AYWYP: Week 46 – Breed health

How good is your dog’s health?

Beautiful Border Collies, bred for better temperament and health. That’s the tagline for this website and it sums up my ethos as a breeder. The breed health of my dogs is VERY important to me and above all, I want to produce dogs that go on to have long and happy lives.

Border Collie breed health
Sunny, nearly 15 years old

When I ask prospective owners I ask them ‘what is the best and worst thing about owning a dog?’ For me, the worst thing by a mile is coping with a sick and dying dog. It’s absolutely heart breaking. Perhaps it won’t surprise you to know that I monitor the health of all the puppies I’ve produced, recording all their health issues, as far as I can.

How often do you go to the vet?

I’ve been keeping a record of all my vet visits for the last five years. I’ve been 59 times! Wow those vets must love me. Let me break that down a bit more:

  • I’ve had five dogs throughout that time and now have six. So that’s around 12 times per dog.
  • Luna was diagnosed with diabetes after losing her litter, so has been 23 times. She has to be regularly monitored, with blood tests and glucose curves. She has never had a ‘crisis’ and her diabetes continues to be well managed, despite her now being 12 years old.
  • 27 visits have been for vaccinations. Routine, annual check-ups.
  • Sunny was 11 years old five years ago and suffered from arthritis, for which she had medication for a while. She also had pyometra, which involved an emergency operation. She was taken ill and was put to sleep last March, aged 15 (3 visits).
  • I’ve had 5 litters over the past five years. Two of the girls, (Aura and Busy) have now been spayed.
  • This total does not include visits for health testing, such as eyes and hearing.
Border Collies
my diabetic dog

Without the diabetes and the routine vaccination visits, that’s only 9 visits in 5 years! Maybe I’ve missed a few, but actually, that’s not far off. Pretty amazing isn’t it? Thanks to Milton Keynes Veterinary Group for their care of my animals.

Be prepared

Most people insure their pets, although this is not a legal requirement. Is it worth it? I can’t answer that, because I have never insured my pets. I’m fortunate to have enough money to pay for vet bills and with multiple dogs, the premiums would be enormous.

Labrador breed health
the healthiest breed?

Whether you insure them or not, be prepared for them to be ill. They will definitely be ill during their lifetime! Sadly, some breeds are much more prone to illness and health problems than others. Someone recently said that they wouldn’t get another Labrador, because the one she’d just lost had had cancer. I’ve spoken to a couple of vets since then, who agree that Labs are one of the healthiest breeds you can have. As long as their hips and elbows have been checked before being used for breeding.

Breed health issues

Sadly, some breeds have inherent health issues. Most notably the brachycephalic breeds, such as the Pug, or any kind of bulldog. I’ve already talked about the poor bulldog at this year’s Crufts and what the Kennel Club are doing about it.

Not healthy

There are lots of breeds that can live fit, healthy, happy lives. Top tip: Get a dog that looks like a dog! The more this animal is distorted, the more likely it is to have problems.

“One way of reducing your pet insurance bill it to avoid dog breeds that attract higher premiums, such as Great Danes, French Bulldogs or Chihuahuas. Research by Which? consumer group found choice of breed made a difference by as much as £450 to an annual premium.”

Financial Times

Living a long life

Generally, dogs live for around 10-12 years. However, this will vary according to many factors. A recent paper published by VetCompass shows that brachycephalic breeds like the French Bulldog live on average for just 4.5 years, compared to Border Collies, who live just over 12 years, on average.

Life expectancy
Living the longest, almost

This statistic is skewed by high puppy mortality in some breeds compared to others. I’ve only had one puppy die soon after birth. Of the remaining 64, all but three are still alive, with six of my first litter of seven pups still going. Hopefully that will continue..

Border Collies
12 year old sisters

If you want to improve your dog’s life expectancy, read my 7 tips on being a brilliant dog owner. Or read the article on the Collieology Facebook group.

Weekly Focus Challenge

How healthy has your dog been so far?  How many times have you been to the vet?  Has it been worthwhile having your dog insured?  Would you be able/prepared to pay £5000 to treat a complex medical condition? 

NB: Remember that people don’t become vets to make lots of money.  They do it because they LOVE animals.  If your dog has been poorly bred or raised, or has genetic problems, that is your problem. 

Buy the Workbook

The Workbook – A Year With Your Puppy is available to buy. It was written and designed to be a hands-on, interactive book for you. It will help you survive the first year with your puppy, but also act as a memento of that time and the journey you have been on. You can write notes and stick in pictures of your puppy throughout the year. Lovely!


Please CONTACT ME if you want to know more about me and my dogs?  And feel free to COMMENT if you want to tell me what you think.  If you want to know more, why not FOLLOW ME, by filling in your email address below?  Then you will receive an email when there is a new post.


NB: I am not a dog trainer, or a dog behaviourist, just a dog breeder and owner. I can only offer my opinion, based on my experience.

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