In 2016/17 we were approached by the Royal Veterinary College for support with their study on Border Collie brain health and behaviour, they were in the early stages of applying for funds from BBSRC, the funding body. We are pleased to learn that they have since been awarded the funding, and we are now able to offer further support by sharing promotional materials for their study.

RVC understand that Border Collies are a popular breed across the world, famed for their working abilities, with many others finding success as companion dogs or in competitive dog sports.

Studies indicate that Border Collies are predisposed to epilepsy, a brain disorder characterised by recurrent seizures, while others show abnormal behaviours including fly-catching, tail and shadow chasing.

RVC are interested in Border Collies brain development and how seizures and behavioural abnormalities arise in this breed. They are conducting a series of studies focusing on brain health and behaviour in the Border Collie.

Epilepsy is a complex brain disease that is often difficult to treat in Border Collies. The RVC want to learn how Border Collie brains work to improve their knowledge and ability to treat epilepsy and behavioural problems.


There are 2 parts to the study:

Part 1 is an on-line survey for all Border Collie owners, and is a relatively extensive survey of health and behaviour and open to all Border Collie owners internationally. Dogs can be of any age, sex, or neuter status, both with and without epilepsy diagnosis. Completing the survey is estimated to take 25-30 minutes and will explore your dog's day-to-day behaviour and health. The RVC invite interested owners to complete the screening survey by clicking the following link  www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/bordercolliebrains


Part 2 is a practical clinical study that involves travel to RVC in Hertfordshire. The RVC want to learn more about how Border Collie brains work to improve their knowledge and ability to treat epilepsy and behavioural problems. They will be recruiting dogs for this part of the study for at least 12 months, and study costs are covered. A 1-2 day visit to the Royal Veterinary College Queen Mother Hospital for animals in Hertfordshire, this will involve an MRI, EEG, behaviour tests, samples and activity monitoring, these costs will be covered as part of the study. 

For this part of the study the RVC require both epileptic and non-epileptic dogs. Epileptic Border Collies must be between 1 and 8 years of age, experienced 2+ seizures at least 24 hours apart, normal blood and urine tests, and the first seizure to have taken place aged 6 months to 6 years. Non-Epileptic dogs must be between 1 and 8 years of age; with no diagnosed neurological or orthopaedic diseases.


The RVC has a web-page dedicated to the study, which provides further information about the study and epilepsy, and has down-loadable information sheets.

To register interest and find out more, please contact Dr Rowena Packer via email rpacker@rvc.ac.uk




Further reading regarding Epilepsy can be found on many websites such as the 'Universities Federation for Animal Welfare' where you can also access links to research papers, such as Patterson (2007), who suggests most canine Idiopathic Epilepsy has a genetic basis.

Epilepsy is spontaneous, random electrical over-activity of a small or large part of the brain which causes localised muscle activity (eg twitches) or generalised, whole body seizures, convulsions or fits. In the idiopathic form, there is no apparent cause of the condition (ie no detectable underlying injury or disease). It is a common hereditary disease of Border Collies. It is recognised in many pedigree dog breeds, and the mode of inheritance has been determined in some – but not in Border collies. It is probable that Idiopathic Epilepsy in border collies is a polygenic disorder (ie more than one gene is involved). 

Information provided also states that unfortunately at present there is no method for detecting carriers of the disease (who may show no signs of the condition itself but who are capable of passing the disease on to their offspring), or which puppies are likely to develop the condition later in life. It may not be easy to eliminate Epilepsy as there is no genetic test to identify carriers or affected animals and it may not become apparent until after breeding age.



Universities Federation for Animal Welfare, Genetic Welfare Problems of Companion Animals, www.ufaw.org.uk/dogs/border-collie-idiopathic-epilepsy​​​​​​​, accessed 22.01.2019

Patterson E (2007) Clinical Characteristics and Inheritance of Idiopathic Epilepsy. Tufts' Canine and Feline Breeding and Genetics Conference, 2007. Available from - VIN. Associate. Accessed 22.01.19