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Border Collie Rescue - On Line - General Care of Domestic BC's
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Welfare Issues - General Care of Border Collies

Ensuring your dog is happy and not just making the best of it!

There are a number of things that need to be considered for the overall physical and psychological well being of a Border Collie - whether its a working dog, interactive dog or companion dog - of any age and physique.
There is information about common diseases, parasite infections and other welfare and care issues on this page.


There are a lot of Border Collies in very good homes where they are well looked after by their humans but there are too many Border Collies being referred to rescue centres all around the UK because they somehow do not seem to adapt to being domesticated as well as their owners expect.
Over the years we have come across some real horror shows where dogs have been kept in very poor conditions, badly fed, neglected and often cruelly treated as if they were a convenient scapegoat for their owners frustrations or a target for their cruel or violent nature or simply a victim of human ignorance.

Sometimes neglect occurs because a dog has become a problem to its owner. Maybe circumstances have changed and the owner can't really afford to keep a dog anymore.
The dog become ill or injured, the owner can't afford veterinary treatment so does without and hopes whatever the problem is will go away. The dogs condition gets worse and the owner is then frightened of going to the vet or just ashamed.
Whatever the reason given for abuse and neglect - there is no excuse.
You take on a dog - it's your captive and subject to your will. You have a responsibility. End of story.

Over the years our laws governing animal welfare have changed, mainly for the better, but enforcement has lagged behind. These days more people are less likely to mind their own business and are more likely to report any cruelty or neglect they witness, which is no bad thing from the dogs perspective.
Personally, we applaud and encourage such reports. People should report any cruelty, neglect or abuse they witness.
Call it modern thinking if you like - sometimes the 'Good Old Days' were not really all that good.

Health and Welfare

A regular programme of general health checks and remedial or preventative action should be implemented and maintained.
Speak to your Vet about this and follow the advice given.

Common Infectious Diseases

These diseases and inoculations to prevent them are covered in more detail on our 'Infectious Diseases' page.
Here we stress the importance of continuous immunity against the most common infectious diseases of dogs -
Distemper, Parvo Virus, Hepatitis and Leptospirosis.

Initial puppy vaccinations and annual boosters thereafter is the most common practice.

Parvo virus, Hepatitis and Distemper are highly infections diseases that are frequently fatal, particularly if not recognised early and quickly dealt with. Young dogs are less likely to survive infections than older dogs.

On farmland Leptospirosis is an ever present bacteria found in stagnant water and transmissible by rats and other farm animals who's urine can be contaminated. In open countryside or moorland that is grazed by cattle with standing stagnant water there is also a chance of picking up Leptospirosis. The same applies to wetlands, even woodlands.
Ingesting infected water transmits the disease. It can also be caught by contact with infected animals.

Hepatitis is a virulent virus infection that can be picked up from infected faeces, urine, saliva, blood or by directs contact with the nose, anus or reproductive organs of an infected dog. It can also be contracted by contact with an item an infected dog has used - bowls, toys, etc.

Parvo Virus is another very infectious viral disease. It can be contracted by contact with an infected dog, from infected faeces or vomit or other bodily fluids. It can also be contracted from items that have come into contact with an infected dog and is easily spread around by shoes treading in infected faeces or urine. It does not take a lot to infect a dog and it spreads quickly.

Distemper is primarily an airborne virus and infection occurs by inhalation of fine droplets in the breath or eye fluids of an infected dog when an uninfected dog comes into close proximity. It is also present in a dogs urine. It can be contracted by contact with wildlife and transmitted in clothing or materials. Outside of a host the virus does not survive for long and can be killed by most household disinfectants.

These diseases are terrible. At best a dog contracting one will suffer greatly and they may well die. Dying from any of these diseases is painful. You would not want to see your dog suffering so take preventative measures.

Vaccinate.

One more infectious virus in this section.
Canine Influenza is an airborne viral infection of the respiratory tract and spreads from host to host by the dog inhaling the virus in the air. It travels well and an infected dog can spread it over quite a large area in the wind simply by breathing out.
It can also spread through contact with items an infected dog has previously been in contact with but it cannot survive for long outside of a host. Not as serious as any of the above and preventable by vaccination - usually a spray up the nostrils.



Common Parasitic Infections

There are more details on external and internal parasitic infections and other diseases of dogs on our Breed Profile page.

Endoparasites

Internal parasites are most commonly intestinal worm infestations or protozoan infections.
Regular worming prevents the accumulation of parasites in a dogs intestines
that will weaken it and present long term problems if not eliminated. Use a proven brand of wormer and administer it regularly according to instructions. Get something your vet recommends.
Many wormers are not restricted to prescription so it is possible that you may be able to purchase something your vet would suggest on the internet or in a pet shop.

Roundworms, Tapeworms, Whipworms and Hookworms are the most common infestations and are all fairly easy to treat using products that can be bought over the counter without prescription.
These worms are usually contracted by contact with an infected dog, faeces or infected wildlife.

Some worms are more difficult to eliminate and may require a different medication to deal with them. Whipworms are the most difficult intestinal worm to treat abut the least dangerous. Roundworms the most common and the most dangerous.

There are also worms that invade other organs like Heartworms and Lungworms. These are rarer but more dangerous infestations and require veterinary attention for prescribed medications.
Heartworm is very rare in the UK and is contracted from a certain type of Mosquito. It is difficult to detect initially and requires blood tests.
In the USA where it is a common infection there are vaccines to prevent it. It is easy to prevent but difficult to cure.
Lungworms are contracted from slugs and snails or from the slime trail they leave. Toys left in the garden can become contaminated, as can bowls or any other item likely to get into a dogs mouth.

Protozoan infections include Giardia and Coccidia that live in the intestinal wall of infected dogs.
These are picked up from infected faeces or by eating infected meat, perhaps a small rodent or dead animal.
They both cause diarrhea and bowel pain. They can go on for a long time before symptoms are noticed and it takes lab test to clearly identify an infection. If left unattended they will weaken a dog and cause weight loss and do serious long term damage to the intestinal tract.
They can be life threatening.
Other forms of internal protozoan parasites include Amoeba infections which affect the intestines, Coccidiosis, Sarcocystosis (which can be found in raw meat), Cryptosporidium  and one or two others that are (fortunately) rare in the UK.
Key factor in avoiding all of these infections is to stop your dog drinking from stagnating water and eating faeces and dead animals it finds when out walking or in your garden (including slugs, snails and birds) and if you feed raw meat make sure its good quality - or cook it.

Ectoparasites

Fleas, Ticks and other external parasites also need keeping in check. Be wary of some of these proprietary brands you can buy in pets shops as some of these are not very effective.
Spot on treatment is the most common and popular these days where a small amount of the medication is applied to the skin on the back of the dogs neck between the shoulder blades.
Again, best get something your vet recommends and again look to see if you can obtain it at a better price elsewhere.

Ticks are a particular problem because they can carry a range of infections that they can pass onto dogs (and people).
The best know of these infections is Lymes disease but ticks can also carry and spread Canine babesiosis and Ehrlichia canis. These two latter diseases are most common in Africa, Europe and Asia but there have been cases of both in the UK and with the climate warming up it is possible the rate of infection will increase.
Most flea and mite treatments won't deal with ticks so a different medication is needed. This is often a spray.
Ticks are bloodsuckers and are most frequently found in long grass where they climb the blades and hang on waiting for a potential host to pass. They jump to the passing host and feed.
If you find a tick on your dog - or on yourself - there is a free government service to identify the type of tick it is and therefore any potential infection it may be carrying. It is called the Tick Surveillance Scheme and their website explains how to package and send them a tick in the post.

Some of these canine infections can be transmitted to human.
Weil's disease is a human form of Leptospirosis. You can catch roundworms, hookworm, ringworm, giardia, scabies, cryptosporidium, salmonellosis, campylobacter and various types of mites from your dog - oh, did we mention fleas?

It pays to keep your dog healthy. It's worth it for all of you.


General Care

Dental Hygiene

Something often overlooked but very important for the good health of a dog.
These days many dogs suffer from dental problems, particularly older dogs. There are two reasons to try and avoid this.
First, veterinary treatment for dental problems is expensive and often involves extractions which leaves a dog with less teeth to work with.
Second, and more important - toothache hurts.
A dog with mild toothache may not show any symptoms but that does not means it is not in pain. If the problems remains untreated and gets worse a dog may become withdrawn, irritable and maybe even snappy. People do.
Checking teeth on a regular basis is important. Yellowing and darkening of the teeth is a giveaway. Another indication of decay or gum disease is a bad smell on the dogs breath. Badly infected teeth and gums may extrude pus and the smell will be quite strong.
Regular cleaning and descaling is a good thing. A professional veterinary clean will pay for itself by saving greater costs and discomfort to your dog. There are products on the market that help keep dogs teeth in order. Some are in the form of chewing products that help if used regularly. There are also tooth brush and paste options if your dog will co-operate!

Dental hygiene is very important. On it's own it can be a major problems but there are side effects that can make matters worse for the dog. Being poisoned  by swallowing infected material from your own mouth is not pleasant and not being able to chew and eat properly is bad for the digestion, so check your dogs teeth and take action to deal with any problems.

Grooming

Grooming may be regarded as time wasting by some, but regular brushing and combing will help keep the dog free of uncomfortable external parasites that may prove distracting and will further improve the skin and coat by stimulating the production of natural oils.
Additionally grooming will remove dead fur that would otherwise mat into uncomfortable knots.

Particular attention should be paid to the areas behind the ears, under the armpits and groin and at the base of the tail.
Grooming also re-enforces the bond between you and your dog.

Anti parasitic shampoo should also be used regularly, especially if the dog is bedded in straw and some sort of 'spot on' medication administered regularly to reduce parasitic infection.
Get veterinary advice on suitable products.

On a weekly basis check the dogs coat, skin, ears, mouth, nose and eyes for any abnormalities and parasite infections. Feel the dogs throat, chest and abdomen for unusual lumps under the skin.
Examine excreta for signs of worm infections or abnormalities. Consult your Vet immediately should any problems be noticed.
Handle your dog gently and frequently - from as young as possible.
Prompt discovery and action may save a dog’s life.


General Hygiene

In matters of general hygiene it is important to regularly clean compounds, runs and sleeping areas, indoors or out.
Wash food bowls after use and water bowls when refilling.
Don’t use rusting metal bowls, chewed or scratched plastic bowls or cracked ceramic bowls. Throw them out and get a new one. Stainless steel is the best material but even these have a limited life.

If you have more than one dog, each should have it's own bowl, collar, lead, brush and other personal items for general care and all of these need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly.

If you have more than one dog and one develops a health problem that may be contagious, it needs to be isolated from contact with other dogs.
Isolation means that food bowls, water bowls, any equipment used for the infected dog need to be kept separate from others and cleaned with a suitable disinfectant before being used again.
Infected dogs should be kept and exercised away from the others.
Excreta should be hygienically disposed of and used bedding materials should be disinfected when cleaned or incinerated.


Shelter

Adequate shelter should be provided.
If a dog lives in a house as a domestic companion it should have adequate shelter, however some attention needs to be paid to the location of a dogs sleeping area in relation to doorways, heat sources and proximity to substances that may give off fumes or strong odours.

If a dog is to live outside a house, the definition of 'adequate' means more than just a roof.
Think fours walls, roof, draught free, dry, secure, ventilated and with natural light through a glazed window above the dogs reach or covered with a metal mesh inside that prevents the dog from breaking the glass if it can access the window.

Four walls means waterproof and structurally sound walls from floor to roof.
Roof means a covering structure that has no holes, does not leak and protects against the elements.
Draught free means there are no holes, gaps or overlaps in floor, walls or roof that allows an unimpeded and uncontrolled flow of air into the shelter.
Dry means no penetrating damp or water in foul weather or fine through floor, walls or roof.
Secure means that the dog has no way of getting out and also that it has no fear of anything getting in and causing it harm.
Ventilated means a controlled flow of air (as opposed to a hole or two) that can be adjusted according to need and season.
Natural light means daylight from sunrise to sunset so the dog is aware of the natural cycle of the day and seasons. (artificial light could also be provided).

Any suitable shelter should have water available on demand and sufficient space for the dog to relieve itself without contaminating its sleeping area. The placing of the sleeping area should be somewhere that is 'uphill' of any likely flow of liquid, be it urine or an upturned water bowl.


Bedding.

Dogs need to be provided with enough suitable bedding material to enable them to keep themselves warm according to the season, insulation quality and heating provided in their shelter.
This could be straw or hay, blankets, duvets, Vetbed or purpose made dog beds.

If a dog is sleeping in an outbuilding or kennel and run its bed needs to be laid on a raised plinth and contained within a shallow box to keep it in and to keep cold air and draughts out.
Air needs to be able to circulate underneath the bed to prevent the build up of condensation.

A good freestanding bed for a dog kept in an outbuilding can be constructed out of a pallet, flat boarding, sheet of thick rubber insulation, piece of Vetbed and a deep Manitou or tractor tyre filled with straw.
The pallet raises the bed off the ground, the boarding seals the top and supports the insulated rubber.
The tyre lies on top of the rubber sheeting and has a thick layer of straw at the bottom which is covered by a piece of Vetbed and then the inner recess of the tyre is packed tight with straw and the hole in the centre filled with loose straw.

As it compresses new straw should be added to fill the central hole. Bedding should be changed at least weekly and using a system like this it is easy to reach down and lift out the Vetbed with all the loose straw, replace the packed straw below and replace the Vetbed with new straw loose on top. Every few months replace the straw in the tyre recess.

There are many alternative ways of providing a good warm bed for a dog and there should be one for each dog.
A dog may survive a cold night in a poor shelter but it will use a lot of energy keeping itself warm which will weaken it.



Breeding

If you breed a litter, bear in mind that puppies learn manners, cleanliness and social inter - action from their mother and litter mates. Removal and splitting up of litters from the mother at too young an age is counter productive and may leave the pups socially disadvantaged.

The pups should stay with mum until they are 8 weeks of age.
During this time they will learn to interact with other dogs and get some groundwork in dog ‘manners’ and body language. This will assist them in mixing with unknown dogs later in their lives and avoid many confrontations and fights that occur due to ‘misunderstandings’.

It is important that the pups learn trust of humans.
To achieve this, pups should meet and be gently handled by as many different people as possible once their eyes are open. When in contact with humans the experience should be pleasant.
This teaches them to trust strangers avoiding a common behavioural problem of many Border Collies - Fear Aggression, which may lead to humans being nipped or bitten as an act of pre-emptive defence.

Pregnant bitches need more attention, food and care while they are carrying, whelping and feeding their pups.


Stimulation.

As a breed, the Border Collie is a dog born with a mission - they need something to do, not just for the sake of physical exercise - more for the sake of their active minds and inquisitive, exploratory nature.

A lot of problems relating to Border Collies stem from lack of mental stimulation or poor social conditioning, as outlined above.
Working Border Collies will get most of what they need from the company of their handlers, interaction with other dogs and animals on the farm and from the work they do, - providing they have enough of it !

Companions, non workers and ‘off duty’ sheepdogs may find themselves getting bored on occasion and a bored Border Collie usually means trouble.
Regular exercise and interactive roles with handlers are what makes the Border Collie tick.
Pet owners take note and spend more time with your dog - doing things dogs like to do.


If you are interested in adopting a Border Collie from us,
please phone 0845 604 4941 during office hours.
(2 pm to 5 pm Mondays to Thursdays)

Please do not write to us or email us about adoption - we want to speak to you before we start the process.