What Causes Border Collie Collapse Syndrome?

Border collie collapse occurs most often in working dogs.
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It happens quickly: One moment your border collie is his typical active self and the next he has fallen over and is out of it. Fortunately, most animals experiencing border collie collapse recover within half an hour -- but the episodes repeat themselves if the dog strenuously exercises. The exact cause of border collie collapse is unknown as of 2014, but research is ongoing. For a workaholic border collie, being forced into a life as a couch potato is tough to take.

Border Collie Collapse Symptoms

Border collie collapse doesn't usually occur in dogs who are going about normal activities. Working border collies -- such as those herding sheep or those engaged in competition such as flyball or agility -- are most at risk. Dogs working during hot weather are more likely to suffer an episode. Besides collapse, affected dogs often develop a wobbly gait. They might appear mentally normal or disoriented. In rare cases, dogs have expired after experiencing a collapse episode.

Study Project

Researchers at the University of Minnesota, University of California at San Diego and the University of Saskatchewan are studying the root causes of border collie collapse. They collect blood samples from dogs suspected of suffering from the disorder to investigate a possible genetic reason for these episodes. Researchers also seek pedigree information about affected dogs. Currently, dogs are diagnosed with border collie collapse if other conditions, such as exercise-induced hyperthermia, are ruled out. No specific test or treatment is available.

Physical Testing

Veterinarian Sue Taylor at the University of Saskatchewan has performed "strenuous exercise studies" with border collies to learn about the condition. As of 2014, these studies indicate that affected dogs have normal heart evaluations, along with normal levels of electrolytes, blood sugar and cortisol in their bodies. Affected dogs appear normal when they're not working; but after less than 15 minutes of extensive physical activity, symptoms become apparent. Some dogs are fine during the physical exercise, collapsing about five minutes after the activity ends.

Not Just Border Collies

Although the condition is termed border collie collapse, evidence shows this syndrome affects other dog breeds, particularly other herding breeds including the collie, the bearded collie and the Shetland sheepdog. Working breeds originating Down Under appear prone to this collapse syndrome, including the Australian cattle dog, the Australian shepherd and the Australian kelpie. A similar issue has been documented in the Labrador retriever but, in that case, the genetic link has been determined. The mutation causing exercise-induced collapse in Labs is not the same as in border collies.