free food.

The Border Terrier makes an excellent family pet and enjoys being outside in the fresh air and getting exercise each day. While they don’t need a lot of grooming, they do shed a moderate amount of fur and are not considered hypoallergenic. Thanks to their sweet nature and charm, they are a firm favourite of many, especially in their homeland.

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