Common Health Conditions of Border Terriers

Border Terriers are known to be happy furry creatures that have a long lifespan of 10 to 14 years. They are among the healthier breeds because they don’t frequently visit the vet compared to other pure breeds.

If you’re planning to buy a puppy, look for a breeder that will show your health clearances for both the parents of the puppy. These health clearances serve as proof that the dog has been tested for and cleared from certain health conditions.

But since health problems don’t appear until the dog has fully matured, health clearances aren’t issued to dogs that are below two years old. So, it would be wise if you look for a breeder who doesn’t breed dogs until they’re two or three years old.

Here’s a list of common health problems that may occur in Border Terriers.

Common Health Conditions of Border Terriers

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a health condition common in Border Terriers wherein the femur doesn’t fit snugly to the pelvic socket of the hip joint. This condition can happen with or without signs and symptoms; you wouldn’t even notice it when you’re grooming your dog. Some dogs, however, may feel pain on one or both rear legs.

As time passes by, your dog may develop arthritis. You can have your dog screened for hip dysplasia at the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program (PennHIP). It is important to note that dogs who suffer from hip dysplasia should never be bred. Talk to your vet and ask whether medication or surgery is needed.


Malocclusion happens when the dog’s jaw don’t properly fit together, which is commonly found in Border Terriers. It has three different types:

Common Health Conditions of Border Terriers
  • Overshoot bite – this happens when the upper jaw extends past the lower jaw. This causes grasping difficulties. Severe cases of overshoot bites may cause serious injuries to the roof of the mouth.
  • Undershoot bite – this happens when the lower jaw extends past the upper jaw. While this is normal in some breeds, it may cause problems with Border Terriers. This may need to be corrected through surgery.
  • Wry mouth – this happens when there’s a twisting of the mouth because one side grows faster than the other. While some puppies can outgrow this condition, there are others that need surgical correction (especially when they’re still not normal at 10 months of age).

If this condition is present with your Borders, it is best that you wait until the puppy has become fully grown and matured. Corrective surgeries may include crown height reductions, tooth extraction, or usage of spacers. Dogs with this condition shouldn’t be bred.


Hypothyroidism happens when your dog can’t maintain adequate levels of thyroid hormones. Its signs include dry skin, decreased heart rate, thinning coat, cold sensitivity, and weight gain. Have your dog checked the moment he shows at least one of those signs.

Note that hypothyroidism is a manageable condition with a lifetime medication that is administered daily. Because this is a disease for the middle-aged dog, you need to ask the breeder regarding the thyroid status of your dog’s grandparents. This will give you idea whether or not his condition is hereditary.


Cryptorchidism happens when one or both testicles of your dog fail to descend. If this happens, the testicle will become non-functional and can put your pet at risk for cancer when not removed. When your dog undergoes neutering, your vet will make a small incision to remove the undescended testicle; the normal one will be removed in a regular manner.


Seizures have many causes and may happen anytime. Noticeable signs include sudden urination, staring, sudden trembling, slight muscle spasms, and loss of consciousness. Although this condition has no cure, it can be managed with proper medication.

Heart Defects

Heart defects of any kind may affect Border Terriers. The most common of which is pulmonic stenosis, wherein the valve that separates the right chamber of the heart from the lungs is narrowing. A heart murmur on your Border terrier may indicate that his condition needs to be monitored and treated.

Heart murmurs are often caused by a disturbance in the blood flow through the heart chambers. They are graded according to their loudness; with one being faint and six being extremely loud. This is diagnosed through echocardiograms and x-rays. If evident, your dog may need to have a special diet, reduction of exercise, and medication.

Before you buy a dog, it would be best if you ask the breeder whether he has used dogs with heart defects during the breeding process.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar luxation, also referred to as slipped stifles, is commonly found in small dogs. This occurs when the patella is not properly lined up. The patella consists of three parts: femur, knee cap, and tibia. When there’s patellar luxation, your dog may experience abnormal gait or lameness in the leg.

Although the actual misalignment doesn’t always occur until your dog has completely grown or matured, patellar luxation is a condition that is commonly seen at birth. Patellar luxation is graded in four scores; with grade 1 causing temporary joint lameness and grade 4 causing severe turning of the tibia wherein the patella can’t be manually realigned. Severe patellar luxation may require surgical treatment.


Compared to other breeds, Border Terriers are more likely to suffer from colitis. Colitis is a painful disorder that causes ulcer formation in the large intestine. This results in serious bouts of diarrhea with bloody stools due to internal bleeding ulcers.

The Border Terrier is considered to be among the healthiest dogs. However, they may develop disorders that can be contracted or hereditary. The sooner your dog is diagnosed and treated, the better the outcome. While those mentioned above are some of the most common health conditions of Borders, not all dogs would suffer from any of those health issues in their entire lives. You need to remember that no matter how well your dog’s breed may be, there are bad genes that skip generations. So, it would be much better if you get to know your dog’s lineage.