Border Terriers Health Issues

I have always felt, through having our Indy and comparing his ailments to the ones experienced by other dog owners, that Borders Terriers are a strong breed of dogs.  They are bred to virtually hunt in burrows in woods, under all sorts of weather conditions – and although this is no longer the case in modern times, the breed has remained strong in health.  Nevertheless, we have not been immune to quite a few issues, some more permanent than others.  So what are Border Terrier health problems?


Those Rotten TeethThose Rotten Teeth

As soon as we took Indy to the vet the first time, the vet struggled to identify his age.  This was because his teeth were covered in thick layers of tartar.  Immediately the vet had to operate on Indy and had to remove some 9 teeth.  Indy’s teeth have always been his weak point, so much so that he has had to have another 8 teeth removed last Summer.  Their health is most important, as rotten teeth can cause other health complications in dogs, and be unpleasant as making their breath smell.  We have been using precautionary measures by using mouth wash for dogs in his water and other herbal supplements that we add to his food – and we brush his teeth every evening.  We purchase all these products from Amazon, but Indy and I will discuss the products more in details in our Review page.


Neutering or Not Neutering?

As a rule, do not go for neutering if you want your Border to breed.    Again, we went with the vet’s recommendation of having Indy neutered, as this simple procedure ensures no unwanted pups, and is also preventative of many forms of cancers, in boys particularly prostate cancer.  Your Border being a relatively compact size and flexible, the problem is in the after surgery, as your dog will try to reach out to his/her stitches.  And again, your vet should supply with an Elizabethan collar.  We found much more comfortable doughnut collars again from Amazon, which, being round at the edge and made of soft material, did not cut into Indy’s fur and skin.  Soft Elizabethan Collar

Your dog will have no side effect to this operation other that a reborn sense of appetite – or proper hunger, shall I say – for food.  If your dog ever needs to go on a diet, it will probably be after have the neutering procedure!


Unwanted Lumps.  The C Word?

This is probably a health scare that most dog owners may have to go through at some point or other.  It is the old fear of cancer.  And yes, we have had a couple or 3 scares of this sort, the last of which again last Summer when Indy had to have a lump removed and analised.   Like in humans, most lumps or skin tags or moles are nothing to worry about – we have been lucky so far with Indy, as every time the news has been good.  But I have read a lot about cancer in dogs, and veterinary medicine in these time and age is most advanced, with chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatment which are virtually pain free to dogs and guarantee a very high percentage of full recovery.  Being based in UK, I could mention a number of specialised centres in the Country – please feel free to ask by sending me a comment.  But I am sure that there are equally very good centres all over the world.  I think, like with human cases, the secret to a positive outcome is in catching the issue as soon as possible.  My personal advice, with lumps as well as with any other ailments in your dog, is to seek your vet’s advice as soon as possible.  Yes, yet again another vet consultation may mean another unplanned expense, but delaying intervention when it is needed may have negative repercussions on your dog’s good health.


Ouch, back hurts!

Finally, let me spare a few words on back problems in your dog, something which we have discovered Borders are inclined to, given their size and their fearless attitude to anything and anybody, or any dog.

It has been only some3 months ago that, after launching himself at a bigger dog which Indy did not like (that territorial scent got in a way again, I think) and after I pulled him by the collar to restrain him, out of the blue Indy started walking like a ‘drunken dog’.  In other words, his hind legs were moving in a line instead of maintaining the natural gap in space, and as a result Indy’s back part of his body was swaying as he was attempting to walk.  The vet wanted to see him on the same day, prescribed anti-inflammatories and reviewed after a few days.  We were lucky, as we all agreed that Indy was in discomfort but not in pain.  For this reason the vet did not press for x-rays or MRI scan – this would have involved anaesthetics, which at Indy’s age is always good to avoid.

Indy is now, thankfully, back to normal, after being on absolute ‘bed rest’ for some 6 weeks.  This meant keeping him in his cage for as many hours every day as possible, with just small toilet walks.  We are also still trying to avoid stairs for Indy.

But the whole episode prompted me to research more about the matter, and to my surprise and to confirm my ignorance on the subject, I found out that back problems are most common in small dogs, such as the size of Border Terriers.  When there are suspicions that your Border may have damaged his/her back, again prompt intervention by your vet is vital.  Dogs, like humans, may have weaknesses in their back from birth, but it is the wear and tear of every day run, jump and play that may exacerbate inflammations, which, if not addressed immediately and properly, may lead to paralysis.  I am told surgery is the very last resource to resolve back problems, where the first port of call is the prescription of anti-inflammatory pills or steroids.

Again, with Indy we discovered a whole host of aiding equipment which makes your dog’s life easier, whether he/she is recovering from a back injury, or to just help them in their older years.  First of all, a cage is vital to ensure immobility – and Border like them, as they like to snuggle in them as if it were their own den.  But there are also steps and slides on the market, all to encourage your dog to avoid jumps up and down the sofa, or to avoid stairs altogether.  Again, Indy will advise you on suitable choices in his Review page.


  1. // Reply

    I have a friend who has a Border Terrier, he’s so sweet 😀
    From what my friend told me, his dog was pretty healthy, the only problem he had was with his teeth. I don’t know too much about this, but it was probably about rotten teeth, just like you were saying.
    So how did you brush Indy’s teeth? I mean, did you buy any special products to make Indy stay still and let you brush her teeth?

    1. // Reply

      Ashley, I only use a normal child toothbrush to brush my Indy’s teeth but I use a very good minty toothpaste Trixie Toothpaste With Mint which I get from Amazon. I do this every evening, and I also add an algae based product, the Plaque Off For Dogs, to his dinner. I think they both help. I’m not one for buying for my dog at all costs, but I believe when it comes to their health, and especially as my Indy is no longer a young boy, his few teeth left need to be kept in good shape for as much as I can. Thank you :

  2. // Reply

    If you’re an animal lover, and I am, you love this information and these articles. I use a finger sock to brush my dog’s teeth and have done so since she was a pup. It works great as you can reach all surfaces and massage the gums. You mention the elizabethan collar – brings back memories. Surprised to learn of back problems in a small dog.

    Thanks for the information and keep up the good work.

    1. // Reply

      So pleased to hear you share my passion Billy. And thanks for suggesting the old sock method, I want to give it a go. Unfortunately re back problems, I was told isn’t can be equally frequent in terriers or small dogs as in big ones, as when they jump or go up and down stairs, the impact on the joints and vertebrae is noticeable as they are shorter. Indy is much better now since his injury in February this year, but we are still careful not to strain his back unduly. Thank you for your support Billy, really much appreciated :

  3. // Reply

    Oh, Indy seems to have passed through so many health problems 🙁 But the most important is that he overcame all of them. How old is he, I’m curious
    Wow, those back problems seem to have been pretty bad if he had to rest to “bed” for so long. How did you manage to make him stay still? I don’t think I could ever manage to do that with my dogs.

    1. // Reply

      Indy is 12 Ashley, we think – not entirely sure as we adopted him, but we go by the stiate given by the vet when he first visited him. And yes, he’s been through the wars with all his ailments, but you are right, he keeps coming through them, which is testament to the fact that Borders are a rather sturdy breed.

      With th back problem we have seen Indy take a step back (pardon the pun

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