Border Terrier - breed information and advice

The characterful Border Terrier has great stamina and is hardy and brave – the breed traditionally helped farmers keep vermin under control. Good-natured and affectionate, its distinctive rugged and wiry appearance makes the Border Terrier a very low-maintenance dog.

Breed information


Size: Small to medium

Coat: Can be kept long, but preferably should have the undercoat stripped out. A Border Terrier’s coat should be groomed at least once a week, but doesn’t need to be clipped as this causes it to lose its colour and texture.

Exercise: At least an hour a day for adult dogs

Life span: 12+ years

Breed group: The word terrier comes from ‘terra’, meaning ‘earth’, as these dogs were bred to control vermin, pursuing them below ground. They tend to be fun but feisty, and love to chase!


Border Terriers can suffer from conditions that affect the brain, spine and some nerves. Epilepsy is a brain disorder that results in seizures or fitting, which may begin in dogs as young as six months old. Epileptic seizures look painful, but generally aren’t. However, depending on the severity, they may need to be controlled with medication for the dog’s entire life to ensure a happy, normal existence.


We paid £2,405 to treat Yagan the Border Terrier for epilepsy in 2016

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Like all dogs, Border Terriers are susceptible to various forms of skin problems, often involving the skin within the ear. The ear canal can become irritated by objects such as grass seeds, or by parasites, allergies or infections. This can lead to a condition called otitis, which simply means ‘inflammation of the ear canal’. It causes an intense itch, leading the dog to shake its head, flap its ears and scratch them using its back paws. If the otitis is due to an allergy, treatment is required for the lifetime of the dog.


In our experience, otitis is the most common ear problem for a Border Terrier

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Skin allergies

The skin is the largest organ of a dog’s body and can be affected by a number of disorders. Like many other breeds, Border Terriers can suffer from allergies that lead to dermatitis (skin inflammation). Allergies can be caused by many different items, including things that are inhaled (such as pollen or dust mites), items that are eaten (for example, wheat), items that the dog comes into contact with (for example, washing powders), or bites from parasites such as fleas. As allergies cannot be cured, treatment may be required for life, but is usually effective enough to ensure that the dog can enjoy a happy, normal existence.


Skin allergies are the third most common illnesses we see in Border Terriers

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A dog’s pancreas produces insulin, which is required to regulate body sugar and fat metabolism. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas fails to produce enough insulin. Certain conditions make dogs more likely to develop diabetes, such as being overweight, inflammation of the pancreas, and drugs that interfere with insulin (such as prescribed steroids and hormones). Also, some breeds are more prone to the illness than others, including Border Terriers. Diabetes can be managed successfully in the long term with an injection of insulin once or twice a day, along with regulated feeding routines.


In our experience, diabetes is the second most common hormonal problem for Border Terriers

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Dislocating kneecap

The kneecap (or ‘patella’) sits in a groove at the end of the femur (thigh bone). A dislocating (or ‘luxating’) kneecap is one that pops out of its groove. A relatively common condition in Border Terriers and other small breeds, dislocation happens because the alignment of the bones from the hip through the knee to the ankle is not straight, which pulls the kneecap to one side. Treatment depends on the severity of the condition, but surgery may be required to reduce the likelihood of arthritis and enable the dog to live a normal life.


We paid £2,395 to treat Jess the Border Terrier for a dislocated kneecap in 2016

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