How Long Border Collies Live. How to Make Them Live Long

Border collies quickly find their way into our hearts, and it can be difficult to imagine life without them by our side. Sadly, just as with all dogs, their lives seem much too short compared to our own. But, you might be curious about the life expectancy for a Border Collie so that you don’t miss a single opportunity to have fun with your four-legged companion.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at everything you need to know about how long Border Collies live. From the health issues and factors that can reduce their life expectancy through to tips to extend how long your Border Collie will live.

chart showing average life expectancy of the border collie
Chart of the average lifespan of dog breeds. Border collies have an average lifespan of 13 and half years

Border Collie life expectancy

In a study on 96 border collies carried out by British Veterinarian researchers, the researchers found that the average lifespan of a Border collie is 12 years and 3 months. However, in rare situations, some border collies live up to 17 years.

Also, the American Kennel Club gives the Border Collies life expectancy as being 12-15 years. However, Bramble, the Border Collie from the UK, lived to be over 25 years of age! Bramble was also fed on an entirely vegan diet and went on two-hour walks throughout her life. It goes to show that healthy living isn’t just for the human end of the leash!

Health issues that reduce life expectancy in Border Collies

Being aware of some of the more common health issues for the Border Collie means that you can quickly identify potential problems. Then early veterinary treatment can give the best possible chance of recovery.


Cancer is the leading cause of death for the older dog. Because Border Collies live longer than many other dogs, cancer then seems to have a higher occurrence. Thankfully, vets can cure many types of cancer through surgical removal or chemotherapy. Early detection is essential, so make sure that you regularly check your Border Collie for any unexplained lumps and bumps.

Lymphoma is a type of cancer that affects Border Collies more often than other breeds of dogs. The first symptoms are lumps in areas where the lymph glands are close to the skin’s surface. These are:

  • Close to where the dog’s neck and jaw meet
  • The front of the shoulder
  • Just above the hock on the rear legs

The lumps can become as large as an orange but often start out around the size of a squash ball. Sadly, lymphoma is a rapidly growing cancer, and there is no long-term cure currently available.

an elderly border collie
An elderly Border Collie

Hip Dysplasia in Border Collies

Hip dysplasia is again a common problem, especially amongst medium to large-sized dogs. The condition causes problems with the way in which the ball of the hip joint sits within the socket. When the ball is smooth and fits perfectly, then the joint can work without problems. But when the ball has a rough surface or a misshapen socket, then they rub against each other as the dog moves. As a result, it becomes painful for them to walk.

Hip dysplasia itself is not a terminal condition. However, it can become so severe that the dog needs to take a high dosage of pain killers and anti-inflammatories to be able to walk and get into the garden to relieve themselves. Then, there has to be a conversation with the vet about the quality of life that the dog can experience.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) in Border Collies

PRA is a condition that affects the eyes of a Border Collie. Over time, the dog loses their sight and eventually becomes blind. There are two types of PRA:

  1. Early-onset or inherited

This is the most common form of PRA in the Border Collie. Affected dogs usually become night blind before they are 18 months of age. Then by the time they reach three years of age, they are totally blind.

2. Late-onset PRA

This type of PRA diagnosis is usually made when the dog is between three and nine years old. It also causes night vision to go first, followed by the loss of all eyesight.

a border collie sheepdog
Stunning Border Collie eyes

There is no cure for PRA, and so sadly, blindness will be the outcome.  Again, like hip dysplasia, PRA is not a lethal condition. Some dogs manage to cope very well without any vision; you really wouldn’t know there is a problem. Unfortunately, not all dogs can adjust, and once more, the owners will need to consider their dog’s quality of life.

Idiopathic epilepsy in Border Collies

When a dog has an epileptic seizure, it’s caused by abnormal activity in the brain’s neurons. When there are at least two seizures that are more than 24 hours apart, then that’s when the vet can make a diagnosis of epilepsy.

Idiopathic means that we don’t know what the cause of epilepsy is. However, despite that name, we do actually now know that idiopathic epilepsy in dogs has a genetic cause. That means that epilepsy passes from the parents to the pups.

Purebred dogs have a higher incidence of epilepsy than mixed-breed dogs, and most dogs have their first seizure between the ages of one and five years of age. Treatment of epilepsy isn’t straightforward, though. Vets can prescribe antiepileptic drugs for some dogs, but this depends on how often the dog has a seizure and the seizure type. Sadly, around 40-60 percent of dogs with frequent epileptic fits have a reduced average lifespan of just eight years.

Thyroid Issues in Border Collies

Border Collies are known to be at greater risk of a condition called hypothyroidism. This is caused by the body’s autoimmune system attacking the thyroid gland. The damaged gland is then unable to produce enough of the thyroid hormone. This then results in a slow metabolism.  

Signs of hypothyroidism include:

  • Dry skin and coat
  • Loss of hair
  • Skin diseases
  • Gaining weight
  • A change in the dog’s voice
  • Becoming depressed, fearful, or aggressive without any apparent reason

Diagnosis of hypothyroidism is through a blood test in which the vet looks at the levels of two thyroid hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Treatment is usually straightforward, with the dog receiving replacement hormone by taking daily medication.

Hypothyroidism does need managing with regular blood tests and adjustments of medication. With these steps in place, there’s no reason why a Border Collie with hypothyroidism can’t have a normal life expectancy.

Factors that can influence a Border Collie’s life expectancy

When we understand the factors that can affect how long a Border Collie lives, we can make informed decisions to keep them as healthy as possible, for as long as possible.

Body size

Just like us, when a Border Collie becomes overweight, then medical problems can follow. In North America, around 25-30% of the canine population are obese. That figure then leaps up to 40-45% for dogs between five and eleven years of age. 

Obesity risks for the Border Collie

Obesity can shorten your dog’s life. While we used to think that fat was simply inactive tissue, but we now know that it secretes hormones that cause inflammation and creates stress on the body tissue. Both of these actions then contribute to disease. These include:

  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Joint problems through osteoarthritis
  • Bladder stones

Not only can obesity reduce the Border Collies lifespan, but it also creates much higher costs. That’s because research by Banfield Pet Hospitals found that owners of overweight dogs spent 17% more on health care and 25% more on medications compared with owners of healthy-weight dogs.

an overweight border collie
An overweight Border Collie

It is essential to know that your dog becoming overweight can also be a symptom of a medical issue, including hypothyroidism and Cushing’s disease. So, if your Border Collie suddenly begins putting on weight and there’s been no change in diet or exercise, then it’s important for them to have a vet check.

Activity level

When our Border Collies don’t get the exercise they need, then problems begin to emerge. First of all, a lack of exercise will lead to obesity and all the issues we’ve already mentioned that can cause.

But for such an active and intelligent dog, the Border Collie needs exercise for their physical well-being and their mental health. When a Border collie doesn’t get the opportunity to use their brains along with the enrichment that comes from going on a walk, then behavior problems can begin to emerge. A UK study from the Royal School of Veterinary Studies found that one in three deaths of dogs younger than three years of age was because of “undesirable” behaviors.

a border collie searching for its food
Border Collie searching for food in a snuffle mat

Family History

As you’ve seen, many of the conditions that can shorten a Border Collies lifespan have a genetic factor. That means that it’s essential to discuss with the breeder which health tests that the parents had before being mated. The Border Collie Society of America recommends testing all breeding dogs to ensure they are free from hip/elbow/shoulder dysplasia, eye disorders, epilepsy, and deafness.

Tips for a long life for your Border Collie

So, you’ve done your homework, you have a Border Collie from great parents, and you understand the factors that can influence their life expectancy. Now, let’s look at some practical tips to get them in top condition.

Excellent nutrition

There are now more choices than ever when it comes to feeding your Border Collie. From single protein kibble to homemade cooked food through to a raw diet. It’s no wonder that many owners find it a nightmare to make the right choice for their dog.

Generally, the cheaper dog foods do rely on lower-quality sources of protein. That then means that you need to feed more for your dog to get the energy they need. So, it may not provide to be such a good deal after all.

Many Border Collies do very well on a raw diet or homemade cooked food. However, these options do take up much more time to prepare. It also requires the owner to undertake lots of research to ensure that the food they provide meets their dog’s nutritional requirements.

Border Collie with a bone

Young dogs need the correct balance of nutrients in their diet to ensure their body has everything it needs to support healthy growth. But, as your dog gets older, they start to need less physical activity, and their metabolism beings to slow down. Older Border Collies need around 20% fewer calories than a middle-aged adult dog. When there is no reduction in their food intake, then that’s when they start to become overweight.

Make sure to chat with your veterinarian to put a nutrition plan in place for your older Border Collie. This will ensure they get the nutrition they need without becoming overweight.

Regular veterinary check-ups

As well as chatting about nutritional needs with your vet, regular check-ups are important for all dogs. For older dogs, though, they are essential for keeping them as healthy as possible. The check will make sure that any little niggles are quickly sorted out before they become a bigger problem.

 A senior dog check-up is likely to include:

  • Physical examination
  • Complete blood counts
  • Chemistry screening
  • Blood tests to evaluate kidney and liver function as well as checking sugar levels
  • Heartworm testing
  • Dental check
  • Vision and hearing checks

Plenty of exercise

It goes without saying that a Border Collie needs lots of exercise. Keeping their body fit and healthy is key for a long life. The added bonus is that you’re also likely to improve your fitness! In fact, research by the University of Liverpool in the UK  has shown that dog owners get around 200 minutes more walking time every week compared to non-dog owners.

The Border Collie Rescue of Northern California suggests that most Border Collies need around two hours of exercise or activity every day.

Opportunities to stretch their brains

The Border Collie has been bred to problem solve. While farmers need a biddable dog that’s easy to train, they also want a dog who can respond to the movement of the livestock without always being told what to do.

Great ways of adding in mental enrichment to your Border Collie’s day include:

Scatter feeding – Throw their dry food around the yard for your Border Collie to sniff out using their amazing scenting abilities

Find your Toy – Start off easy and then progressively make the game harder until they need to check all the rooms of the house to find their favorite toy.

Trick training – From weaving between your legs, to spinning and giving a paw, trick training is a brilliant way to build a fantastic relationship with your Border Collie.