I graduated as a veterinary surgeon in 1983 from Murdoch University, Western Australia.  Apart from 18 months in mixed practice, I have been in small animal practice ever since.  
I have owned my own clinic just outside London for the last ten years.

I started breeding and showing Rough Collies in 2005 and in 2009, I was delighted to be invited to join the committee of L & PCC as Health Coordinator.

We are very fortunate in our two breeds to have few health problems compared with other breeds.  However, there are still recommendations from the Kennel Club for the Assured Breeders Scheme and other responsible breeders to test all breeding stock before contemplating producing the next generations of Rough and Smooth Collies.  All dogs undergoing Kennel Club testing are now required to be permanently identified by either microchip or ear tattoo or both before being tested.  The current recommendations are for Hip Scoring and Eye Testing.


This is done by a veterinarian x-raying the dog’s hips and forwarding the radiograph to the KC/BVA panel of specialists.  The dog must be a minimum of 12 months of age before it can be hip scored.  The specialists score each of nine features of each hip, and the sum of the points becomes the dog’s hip score.  The minimum score for each hip is 0 and the maximum is 53, giving a total score range of 0 to 106.  The lower the score, the closer to “perfect” the hips are which should give the dog and its offspring the best chance of good mobility for life.  Currently, the mean score for Rough and Smooth collies is around 12.  Once a dog has been hip scored, it keeps that score for life.




Eye Disease in Collies

"Your Collie's Eyes"

(Cross-section of the Canine Eye)

Like people, Dogs are subject to a large number of inherited eye diseases. Two which can affect a Collie's eyes should be of concern to all breeders.

There are four main conditions currently tested for, two the dog can be born with and the other two that can develop later in life.  Because of this, breeding dogs should be eye tested annually.

Collie Eye Anomaly is divided into Choroidal Hypoplasia and Coloboma.  Choroidal Hypoplasia is one or more areas of lack of pigment, or pale patch, on the retina (the back of the eye).  This is seen best in young puppies, so testing is recommended at about 6 weeks of age.  As the dog gets older, the lack of pigment is more difficult to detect so the dog appears to “go normal”.  Choroidal Hypoplasia causes most dogs little or no problem, but can very occasionally lead to retinal detachment and blindness.  There is now a genetic test available, done by a lab called Optigen, in the USA.  Coloboma is a defect usually of the optic nerve, varying from a shallow depression to a defect several millimetres deep.  There is currently no genetic test for Coloboma.  Coloboma is a recessive condition, so dogs will be affected, carriers or clear.  It is important to have as many generations as possible clear of Coloboma to have the best chance of breeding from genetically clear dogs.

Generalised Progressive Retinal Atrophy (GPRA) and Central Progressive Retinal Atrophy (CPRA) are conditions that develop later in life.  GPRA will usually first manifest as loss of night vision but will progress to total blindness. There is no treatment or cure.  GPRA can also be tested for genetically via Optigen.  CPRA  causes reduction of sight also, firstly in bright light, but sight usually remains adequate in dim light and rarely progresses to total blindness.



Multi Drug Resistance 1 is gene currently causing a lot of discussion amongst Collie Breeders.  It is not currently a recommended test for the KC Assured Breeders’ Scheme.  MDR1 is the gene responsible for producing a protein called P glycoprotein.  P glycoprotein removes certain drugs from cells.  It is a recessive gene, so dogs with one or two MDR1 genes have difficulty, or are unable to remove certain drugs, which can cause serious and sometimes fatal reactions.

The problem was first noticed with the introduction of a drug called Ivermetin in 1983.  This was developed as an antiparasite drug for horses, sheep and cattle.  When given to some breeds of dogs, mostly Rough and Smooth Collies and Shelties, many of them died.  In 2004, researchers at Washington State University published their work on the cause.  They had discovered the gene responsible and a test for this has subsequently been developed.  The test requires a blood sample or two cheek swabs.  The samples can be submitted to Laboklin in the UK, Genomia in the Czech Republic or Veterinary Clinical Pharmacology Lab in the USA.


The gene has been traced back to a single working Collie bitch born in the UK in approximately 1873, and has now spread world wide.  Rough and Smooth Collies are by far the most commonly affected breeds, with about 70% being either carriers or affected.  It must be stressed that these dogs are absolutely normal, healthy dogs in every other way; they just cannot tolerate a small number of drugs.


The drugs currently to be avoided: Ivermectin and Doramectin.  These are both antiparasite drugs of farm livestock.  Most poisonings in dogs come from dogs chewing the used horse wormer containers, so beware! Doxorubicin, Vinblastin and Vincristin are anticancer drugs.  Any Rough or Smooth Collie having chemotherapy should be MDR1 tested first.  Immodium, an over the counter diarrhoea preparation for humans, and Erythromycin, an antibiotic used for Campylobacter infection.


MDR1 has been largely ignored by the veterinary press up to now, so any vet who graduated before 2005 (when an MDR1 lecture was included in the veterinary curriculum) is unlikely to know about it.  Don’t feel shy of telling your vet about it – most will be glad of the information and will look it up and use the knowledge to your dog’s benefit.


The Rough Collie Breed Council produced a useful leaflet on MDR1, which is available on their website.    Just beware, most websites including a section on MDR1 list far more drugs than are actually a problem.  Many of these drugs are taken straight from human MDR1 drug lists and are not given to dogs, but do make the list quite alarming.



Kate Arrowsmith MRCVS

Health Co-ordinator

London & Provincial Collie Club

Holding also the post of Rough Collie Breed Council Health Co-ordinator.