Q: We just lost our dog yesterday. She was a Border Collie/McNab Dog cross, and she was only 4 years old. She was diagnosed with autoimmune hemolytic anemia, and she had been in the hospital for 8 days before she passed away. My husband wants to get a Border Collie, but I am afraid that the new dog will develop this condition again. Does autoimmune hemolytic anemia occur frequently in Border Collies? The pain I feel right now is so unbearable I cannot describe it. My husband thinks a new pup would help, but I don’t want another dog if there is a risk of the new pup getting this disease because of the pain I am experiencing after losing this dog.
A: I am so sorry to hear about the loss your Border Collie, and I know how unbearable the pain of losing a dog can be.
Autoimmune hemolytic anemia (AIMHA) is a serious condition in which a dog’s own immune system destroys his red blood cells. Red blood cells are an essential component of the blood because they carry oxygen around the body and remove carbon dioxide from the body’s tissues.
There are certain breeds, such as Irish Setters and Old English Sheepdogs, who appear to have higher incidences of AIMHA. Border Collies are not known to be one of the breeds with higher incidences of AIMHA, although, of course, one can never say with 100% certainty that any dog will not get this condition. Although not very common, there are some cases of Border Collies having a condition called cobalamin (vitamin B12) malabsorption which can cause deformed red blood cells.
My suggestions to you are the following:
First, only get a new pup when you are truly ready. Upon losing a dog, some people go right out and get another dog. Others wait before getting another dog. Neither way is right or wrong. It all depends upon what you feel is best for you. If getting a new pup seems too painful, don’t force yourself. If you can, spend some time around a friend's or neighbor’s dog to judge how you feel.
Second, when you are ready for a new Border Collie, do your research. As is the case with all purebred dogs, there are certain diseases and conditions which tend to impact Border Collies with increased frequency. You should ask your prospective breeder if the kennel’s dogs have had a history of any of these diseases, and if there are any other conditions, such as AIMHA, that seem to crop up with regularity in their lines. For diseases with suspected genetic components, there are even internet databases which contain information on which dogs from which kennels have been certified clear of certain diseases. DoggedHealth contains links to these database and lists the more common potential health problems for each AKC-recognized breed including, of course, Border Collies. To go to our Breed by Breed Health section and get started learning about Border Collies, click here. While you can never guarantee that any dog will be able to avoid the myriad of potential health problems out there, with proper research you can help reduce the risk.
Good luck to you and take care!
Your question has been answered by the following veterinarian:
Daniel Lauridia, DVM
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