Collie Health Information

Picture this: one sunny afternoon, a playful Collie pup named Riley dashes around the backyard, chasing butterflies with boundless energy. But beneath that adorable exterior, Collies, like all dogs, have health needs that require attention and care from conscientious breeders. Let’s walk through some of these health considerations so pups’ like Riley may live happy and healthy lives!

Here are the OFA recommended Health Clearances for Collies (Rough & Smooth):

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) DNA Test=     DNA-based rcd2-PRA test results from an approved lab. First Generation Offspring of tested dogs eligible for Clear By Parentage*

Multiple Drug Sensitivity=     DNA-based MDR1 test results from an approved lab. First Generation Offspring of tested dogs are eligible for Clear By Parentage

Dermatomyositis= DNA based DMS test results from an approved lab.

DOGG!T recommends all breeders to do CAER eye exams to be done around 8 weeks of age. This is to identify the severity of CEA and if there are any other eye conditions noted. 

*“Clear by Parentage” refers to a genetic status in which a puppy is considered clear of certain inherited diseases or conditions based on the genetic testing of its parents. When both parents of a puppy have been genetically tested and found to be clear of a particular disease or condition, their offspring are assumed to inherit this clear status “by parentage.” This term is commonly used in breeding programs to indicate that a puppy has a reduced risk of inheriting specific genetic disorders due to the clear genetic status of its parents.

Common health concerns in this breed:


Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA)  (PRA test confirms if the dog is normal, at risk or affected.)

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) is a genetic eye disorder identified in various breeds, with a higher prevalence in herding dogs, particularly collies and Shetland sheepdogs. This mutation impacts the inner eye structures, including the choroid, retina, and optic disk.

Researchers initially observed this issue in the 1960s, but it wasn’t until 2007 that the specific mutation was identified. It was discovered to be prevalent in most Collies and Collie families. The physical symptoms of Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) manifest before birth and can vary in severity.

A Board Certified Ophthalmologist can easily check for CEA in puppies at 6-8 weeks. The eyes are dilated for the examination, allowing the interior to be assessed with an ophthalmoscope. Any abnormalities are noted, and although a historical grading system was used, today only the abnormal findings are recorded. Thanks to selective breeding focusing on the least severely affected dogs, most dogs with CEA exhibit no vision defects.

CEA follows an autosomal recessive pattern, requiring two copies of the mutation for symptoms to manifest. Fortunately, this disorder typically does not worsen with time.

Breeders are advised to have ophthalmic examinations for CEA conducted on their puppies at 6-8 weeks. While the Optimal Selection test can detect the genetic mutation for CEA, it does not replace the need for examination by an ophthalmologist.


Multi-Drug Resistance 1 (MDR1) is a genetic disorder found in many herding breeds, including Collies. (MDR1 Test confirms if the dog is normal, at-risk, or affected)

Here are key points about MDR1 in Collies:

  • Genetic Mutation: MDR1 is caused by a genetic mutation that makes the natural barriers in the body more permeable. This mutation affects the function of a protein called P-glycoprotein, responsible for transporting certain drugs out of cells.
  • Common in Collies: MDR1 is particularly prevalent in Collies. Depending on the source, approximately 55% to 70% of the Collie population may be affected by this mutation.
  • Autosomal Dominant Inheritance: MDR1 follows an autosomal dominant inheritance pattern. This means that only one copy of the mutated gene is required for a dog to be affected. There is no carrier status for MDR1; a dog either has one or two copies of the mutated gene.
  • Drug Sensitivity: Dogs with MDR1 may react negatively to certain medications, as the mutation makes them more susceptible to the toxic effects of these drugs. Ivermectin and its derivatives are notable examples of drugs that can cause problems in Collies with MDR1.
  • Washington State University’s PrIMe Laboratory: This institution is a leader in MDR1 research in the United States. They provide a list of veterinary drugs affected by MDR1.
  • Symptoms of MDR1-Related Neurotoxicity: Dogs with MDR1 may exhibit symptoms such as weakness, lethargy, loss of coordination (ataxia), disorientation, tremors, seizures, blindness, and, in severe cases, death.
  • Testing and Research: The Collie Health Foundation has been actively funding research into MDR1 since 1989. They subsidize MDR1 DNA tests for Collies owned by their members.


Dermatomyositis is a hereditary, inflammatory disease that primarily affects the skin and muscles of certain dog breeds, including Collies. It is also known as Collie Nose or Sheltie Skin Syndrome. This condition is thought to have an autoimmune component, where the dog’s immune system attacks its own skin and muscle tissues.

In Collies, Dermatomyositis typically manifests as lesions on the face, particularly around the eyes, lips, and nose. These lesions often appear as crusted, scaly patches of skin, and may progress to ulceration and scarring. Additionally, affected dogs may experience muscle weakness and atrophy, particularly in the muscles of the head and limbs.

The exact cause of Dermatomyositis in Collies is not fully understood, but it is believed to have a genetic basis. The condition is thought to be inherited in an autosomal recessive manner, meaning that both parents must carry the gene mutation for their offspring to be affected. Responsible breeding practices are the main preventative measure. 

Diagnosis of Dermatomyositis in Collies is typically based on clinical signs, breed predisposition, and histopathological examination of skin biopsy samples. Treatment options for Dermatomyositis in Collies aim to manage symptoms and include topical and systemic medications to control inflammation and prevent secondary infections. Supportive care such as proper nutrition and avoidance of environmental triggers may help manage the condition.

While Dermatomyositis in Collies cannot be cured, affected dogs can still live fulfilling lives with appropriate management and care. Responsible breeding practices, such as health and genetic testing and selective breeding help reduce the prevalence of this condition within the Collie population.  Regular veterinary check-ups and proactive management are essential for maintaining the health and well-being of Collies affected by Dermatomyositis.

The Questions you are wondering!…

Can my Collie’s eyes become worse when they get older?

The chances of a Collie going blind due to mild Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) are generally low. Dogs with mild CEA often maintain adequate vision throughout their lives. It’s important to note that CEA affects the inner structures of the eye, and the severity of symptoms can vary. With careful breeding practices and regular veterinary check-ups, including ophthalmic examinations, breeders aim to reduce the impact of CEA in the Collie population. In many cases, dogs with mild CEA can adapt well to their surroundings and lead healthy lives without significant vision impairment.

A Collie born with severe Staphyloma or Vascular Disease may be at risk of experiencing significant complications related to their eyes. Here’s what can happen:

  • Vision Loss: Severe Staphyloma or Vascular Disease can lead to vision impairment or loss. These conditions may involve structural abnormalities or vascular issues within the eye that can affect the visual function.
  • Detachment: Staphyloma, in particular, refers to a bulging or weakened area in the eyeball. Severe cases may result in the detachment of the retina, leading to vision problems or even blindness.
  • Hemorrhage: Vascular Disease may involve issues with the blood vessels supplying the eyes. Severe hemorrhage within the eye can occur, further compromising vision and potentially leading to blindness.

It’s crucial for Collies with such severe conditions to receive prompt and specialized veterinary care. Regular eye examinations by a board-certified ophthalmologist can help monitor and manage these conditions, and breeders may take precautions to avoid passing on severe genetic eye disorders through responsible breeding practices.

Are there any Collies with full non carriers of CEA?

CEA non-carriers are extremely hard to come by. In the Collie community, a significant portion of our gene pool consists of dogs affected by MDR1 and CEA. Although significant efforts are underway by responsible breeders to enhance these traits through breeding, it remains widely acceptable to breed dogs that are affected by these conditions. It’s a challenge to find dogs that are clear (N/N) for both MDR1 and CEA, let alone one of them. Strictly limiting our gene pool in this manner could lead to extinction of the breed.

To address eye-related concerns, The Collie Club of America mandates CAER eye exams around 8 weeks of age. This helps assess the severity of CEA and identify any other potential eye conditions. Breeders commonly rely on these eye exam results for breeding decisions, given the scarcity of dogs with clear genetic statuses for CEA. The rarity of both carriers and non-carriers for CEA makes genetic testing less practical in guiding breeding choices.  DOGG!T collaborates with breeders to prioritize the breed’s health, ensuring responsible breeding decisions are made with utmost consideration.

What drugs are a problem for MDR1?

  • Ivermectin and its derivatives: Used in heartworm preventatives and some anti-parasitic treatments. Collies with MDR1 can experience neurotoxic effects, especially at higher doses.
  • Loperamide (Imodium): An over-the-counter anti-diarrheal medication. Dogs with MDR1 may be more sensitive to this drug.
  • Cyclosporine: An immunosuppressive drug often used in veterinary medicine. Collies with MDR1 may experience adverse reactions.
  • Doxorubicin: A chemotherapy drug. Dogs with MDR1 can be more susceptible to its toxic effects.
  • Vincristine and Vinblastine: Chemotherapy drugs. Dogs with MDR1 may experience increased sensitivity.

Are there any Collies that are full non-carriers of MDR1?

Finding dogs that are clear (N/N) for the Multi-Drug Resistance 1 (MDR1) mutation when breeding Collies can be challenging, primarily due to the prevalence of the mutation in the breed. The MDR1 mutation is autosomal dominant, meaning that a dog only needs one copy of the mutated gene to express the trait. This makes it more common for dogs to have one or two copies of the mutated gene (N/M or M/M).

Because having one copy of the mutated gene still results in the dog being affected, there isn’t a carrier status (N/M) in the traditional sense. In autosomal dominant conditions, dogs with one copy of the mutated gene can show the trait, so they are considered affected. As a result, finding dogs that are completely clear (N/N) for MDR1 is less common.  It’s crucial to recognize that the genetic makeup of a dog is a combination of its parents’ genes. Therefore, even if both parents are tested N/N, there might still be a small chance of the offspring inheriting the mutation if there are carriers in their genetic background.  

How often does Dermatomyositis happen in collies and what should I do to help my dog if he has it?

Dermatomyositis is relatively uncommon in Collies, but it can occur within certain bloodlines. If your Collie is diagnosed with Dermatomyositis, work closely with your veterinarian to develop a tailored treatment plan, which may include medications to control inflammation and manage pain. Ensure your dog receives a balanced diet to support its overall health, and minimize exposure to potential triggers such as sunlight and harsh chemicals. Practice gentle grooming and skin care routines, provide support, and monitor your dog’s symptoms closely for any changes. While Dermatomyositis cannot be cured, proper management and care can help affected Collies lead happy and comfortable lives. Responsible breeding practices also help reduce the prevalence of the condition within the Collie population.

What are responsible breeders doing to improve the breed?

Responsible breeders have been aiming to improve the Collie breed for Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) typically undertake several key measures:

  • Regular Ophthalmic Examinations: Conducting regular eye examinations by board-certified veterinary ophthalmologists to detect and assess CEA in breeding dogs. This practice helps ensure that dogs with potential eye issues are not used in the breeding program.
  • Genetic Testing: Utilizing advanced genetic testing to identify dogs carrying the CEA mutation. This enables breeders to make informed decisions in selecting breeding pairs, reducing the likelihood of producing offspring with severe CEA. 
  • Selective Breeding: Employing selective breeding practices that prioritize pairing dogs with clear or minimally affected CEA status. This helps decrease the prevalence of the CEA mutation in the gene pool over time.
  • Collaboration with Veterinary Specialists: Collaborating with veterinary specialists and organizations dedicated to canine health to stay informed about advancements in CEA research and breeding strategies.
  • Educating Buyers: Educating puppy buyers about the importance of CEA testing and responsible breeding. Providing information on how to choose a reputable breeder who prioritizes the health and well-being of the dogs they produce.
  • Supporting Research: Actively supporting and contributing to research initiatives focused on understanding and managing CEA. This can include participating in studies and funding research projects aimed at finding ways to reduce the impact of CEA in the Collie breed.

The Multi-Drug Resistance 1 (MDR1) mutation was first identified in Collies in the early 1980s. Researchers discovered that certain herding breeds, including Collies, had a genetic mutation that made them more sensitive to certain drugs. This sensitivity was particularly evident in drugs like ivermectin, which is commonly used in veterinary medicine for parasite control.

The research and identification of the MDR1 mutation led to a better understanding of drug sensitivities in Collies and other herding breeds. Since then, genetic testing for MDR1 has become a valuable tool for breeders and veterinarians to make informed decisions about medications and treatments for dogs with this mutation.

It’s important to note that responsible breeding practices, including OFA recommended and Collie Parent Club recommended testing along with careful selection of breeding pairs, have been instrumental in managing and reducing the impact of MDR1 in the Collie population. 

Responsible breeders take proactive measures to reduce chances of Dermatomyositis in Collies. All responsible breeders (and all that are on DOGG!T’s platform) conduct genetic and health testing which is DNA based results that are from an approved lab and then submitted to The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals to approve and record the clearance in a national database. This test helps breeders identify carriers of the gene mutation associated with the condition and selectively breed dogs that are free from the mutation or carriers with non-carrier mates.

Our DOGG!T breeders form the foundation of these improvements for the breed.  Each and every breeder on DOGG!T’s platform performs the health clearances that are recommended above, additionally, those clearances are screened with passing grades reviewed for validity by DOGG!T Concierge Team members. Thank you for doing some research!  Ask us or any of our breeders for more insight about any of the above, their breeding programs, and any other questions you may have regarding the health and happiness of a Collie.