Border Collie bounced back from a fatal condition to win a class at Crufts


A Border Collie who almost starved to death due to a pancreatic condition has made an incredible recovery, winning a heelwork to music class at this year’s Crufts.

Three-year-old Maisie was unable to digest her food properly and lost half her body weight after being diagnosed with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency back in December by vets at Acorn Veterinary Centre in West Kirby, part of Willows Veterinary Group.


But following successful treatment and the introduction of a diet plan, the plucky pooch went on to win a first prize at the world’s greatest dog show, much to the delight of her owner and handler Jenny Witt.

Jenny, 19, and her beloved Maisie, who at the same time as being diagnosed with her pancreatic problem was found to have diabetes too, secured the overall top spot in the Young Kennel Club Heelwork To Music competition at Crufts thanks to her routine carried out to the Steve Lawrence song, Bewitched.

Maisie and Jenny’s other dog Sophie are pictured with Jenny on the winner’s podium with their rosettes at Crufts.

Not only that, but they achieved two clear rounds and one round with 10 faults in the dog agility competition, which also earned the winning the pair a sixth place rosette.

Jenny said, “I was fearing the worst. It was really worrying watching her waste away. She was eating and eating but losing weight. Thankfully she is so much better now – she’s almost doubled in weight, her coat is healthier and she’s so much happier.

“I hadn’t had much of a chance to prepare for Crufts so I was not expecting first place. Maisie had been so ill that I wasn’t sure if she would be well enough to go and it gave me limited training time. The turnaround is quite incredible and I really can’t thank the team at Acorn Vets enough.”

Jenny’s mum Gill Witt, who looks after Maisie during the day, agreed with her daughter and said, “Maisie was quite poorly. She kept losing weight and was going the toilet a lot, which wasn’t very nice. We’d seen this happen gradually but then noticed a big difference in November when it took hold.

“It was from the blood tests that the vets diagnosed exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Her body was not producing enzymes and basically even though she was eating food she was starving to death. It was quite frightening. We changed her diet and then found out she has diabetes so she’s now on insulin morning and night.

“Since then she’s put lots of weight back on. When she was really ill she was 9.5kg, now she’s 16kg. She was almost half the dog. Acorn vets have been fantastic. Both Mel Pryer and Rhiannon Mansell were brilliant and we’ve all worked as a team to get Maisie better again.

“We didn’t even know if Maisie would be able to go to Crufts so to be the overall winner in her category considering how poorly she was is amazing. She seemed so depressed when she was poorly, her head was always down but now she’s like a proper young dog again, jumping around.”

Mel Pryer, who has worked at Acorn Veterinary Centre for 10 years, was also amazed by Maisie’s success. She said, “We were so pleased to find out about Maisie’s Crufts success. Untreated, either condition on its own would have been fatal for Maisie, never mind both together.

Jenny’s mum Gill Witt, vet Mel Pryer of Acorn Veterinary Centre and Jenny Witt are pictured with Maisie.

“She was severely malnourished. We don’t know why it’s happened. It is more common in some breeds but not normally border collies. It is not common to develop diabetes as well. They do bounce back quite quickly but it can be something that is difficult to manage so she’ll need regular check ups.”

Mel recalls how miserable Maisie was when she was at her lowest point and explains how exocrine pancreatic insufficiency can have such a severe impact.

“We saw Maisie in August for her booster and she weighed 11.8kg on that visit. She next came in November and it was down to 10.3kg so we discussed about doing blood tests.

“Maisie was really miserable at that point in time. We put her on hypoallergenic food while we waited for results. By December she’d dropped down to 9.45kg and had developed a heart murmur due to the weight loss. Again she was very miserable and her owners were very worried.

“It was then confirmed that she had exocrine pancreatic insufficiency. Maisie couldn’t break food down so it was passing straight through. Whatever food went in came straight back out. It’s not a particularly common condition but I wouldn’t say it was rare either. Treatment is a mixture of very careful diet management and supplementing it with pancreatic enzymes by putting a powder in each meal.”

She added, “Maisie then started getting really thirsty and initially we thought maybe it’s a reaction to the enzymes but then we diagnosed her with diabetes. This is also caused by a problem with the pancreas not producing the hormone insulin. That means she needs insulin injections and we had to support the owners with that. They have done a brilliant job helping her to recover and manage her conditions.

“She has two very serious problems but she’s doing really well now we’re treating them and she’s really well in herself. We are all delighted.”


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