Bearded Collie Frequently Asked Questions
Questions on Bearded Collie Health
All in all, the Bearded Collie is a healthy breed who lives a long
and loving life - usually an average of about 12 years but possibly
up to 18 years. This is one reason rescue tells people not to worry
if they have an older dog as a candidate. Some other breeds only live
9 years for example.
We can not discuss all the possible health conditions that a Bearded Collie might suffer from. The attempt here is to discuss those that may be related to breeding and those that seem to be common to the breed (or common questions asked about the breed). Beardies are dogs after all, although some Beardies don't seem to think they are.
What About Diet?
First, lets assume your Beardie is getting the exercise it needs and the correct diet to maintain a healthy weight. Common sense requires this. If you feed them a poor quality diet then you will end up with poor health. For packaged foods, a high quality kibble will do. Many owners actually prepare the food for their Beardies. The only comment other comment I will make here is that it is thought that too much protein in the diet can result in allergic like symptoms. the proper amount is somewhere between 18 and 25% protein - so avoid those supercharged diets. In general terms, puppies will require more protein and the senior dog less. If you are into researching such things, you will find food references in the doglinks area. We prefer to keep the protein around 22% and also watch out for other ingredients and avoid many cereal grains (like wheat), soybean, preservatives and such. Never feed your Beardie table food if you want to avoid accident resulting from indigestion.
Is there anything wrong health wise with the Breed?
This is an unspoiled breed (as you would hear the announcer introduce the Bearded Collie at a large dog show). The meaning is clear, breeders have taken extraordinary measure to protect the breed. In fact, most Bearded Collie Breeders do not breed all that frequently and cringe when they see a widely published magazine or television commercial or "heaven forbid" a movie with a Bearded Collie. The reason is that they have seen other breeds become spoiled through commercial breeding, meaning the puppy mills that sell to pet stores. Don't mislead yourself, if you go to a pet store or online "puppy" store, you will likely end up with an unhealthy dog. More on that later.
Does the Breeder Make any difference?
A reputable breeder will research back through many generations of pedigree and attempt to produce the healthiest and most well tempered litters possible. If a breeder can not produce official results of hip testing (such as OFA) and eye tests (such as CERF) or the Sire (father) and Dam (mother), then walk away. The knowledgeable breeder will generally also have information of the history of the line of the Sire and Dam which includes these and other genetic information. This would include litter mates in several generations back. Fortunately the breed does not have a high occurrence of problems in this area, but statistically there is always a chance.
How about Hereditary Diseases?
Hereditary diseases, such as hypothyroidism and other autoimmune diseases are diagnosed in all breeds, and the Bearded Collie is no exception. Hyperthyroidism is the most common and the easiest to treat. Addisons is probably the second most common. There are many other, less common diseases. One reason we hear more about genetic diseases is because they are being diagnosed where previously dogs would die of some unknown cause. Again, the knowledgeable breeder can make educated decisions before a breeding takes place. Advances in the veterinary medicine field have given the diagnostic tools and medicines to treat such disorders and often dogs can live a relatively normal and long life.
Do dogs get cancer?
The answer is yes they do. The are so many causes and types of cancer
that it would be difficult to discuss whether breeding techniques have
much of an influence. Certainly it would be useful to know if there
is a history of cancer in a dogs pedigree. There has been no mention
to believe it a particular problem for Beardiesas far as the author
I have heard that "good breeders" test for things like hips and eyes, what is that all about?
The tests for hips and sometimes elbows are often reported in the US as an OFA rating (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals). This is usually reported for the the sire (father) and Dam (mother) as puppies are too young for the tests to be meaningful. If available, ask for the results of the littermates of the sire and dam, or even further up the the pedigree.
Problems with hips and elbows are referred to as "Dysplasias." Canine Hip Dysplasia is more often tested for in the breed as it is more common than elbow dysplasia. This is an inherited condition, and thus good breeding techniques are important. Larger and heavier breeds normally have a higher rate of problems, but a few percent of Beardies have hip dysplasia.
One of the frustrating things about OFA reported results is that you will only see results published for dogs that have at least a fair rating. If a dog has hip dysplasia no results are reported. Thus it is up to the breeder to advise you if a dog's ancestry includes dysplasia (another reason to pick a good breeder). It is easy for a breeder (commercial or puppy mill) to point out the few "fair" results of a good breeder who does test - when they themselves never test so there is nothing to compare with.
CERF results refer to the eyes. Canine Eye Registration Foundation. The main purpose of the test is to help eliminate heritable eye diseases and tests for disorders that are either known to be or suspected to be hereditary in dogs. It should be noted that a single test in one year may not indicate the dog will not later develop a disorder.
Do they have Allergies?
Many Beardies have allergies or digestive sensitivities. The type and quality of food is often the cause. For example, we have experienced allergies to certain meats and other ingredients in foods. Most often a change to a different diet is the solution to these problems. For example, if the dog is allergic to lamb (yes that can happen), then a switch to poultry (as in chicken and rice kibble) may be the answer. Allergies are noticed most often through loose stool, or scratching or hot spots. In some cases food supplements have been beneficial for skin irritations - such as omega 3,6,and 9 fatty acids (we don't want to get to technical here as we are not veterinarians).
There are other forms of allergies. And we don't want to imply that this is just the case for Beardies For example, it has been suspected that certain tree pollen has been the cause of skin irritations in Bearded Collies. In other cases changes in weather can bring about skin irritations. The long beautiful coat of the bearded Collie can become a mess of tangles, or worse be torn out as they scratch in an attempt to relieve the itching. Lack of humidity can cause static in the long hair, which also can be irritating. Veterinarians can make tests for allergies if you are unable to find the cause. Most often they find that your dog has fleas - so use a flea preventative (but avoid flea powders or strong chemicals - use the monthly preventatives that are applied with droppers on the back instead). In some cases where the Beardie just needs a good grooming. Matting of the undercoat is not good as air can not circulate and get to the skin. That means that dirt and moisture can be trapped and bacteria can grow, and in general the skin will suffer.
Should I clip the hair on my Beardie (what about sunburn I have heard of)?
If you have read other sections of this web site, you may have read about concerns to sun damage to skin - particularly when people have chosen to clip down their Beardies hair in the summer. This has been much debated. One common thought is that the long double coat insulates both against cold and heat. If you do clip, and are concerned, there are grooming sprays with protection against ultraviolet rays. Also, you can use a safe sunburn protection on the sensitive areas of the nose (hypoallergenic, possible the type used on infants)
I have heard that Beardies can be afraid of noises?
Beardies have been known for their sensitivity to loud noises. This includes noises caused by vacuum cleaners, kitchen devices, motorcycles, and the like. They have exceptionally good hearing, thus the noise seems many times louder to them than to you. But certain types of noises seem to irritate some more than others. The best thing to do is ignore them and let them seek out their own methods for avoiding the situation. Take the time to put them outside if you are going to vacuum for example. Never try to make an issue of the situations like saying "poor baby" as it only reinforces the fear. Rather, you should act as if nothing is wrong. Dogs watch your body language and learn from you. Be sure to use common sense, for example if there are going to be loud booms from fire works on the holiday in your area, try to move the dog to an area where he can not hear them (maybe kennel him for the day). Likewise, never let the kids use firecrackers near your home - if they do, you may have a serious issue on your hands.
Any unusual thing I should know about?
In a small number of Bearded Collies, there has been noted an extreme fear of thunderstorms has been noted. This has been investigated by animal behaviorists. And that is your best solution if you come across the problem - seek out a behaviorist with DVM (Doctor of Veterinary Medicine ) credentials. This behavior can become worse with time, early detection and treatment is necessary. In extreme cases some dogs have become hysterical, and gone into a frantic condition. It is best to get them into a safe area, such as the basement and avoid contact in this situation. I don't want you to think this is something you are likely to experience, but something you will recognize in the unlikely event it should happen to your bearded collie.
Does all that hair around the head cause any problems?
Most owners tie up the hair from the eyes on their Beardies It looks nice and gives them more field of vision. Yes, we have seen a Beardie run into things because of hair in their eyes. This is not as common as you would think - probably because the hair tends to flow as if blown back by the wind when they are running and away from the eyes. Most use bands that are protected with cloth so as not to cut through the hair. Also, grooming allows hairs in the corner of their eyes to be removed (short hairs that stick into the eye). But check with a Groomer before doing this, yo could pluck the wrong hairs. As they get older, some feel that the hair is easier to brush up over the eye - giving that characteristic look Beardies have.
With their long hair, Beardies can get irritations to the ears. Regular cleaning of the ears can prevent this. Usually it is a result of moisture being retained in the ears. This can be from rain, swimming or even bathing. Some people suggest putting a large cotton ball in the ears when bathing their Beardie - this can keep the water out (be sure it is large enough to not get lost in the ear and be sure to remove it and dry the ear afterwards). Bacterial or fungal infections can be treated by your veterinarian, usually with a couple of drops of medication each day for a few days. Ear cleaner is also available to help keep the ears clean of excess wax. Your Groomer should also remove any excess hair in the ear by plucking. Of course, there are other types of ear problems (from ear mites, fleas, ticks, etc.)
Excellent references can be found on the Bearded Collie Foundation for Health web page in the Dog Health Reference section
OFA Web site - where you can research Hip and Elbow results