The Breed History
The rough and smooth Collie can both trace their origins to Scotland and England. In the early 19th century a taller, more refined dog had evolved. A favorite breed of Queen Victoria, and also a star as "Lassie" on television, this breed has maintained popularity for many years. The name may have arisen from the name of the sheep they often guarded in Scotland called the Colley sheep. Others propose the name is Gaelic for "useful".
Breeding for Function
These, the quintessential herding dog were strictly working dogs until about 200 years ago. They have now taken their place as a competition dog, but also are a valued companion. They have also excelled as rescue and guide dogs.
Height at Withers: female 22-24" (56-61 cm), male 24-26" (61-66 cm)
Weight: females 50-65 lb (23-29.5 kg) , males 60-75lb (27-34 kg).
Coat: Rough Collie standard: The thick double haircoat runs over the body except on head and legs; the outer layer is harsh and straight, the inner layer is soft and wooly. Around the neck is a pronounced mane of very thick hair that is more developed in males. Recognized colors include tri-color, blue merle, white and sable and white. Note that the "white" dog has a predominance of white with markings of sable, blue merle or tri-color.
Smooth: A thick undercoat and a short (1"), dense flat coat are the standard.
Longevity: 14-16 years.
Points of Conformation: This breed of dog has a very bright demeanor and their alert "Collie expression" is one of the points of judging. The dog presents a balanced appearance with straight limbs, deep chest, and a smallish head (dolichocephalic skull) with a slight stop and a tapering but blunted muzzle. The eyes are medium sized, almond-shaped and match coat color except in the merle. The ears are normally tipped at the top quarter. Topline is level. Their feet are small, but the toes are well arched. The tail reaches to the tarsal joint or lower.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include that these dogs are particularly good around children in general. This breed is loyal and makes a good family watchdog-they are vigorous alarm barkers. They have high intelligence and are easy to train. They can be aloof with strangers, and are active outdoors, though less active than border Collies on average. Sometimes, they will nip at children's heels in an attempt to herd them, but training can eliminate this tendency. Regular grooming is necessary; they are considered high shedders. Note that rough and smooth types may occur in the same litter of puppies.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Merle Coat Color: Caused by a dominant mutation in the SILV gene. Breeding two merle dogs together should be avoided, as homozygous dogs can be born with multiple defects, including blindness, deafness, and heart anomalies.
MDR1 Mutation (Ivermectin/Drug Toxicity): Autosomal recessive disorder in the MDR1 gene allows high CNS drug levels of ivermectin, doramectin, loperamide, vincristine, moxidectin, and other drugs. Causes neurological signs, including tremors, seizures, and coma. A genetic test is available for the mutated gene, showing 35.4% of Collies are affected, and 42.0% are carriers. In Germany, 33.0% test homozygous affected, and 43.1% test as carriers.
Collie Eye Anomaly/Choroidal Hypoplasia/Coloboma (CEA/CH): Autosomal recessive disorder of eye development that can lead to retinal detachment and blindness. Reported in 67.77% of Collies CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding affected dogs. Reported at a frequency of 24.1% in the Collie Health Foundation Online Health Survey. In switzerland, 8.9% smooth and 36.9% rough collies were affected. Dorn reports a 31.46x odds ratio versus other breeds. A genetic test is available.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 2.8% affected. Reported at a frequency of 3.2% in the Collie Health Foundation Online Health Survey.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 1.0% affected.
Grey Collie Cyclic Neutropenia: Collies that are homozygous for the dilute (d locus) gene are Grey Collies. Grey Collies can have an autosomal recessive disorder where circulating neutrophil numbers drop every 12 days due to a bone marrow abnormality in blood cell production. Affected dogs are prone to serious infection during episodes of neutropenia, and usually die from chronic infectious insults to the organs. A genetic test is available.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA, rcd-2): An autosomal recessive, early onset rod, cone dysplasia form of PRA can occur in the breed with an onset of 6 weeks of age, and progressing to blindness by 1 year. A genetic test is available.
von Willebrand's disease (vWD): Type II vWD in the Collie is a serious, sometimes fatal, autosomal recessive bleeding disorder. Cryoprecipitate is more effective, with fewer side effects, than fresh frozen plasma in controlling bleeding episodes. A genetic test is available.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Collies have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 16.31% of Collies CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Dorn reports a 4.53x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Retinal Dysplasia: Focal retinal dysplasia and retinal folds are recognized in the breed. Severe cases can progress to retinal detachment. Reported in 7.58% of Collies CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Demodicosis, Generalized: Overgrowth of demodex mites in the skin causing hair loss and dermatitis. An immune deficiency underlies the condition. Reported at a frequency of 6.3% in the Collie Health Foundation Online Health Survey.
Gastric Dilation/Volvulus (GDV, Bloat): Life-threatening twisting of the stomach within the abdomen. Requires immediate veterinary attention. Glickman found a 2.1x risk of developing GDV per year of life in Collies. Reported at a frequency of 5.3% in the Collie Health Foundation Online Health Survey.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 4.5% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%) Reported at a frequency of 5.1% in the Collie Health Foundation Online Health Survey.
Idiopathic Epilepsy: Inherited seizures. Can be generalized or partial seizures. Collies have an increased incidence versus other breeds. Control with anti-seizure medication. Unknown mode of inheritance. Seizures were reported at a frequency of 5.1%, and epilepsy at 1.6% in the Collie Health Foundation Online Health Survey.
Allergic Dermatitis: Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis. Reported at a frequency of 4.3% in the Collie Health Foundation Online Health Survey.
Microphthalmia: A congenital defect characterized by a small globes of the eye. Often associated with merle. Identified in 1.56% of Collies CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding affected dogs.
Dermatomyositis: Inherited disorder causing patches of scaling, crusting and alopecia over the muzzle, periorbital skin and distal limbs, and an associated myositis especially affecting the masticatory muscles. Onset between 3-6 months of age. Mode of inheritance is unknown, though some researchers suspect autosomal dominant with incomplete penetrance. Reported at a frequency of 1.5% in the Collie Health Foundation Online Health Survey.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 1.39% of Collies CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cataracts: Nuclear cataracts predominate in the breed. Identified in 1.03% of Collies CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. CERF does not recommend breeding any Collie with a cataract.
Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA): Collies have an increased risk of developing AIHA versus other breeds. Females are more frequently affected than males. Clinical features included pale mucous membranes, weakness, lethargy and collapse. Treatment with prednisone is successful in most cases.
Pemphigus Foliaceus: The breed has an increased risk (3.9x odds ratio) of developing pemphigus foliaceus. Clinical signs include crusting lesions to the dorsal part of the muzzle and head, progressing to the body. Diagnosis is with biopsy.
Chronic Pancreatitis: Often subclinical inflammation of the pancreas that can cause intermittent discomfort and gastrointestinal upsets, and can possibly lead to pancreatic insufficiency or diabetes mellitus. Collies have a 2.0x relative risk versus other breeds.
Corneal Dystrophy: The breed can have an epithelial/stromal form of corneal dystrophy. Age of onset 2-5 years. Identified in 0.56% of Collies CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Vesicular Cutaneous Lupus Erythematosus (Nasal Solar Dermatitis): Adult onset vesicular form of lupus that causes annular, polycyclic and serpiginous ulcerations distributed over sparsely haired areas of the body. These especially occur during the summer months due to ultraviolet exposure. Treatment is with immunosuppressive drugs and sunscreen.
Pancreatic Acinar Atrophy (Exocrine pancreatic insufficiency): Collies are a breed at risk for immune-mediated pancreatic acinar atrophy. Clinical signs are poor weight gain, and steatorrhea. Treatment is with enzyme supplementation. Breeding studies suggest an autosomal recessive mode of inheritance in German shepherd dogs, another breed found at risk.
Proliferative Keratoconjunctivitis (Nodular granulomatous episclerokeratitis): Inflammatory proliferative condition of the conjunctiva, sclera, cornea, or nictitans seen most frequently in the Collie versus other breeds. Average age of onset is 3.8 years. Requires lifelong immunosuppressive therapy.
Gastric Carcinoma: The Collie breed appears to have a higher incidence of gastric carcinoma compared to other breeds. The most frequent clinical features are vomiting, polydipsia and weight loss, with endoscopic findings of a large deep ulcer with thickened, irregular rims and walls.
Perineal Hernia: Older male Collies have a predisposition to developing perineal hernias. Treatment is surgical.
Nasal Adenocarcinoma: Collies have an increased risk versus other breeds of developing nasal adenocarcinoma. Clinical signs include chronic nasal infection, discharge, and epistaxis.
Diabetes Mellitus (Sugar Diabetes): Treat with insulin injections, diet, and glucose monitoring. A British study reported Collies with an increased incidence versus other breeds; however an American study found Collies to have a decreased risk. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Colorectal Polyp: The Collie breed is over-represented with diagnoses of colorectal polyps versus other breeds. Clinical signs include dyschezia, periodic intermittent diarrhea and melena, and rectal prolapse of the polyp. Treatment is with surgery. Some polyps can be malignant.
Idiopathic Horner's Syndrome: Collies may be predisposed to the development of Horner's syndrome. Affected dogs have an acute onset of unilateral miosis, ptosis of the upper eyelid, enophthalmos and protrusion of the third eyelid. Most cases resolve without treatment within weeks to months.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM): Affected dogs show an insidious onset of upper motor neuron (UMN) paraparesis. The disease eventually progresses to severe tetraparesis. Affected dogs have normal results on myelography, MRI, and CSF analysis. Necropsy confirms the condition. A direct genetic test for an autosomal recessive DM susceptibility gene is available. All affected dogs are homozygous for the gene, however only a small percentage of homozygous dogs develop DM. A genetic test for the DM susceptibility gene is available.
Brachygnathism, Central Progressive Retinal Atrophy, Cerebellar Abiotrophy, Dysfibrinogenemia, Entropion, Factor VIII Deficiency, Neuroaxonal Dystrophy, Osteochondritis Dessicans-Stifle, Patent Ductus Arteriosis, Posterior Crossbite, Prognathism, Sebaceous Adenitis, and Supernumerary Teeth are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Hypercholesterolemia: Five related rough Collie dogs were diagnosed with corneal lipidosis and hypercholesterolemia. The corneal lipidosis improved with short-chain fructo-oligosaccharide supplementation. However, total cholesterol levels remained high.
Juvenile Nephropathy: Case report of one Collie presenting with severe polyuria and polydipsia, and progressing to chronic renal failure. Histopathology included immature glomeruli and/or tubules, and persistent mesenchyme.
Tests of Genotype: Direct tests for CEA/CH and rcd2 (PRA) are available from Optigen.
Direct test for MDR1 is available from Washington State Univ. vetmed.wsu.edu/depts-VCPL/ Direct test for the cyclic neutropenia is available from HealthGene and VetGen.
Direct test for coat colors sable and tricolor (a locus) is available from HealthGene.
Direct test for von Willebrand's disease is available from VetGen.
Direct test for a DM susceptability gene is available from the OFA.
CHIC Certification: Required testing includes Genetic Tests for rcd2 and MDR1. (See CHIC website; caninehealthinfo.org).
Tests of Phenotype: Recommended tests: hip and elbow radiographs, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, patella evaluation, CERF eye examination, and cardiac evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Old Cockie (historical name for the rough variety), Scottish Collie, Border Collie (historical)
- Registries: AKC, CKC, UKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 38 (4,016 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: The Collie Club of America: Collieclubofamerica.org
Collie Club of Canada: Collieclubofcanada.ca
The Collie Association (UK): collie-association.co.uk (Rough)
Smooth Collie Club of Great Britain: smoothcollieclub.com
Collie Health Foundation: Colliehealth.org
American Working Collie Association: awca.net
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