The anal sacs lie on either side of the back passage or anus at approximately four and eight o’clock, if compared with the face of a clock. They fill with a particularly pungent fluid, which is emptied on to the faeces as they move past the sacs to exit from the anus. Theories abound as to why these sacs should become impacted periodically and seemingly more so in some dogs than others. The irritation of impacted anal sacs is often seen as ‘scooting’, when the backside is dragged along the ground. Some dogs will gnaw at their back feet or over the rump. Increasing the fibre content of the diet helps some dogs: in others, underlying skin disease is the cause. It may be a one-off occurrence for no apparent reason. Sometimes, an infection can become established, requiring antibiotic therapy which may need to be coupled with flushing out the infected sac under sedation or general anaesthesia. More rarely, a dog will present with an apparently acute-onset anal sac abscess, which is incredibly painful.


Cause and treatment much as Gastritis (see below).


The dog has a long external ear canal, initially vertical then horizontal, leading to the eardrum, which protects the middle ear. If your Border Terrier is shaking his head, then his ears will need to be inspected with an auroscope by a veterinary surgeon in order to identify any cause and to ensure the eardrum is intact. A sample may be taken from the canal to he examined under the microscope and cultured to identify causal agents. before prescribing appropriate eardrops containing antibiotic, anti-fungal agent and or steroid. Predisposing causes of otitis external or infection in the external ear canal include: presence of a foreign body such as a grass awn: ear mites, which are intensely irritating to the dog and stimulate the production of brown wax. predisposing to infection: previous infections causing the canal’s lining to thicken, narrowing the canal and reducing ventilation: all swimming – some Border Terriers love swimming, but water trapped in the external ear canal can lead to infection, especially if the water is not clean.


Items swallowed in haste, without checking whether they can be digested, can cause problems if they lodge in the stomach or obstruct the intestines, necessitating surgical removal. Acute vomiting is the main indication. Common objects I have seen removed include stones from the garden. peach stones, babies’ dummies. golf balls, and once a lady’s bra! It is possible to diagnose a dog with an intestinal obstruction across a waiting room from a particularly ‘tucked-up’ stance and pained facial expression. These patients bounce hack from surgery dramatically. A previously docile and compliant obstructed patient will return for a postoperative check-up and literally bounce into the consulting room.


Grass awns are adept at finding their way into orifices such as a nostril, down an ear and into the soft skin between two digits (toes), where they start a one-way journey due to the direction of their whiskers. In particular, I remember a grass awn that migrated from a hind paw causing abscesses along the way, but not yielding itself up until it erupted through the skin in the groin!

GASTRITIS – This is usually a simple stomach upset, most commonly in response to dietary indiscretion. Scavenging constitutes a change in the diet as much as an abrupt switch in the food being fed by the owner. Generally, a day without food, followed by a few days of small, frequent meals of a bland diet (such as cooked chicken or fish or an appropriate prescription diet) should allow the stomach to settle. It is vital to wean the patient back on to routine food or else another bout of gastritis may occur.


It is not unusual for older Border Terriers to be stiff after exercise, particularly in cold weather. This is not really surprising, given that they are such busy dogs when young, rushing around in hedgerows and ditches, This is such a game breed that a nine or ten-year-old Border Terrier will not readily forego an extra walk or take kindly to turning for home earlier than usual. Your veterinary surgeon will be able to advise you on ways to help your dog cope with stiffness, not least of which will be to ensure that he is not overweight. Arthritic joints do not need to be burdened with extra bodyweight!


Regularly handling and stroking your dog will help the early detection of lumps and bumps. These may be due to infection (abscess), bruising, multiplication of particular cells from within the body or even an external parasite (tick). If you are worried about any lump you find, have it checked by a veterinary surgeon.


Being overweight does predispose to many other problems, such as diabetes mellitus, heart disease and joint problems. It is so easily prevented by simply acting as your Border Terrier’s conscience. Ignore pleading eyes and feed according to your dog’s waistline. The body condition is what matters qualitatively alongside monitoring the dog’s bodyweight as a quantitative measure. The Border Terrier should have at least a suggestion of a waist and it should be possible to feel the ribs beneath only a slight layer of fat. Neutering does not automatically mean that your Border Terrier will be overweight. Having an ovario-hysterectomy does slow down the body’s rate of working, castration to a lesser extent, but it therefore means that your dog needs less food. I recommend cutting hack a little on the amount of food fed a few weeks before neutering. If he looks a little underweight on the morning of the operation it will help the veterinary surgeon as well as giving him a little leeway weight-wise afterwards. It is always harder to lose weight after neutering than before, because of this slowing in the body’s inherent metabolic rate.


Eating food starts with the dog gripping and killing his prey vi the wild with the canine teeth; the incisor teeth bite off pieces of food and then the molars chew it. To be able to eat is vital for life, yet the actual health of the teeth is often overlooked; unhealthy teeth can predispose to disease, and not just by reducing the ability to eat. The presence of infection within the mouth can lead to bacteria entering the bloodstream and then filtering out at major organs. with the potential for serious consequences. Equally, simply having dental pain can affect a dog’s well-being, as anyone who has had toothache will confirm. Veterinary dentistry’ has made huge leaps in recent years, so that it no longer consists of extraction as the treatment of necessity.
Good dental health lies in the hands of the owner, starting from the moment the dog comes into your care, just as we have taken on responsibility for feeding, so we have acquired the task of maintaining good dental and oral hygiene. In an ideal world, we should brush our dogs’ teeth as regularly as our own. The Border Terrier puppy who finds having his teeth brushed is a huge game and excuse to roll over and over on the ground requires loads of patience twice a day. There are alternative strategies ranging from dental chew sticks to specially formulated foods, but the main thing is to be aware of your dog’s mouth. At least train your puppy to permit full examination of his teeth, which will not only ensure you are checking in his mouth regularly but will also make your veterinary surgeon’s job easier when there is a real need for your dog to ‘Open wide!’

(an extract from “Border Terrier” by kind permission of Betty Judge)