During the 1950s, the Collie eye problem broke wide open! Several articles began appearing in Veterinarian journals, reporting instances of blindness in the Collie breed. It started with a 1952 article titled "Congenital Optic Nerve Hypoplasia in Collie Dogs" that appeared in a Cornell Newsletter. Right on its heels came a similar report written by Dr. Magrane. Then in June 1958 an Associated Press wire photo appeared on the front pages of the country's leading newspapers, showing a blind Collie being aided by local children. Similar articles would follow. In 1960 everything came to a head when an article appeared in the "American Journal of Opthalmology" written by Dr. Seymour Roberts. By the early 1960's, publication of official and nonofficial reports had appeared in newspapers, magazines, Veterinarian newsletters and journals, Research progress reports, and lectures and symposiums! Initial reactions ranged from shock to denial. While some breeders had known for years that the breed had eye problems, few reports had ever been made public. Still, to others it came as a complete shock, since the vast majority of Collies exhibited no outward signs. For years breeders had unintentionally been selecting breeding stock almost exclusively from Collies with eye problems. By the time everything hit the fan in the 1960's, eye problems were so widespread throughout the breed that the situation appeared overwhelming and hopeless. The breed received a lot of negative press that carries forth to this day. The truth was that the breed had a number of significant eye problems. In the beginning progress was slow thanks to a lack of information on the problem; not knowing the extent of the problem; unknown mode of inheritance; and lack of unanimity of opinion not only amongst Collie breeders, but amongst the professionals, as well. The only good news was the disease could be diagnosed early in life. The really bad news was the percentage of Collies afflicted. First reports indicated 30%. Later revised figures estimated that 85% of the breed was affected. Thankfully, while most Collies seemed to be affected by eye problems, the majority was affected with the mildest form of CEA and only a small number actually went blind. Estimates of blindness ranged from 2 to 10 % of the entire Collie population. It was during this time that Collie breeders and owners began having their stock eye-checked. At first many breeders were reluctant to openly admit or discuss the problem. Many felt the bad news would adversely affect the popularity of the breed, while others felt it might even destroy the breed. For much of the decade the subject of Collie eyes completely monopolized not only CCA business, but most literature printed on Collies. During the time there was much hysteria, witch hunting and panic. Rumors circulated about certain dogs and certain bloodlines. Panic set in when dogs and whole kennels were put to sleep. Early unsubstantiated rumors linked the blindness gene to the merling gene, to eye size and placement and even pointed to the rough variety as the sole source of the problem. Many wives tales evolved that persist to this day, such as, all show quality dogs have bad eye checks, only Collies with big round eyes are normal, only Bellhaven dogs can see, etc. Since the condition could not be treated medically or surgically, the only hope for control or eradication lay in selective breeding. Given that the disease was so widespread, with several classifications and degrees of severity, during the 60's a grading system was developed. Unfortunately there was no standardization of the grading system from one doctor to the next nor from one part of the country to the next. The entire grading system lead to mass confusion and controversy, as many felt the grading system was actually a hindrance to eliminating the problem. Due to these and other problems, the grading system was dropped by most opthalmologists. When the dust had finally settled, the sad realization was, that not only was approximately 85% of the breed affected with Collie Eye Anomaly, but amongst the 15% normal, the majority were carriers. Not only did it change the way of the Collie breeder's life, but many dogs were removed from the overall gene pool.

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