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What is Border Collie Collapse (BCC)

Border Collie Collapse is a neurological disorder where intense exercise can trigger collapse episodes. This condition is more common in working dogs and those involved in agility and ball activities. It is also known as exercise-induced hyperthermia, stress seizures, and “the wobbles.”

Differentiating BCC from heat exhaustion / heat stroke

Because Border Collie Collapse (BCC) commonly occurs in hot weather, it is sometimes mistaken for overheating or heat stroke. However, dogs with BCC have normal blood sugar, cardiac function, cortisol and electrolyte levels, normal metabolic testing, and normal muscle biopsies both before and during collapse episodes. These findings are consistent with those of a normal Border Collie performing the same exercises.

In contrast, dogs suffering from heat stroke cannot recover quickly and the condition can be life-threatening. Recovery, if not fatal, is often slow even with intensive veterinary care. Laboratory tests in heat stroke cases may show elevated muscle enzyme CK levels, and affected dogs can develop kidney failure, damage to blood vessel walls and multiple organs, low platelet count, and internal bleeding.

Dogs with BCC show no laboratory abnormalities and recover quickly from collapse episodes, which can also occur on moderate or cooler days.

How do I know if my dog has Border Collie Collapse?

Dogs with Border Collie Collapse (BCC) can become dazed, unfocused, disoriented, confused, sway, stagger, or even fall to the ground after a few minutes of vigorous exercise. Symptoms may also include mental dullness, dragging of the rear legs, and temporary inability to move.

Affected dogs usually show signs within 5 to 15 minutes of starting exercise or strenuous activity. Hot temperatures, elevated excitement, and exercise intensity can all contribute to triggering episodes. Some dogs don’t show signs until after the exercise is finished.

Episodes may last from a few minutes to half an hour. Although the symptoms are dramatic, most dogs recover completely after a period of rest, and there are generally no long-lasting physical effects. Affected dogs appear normal at rest and seem healthy.

Managing an affected dog

Affected dogs should be monitored closely during exercise and stopped immediately at the first sign of symptoms. Restrict activity in warm or hot weather. Cooling vests and ice packs can help and allow the dog to exercise longer without showing signs of stress.

If the dog does collapse:

  • Clear its airways to facilitate panting and heat release.
  • Immerse the dog in cool water or wet it down.
  • Give the dog cool water or ice orally.
  • Allow the dog to rest until fully recovered.

BCC can be managed by limiting the dog’s exercise routine to prevent episodes. Working dogs may need to be retired, and dogs participating in competitions like agility or fly-ball should also be retired to avoid triggering episodes.

Treatment for dog with Border Collie Collapse

There isn’t a specific test to diagnose BCC, so no treatment is recommended to prevent it. Although testing is unavailable, BCC is believed to be related to metabolic or neurological disorders triggered by extreme exercise.

BCC is identified in a particular dog based on its history, symptoms, and by ruling out other possible causes of collapse. It’s helpful to take a video of the dog during an episode to show your veterinarian.

To date, DNA evidence is inconclusive.

Is BCC inherited?

Research within family groups of Border Collies suggests a potential genetic link, but until a genetic cause is identified, no definitive conclusion can be made.

What does BCC mean for my breeding program?

Removing affected dogs from a breeding program is a responsible action until a cause for BCC is found. Even different matings that produce pups with BCC should be excluded from breeding programs as well.

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