Shetland Sheepdog Health Issues
Shetland Sheepdogs are usually healthy, but like all purebreds, they’re susceptible to a number of breed, or AKC Group, particular health problems. Although not all Shelties will acquire any or all of these conditions, Sheltie owners need to educate themselves on these problems in case they do develop.
Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA)
A spectrum of inherited disorders present at birth, usually occurring by the time the Sheltie is two years old. It can be detected in a puppy as young as six weeks old. These conditions can range from defects of the choroid, retina, or optic nerve to complete retinal detachment and blindness. Both eyes can be affected, but not always to the same degree. Shetland Sheepdogs with minor abnormalities usually will not lose their eyesight. Shelties that are more severely affected may lose their eyesight within a few years of diagnosis. There is no treatment for CEA.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
Is an inherited disease of the retina, in which the rod cells in the retina slowly and progressively degenerate, eventually resulting in blindness. This condition often is not detected until the dog is an adult. PRA occurs in both eyes simultaneously but is not painful.
Is a group of hereditary eye disorders characterized by bilateral abnormalities affecting the cornea. Most common to Shetland Sheepdogs is epithelial corneal dystrophy – A progressive condition in which white or grey circular or irregular opacities or rings occur on the cornea. Onset can be anywhere from six months to six years and is a progressive condition. Epithelial corneal tags may be removed, if present. Generally the vision remains normal. Even when treatment has been successful, there may still be some cloudiness to the eyes.
Ulcers On The Cornea
If you notice that your dog’s seems to be in pain because of its eyes (e.g., blinking, watering of the eyes) contact your veterinarian, as ulcers may be developing on the cornea.
Any opacity, or loss of transparency, of the lens of the eye leading to cloudiness. A complete cataract affecting both eyes will result in blindness, whereas small non-progressive cataracts may not affect vision.
An inherited condition whereas the development of eye tissues is incomplete in the womb. Shelties with this condition will have a dark hole and/or an irregularly shaped iris. Vision is usually not impaired. However, they may squint and be uncomfortable in bright light, since the coloboma prevents the iris from contracting normally upon exposure to light.
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS)
Commonly known as Dry Eye. Dry Eye occurs when the tear ducts no longer produce enough tears to keep the eye moist, which in turn can cause eye sores and infections.
Abnormally growing eyelashes on the margin of the eyelid, causing irritation. For the Sheltie this condition usually involves stiff lashes which require permanent removal.
HEART and BLOOD DISORDERS
Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
Is a relatively common congenital heart defect among Shelties (especially females). PDA is the failure of the fetal vessel between the aorta (which carries blood to the rest of the body) and pulmonary artery (which carries blood to the lungs) to close properly at birth causing heart murmurs, exercise weakness and even can cause death.
Abnormalities of the heart muscle in which the heart muscle becomes enlarged, thick, or rigid. In rare cases, the muscle tissue in the heart is replaced with scar tissue. As cardiomyopathy worsens, the heart becomes weaker. It’s then less able to pump blood through the body and maintain a normal electrical rhythm. The weakening of the heart also can cause other complications, such as heart valve problems. These conditions can lead to congestive heart failure and death.
Von Willebrand’s disease (vWD)
Is a common, usually mild, inherited bleeding disorder Shelties, characterized by prolonged bleeding after an injury or surgery. Other signs may include: nosebleeds, bleeding gums, or bleeding in the stomach or intestines. Most dogs with von Willebrand’s disease lead normal lives. It is caused by a lack of von Willebrand factor (vWF), which plays an essential role in the blood clotting process. DNA testing is available to determine whether or not your Sheltie is susceptible to vWD.
The degeneration of the head on the femur bone, located in the Sheltie’s hind leg. This results in bone and joint inflammation and the disintegration of the hip joint leading to rear-leg lameness. Blood supply issues to the head of the femur bone is the suspected cause.
An abnormality that occurs when the Sheltie’s kneecap is dislocated from its normal position in the groove of the thigh bone due to poor development of the structures holding the kneecap in place. A dislocated kneecap is one of the most prevalent knee joint conditions in dogs. Female dogs are one and a half times more likely to acquire Patellar Luxation.
Hip (CHD) Dysplasia
The hip joint is a “ball and socket” joint with the “ball” (the top part of the femur) fitting into a “socket” formed by the pelvis. CHD is a progressive condition determined by a combination of genetic and environmental factors in which the femur doesn’t fit snugly into the pelvic socket. If there is a loose fit between these bones, and the ligaments which help to hold them together are loose, the ball may slide part way out of the socket. This gradually deteriorating condition is painful and can lead to loss of function of the hip joints causing rear leg lameness. Results of a recent study of 14,500 Shelties in the United States, indicated that approximately 5% of all Shelties were found to have hip dysplasia.
Occurs when the thyroid gland can’t maintain sufficient levels of hormones to set the Sheltie’s metabolic rate. Approximately one in five Shelties have hormonal problems. Signs of hypothyroidism include weight gain, lethargy, thinning coat or hair loss, dry skin, recurring infections (ear infections for example) and sensitivity to cold.
Is a common condition by which the Sheltie suffers from either an absolute shortage of insulin (Type I), or an incorrect cell response to the insulin that is being produced (Type II). Both of these conditions will prevent the muscles and organs from converting glucose to energy resulting in hyperglycemia, excessive amounts of glucose in the blood.
The Sheltie with diabetes will be constantly hungry, because glucose levels in the brain are so low that the brain will not register that it’s receiving food. Even with increased hunger, weight loss can occur. The Sheltie will also demonstrate lethargy because the insulin is not giving the muscles and organs the signal to convert glucose to energy. The result is that the excess glucose in the blood will be carried out of the body in urine. Also, because of the increase in urination, excessive thirst will occur. The liver, eyes and kidneys can also be adversely affected by diabetes.
Epilepsy – Is a brain disorder in which the Sheltie has seizures (sudden, uncontrolled, recurring physical attacks). Loss of consciousness may or may not occur. The reasons for the seizure may unknown (idiopathic) or due to genetic abnormalities. If left untreated, the seizures may become more frequent and severe.
are common among Shelties. They may develop itchy skin, for example, which can lead to pyoderma or bacterial skin infections. Ear infections can be a result of allergies.
The causes of allergies can be as numerous and varied as there are breeds of dogs. Just like in humans, some of the many common allergies can be reactions to various food ingredients, grasses, shampoos, pollen, molds, or dust mites, to name a few.
Discoid Lupus Erythematosus (DLE)
Known as “collie nose”. DLE is an auto-immune disorder exhibiting an inflammatory skin response primarily involving the face and nose. DLE can be as simple as a slight discoloration or as serious as ulcerations. The first sign of DLE is usually a loss of pigmentation around the Sheltie’s nose. In other instances, the bridge of the nose, lips, skin around the eyes, ears and genitals may also be affected. There is no cure for DLE but symptoms can be managed.
Remember though, Shelties are prone to losing pigment on their nose and muzzle – this can be caused by nasal solar dermatitis or DLE, but usually it’s a harmless condition called “snow nose” where the nose only loses pigment in the winter.
Dermatomyositis (Sheltie Skin Syndrome)
Is an inherited inflammatory disorder of the skin, muscles, and blood vessels that Sheltie puppies may develop at three to six months old. Signs of DM can vary from subtle skin lesions and inflammation of muscles, to severe skin lesions and muscle atrophy. The crusty skin lesions can come and go until eventually the puppy outgrows the condition. There may be extensive hair loss and scarring on the face and inner surface of the prick ears, as well as on the legs and the tip of the tail. There is no cure for DM.
MISCELLANEOUS HEALTH ISSUES
Mutant Gene MDR1
This gene affects how various medications are metabolized by the body especially in the herding breeds. Specifically, if your Sheltie tests positive for this gene, he will not be able to flush various drugs from the brain, leading to neurological toxicity. Approximately 50% to 75% of Shelties have this gene, which is why certain pet medication packaging will say “Safe for Shelties and Collies”.
If your Sheltie has this gene, he will be unable to take certain heartworm preventative medications containing ivermectin, such as Heartguard, Iverheart, Tri-Heart, and Advantage DUO. Other problematic drugs include loperamide (also known as Imodium), morphine, butorphanol, acepromazine (also known as ACP, Atravet, or Ace). Don’t give any of these drugs to your Sheltie unless he has been tested for this mutant gene.
Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC)
Shelties are much more likely to have dental problems than other breeds. It starts with tartar build-up on the teeth and then can progress to gum and tooth root infections if left unchecked. Eventually tooth loss can occur and possibly of damaging the liver, kidneys, heart and joints.
Shelties love food (and they know how to extract it from you). They can stare you down for hours, with an unyielding eye, if need be. Do not succumb and overfeed. Shelties gain weight very easily and can become overweight before you realize what has happened.
The average lifespan of a Sheltie is twelve to fourteen years. That means that there will be a good portion of your Shetland Sheepdog’s life that will be spent as a senior. Just as with humans, the longer a Sheltie lives, the greater chance there is for potential diseases and disorders to affect the health and wellbeing of your Shetland Sheepdog. The most common serious problems to affect the senior Sheltie are: arthritis, cancer, kidney (renal) failure and congestive heart failure. Yearly checkups with your vet are essential for the continued good health and happiness of your shetland sheepdog.
Talk to Your Breeder and Vet
This Sheltie Health Issues page is a basic reference to various health disorders specifically know to Shetland Sheepdogs and not to be used as a diagnostic tool. See your vet if you have any questions, or if your Sheltie is exhibiting any outward signs of unusual behavior. Ask the breeder to see the parents and inquire about general health and genetic testing documentation to assure that the parents’ do not have, nor are they carriers of, any potentially dangerous health issues.
Today, there are many unobtrusive tests now available from your vet to check for the presence of most hereditary and organic disorders.