Epilepsy Unfortunately, idiopathic epilepsy is very common in Border Collies and there is no way to test for it yet. It is unknown if it is genetic or just a breed that is over represented due to their natural sensitive natures. But due to certain crosses producing high percentages of affected puppies, there is believed to be a genetic basis. Australian Shepherds, Miniature Australian Shepherds, and Miniature American Shepherds are also considered at risk for epilepsy, but it is a much more rare occurrence. The ABCA has been funding epilepsy research for decades, but so far they have not been unable to find the genetic cause. If it is genetic, there will eventually be a genetic test for it and we can try to breed healthier crosses. Until then, most breeders avoid crossing certain lines that are known to produce large numbers of epileptics. Epilepsy is a devastating disease for any dog and owner. Most seizures are caused by another disease or trauma, but when there is no reason for the seizures, it is labeled as idiopathic epilepsy. Other known causes of seizures include: trauma, toxin, diet, tick borne diseases, thyroid diseases, infections, meningitis, electrolyte imbalances, hyperthermia, hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, autoimmune, cancer... Many epilepsy cases are managed with diet and medications, but some do not respond to any treatments. From a breeding standpoint, a breeder's biggest fear is producing epilepsy. Most breeders try to breed the cleanest lines, but finding a completely clean pedigree has become almost impossible. Not knowing how it is inherited also creates a difficult breeding situation. We have not knowingly bred any dogs with known epilepsy or any dogs with epilepsy themselves in the pedigree. We have bred multiple dogs with known producers in the pedigree. Very few of our dogs have a completely clean, 5 generation pedigrees. We try to breed with dogs that have minimal risk, but as the database grows, those are becoming impossible to find. Of the few we have found, they do not have the temperament that we want to add to our program. We have been asked many times to cross certain dogs and refused due to higher than normal epilepsy risks. Unfortunately, that does limit many of our breeding options and is one of the main reasons we are always breeding to outside studs and are trying to limit repeat crosses. Most dogs with epilepsy will start having seizure at a young age, with most starting before 3 years of age. Some dogs start having seizures as young as 6 months old. We prefer to not breed our BCs until at least three years of age for this reason. We are always open about our knowledge of epilepsy producers in our line and always welcome any questions, especially from anyone hoping to breed with any dogs from our lines. We also greatly appreciate firsthand knowledge of dogs in our lines that have produced epilepsy. The more open breeders are about possible epilepsy in the lines, the less likely we are to repeat mistakes already made at other kennels. Despite the insanely large amounts of time researching pedigrees, we will eventually produce epilepsy.
Here is a searchable database with links to many other databases: https://bcepilepsy.weebly.com/database.html