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Sheltie Health & Diseases
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Sheltie Health & Diseases

As with any breed, shelties have their share of concerns that breeders and buyers must be aware of. Many health problems can be screened for and some have genetic tests. A responsible breeder will screen for various health issues. For those concerns that cannot be screened for right now, if it shows up, the breeding program will be altered.

Do not hesitate to ask a breeder what screenings have been done and for documentation of. If a breeder cannot be bothered with testing or insists the dogs are healthy but cannot show documentation of screening for at least hips and eyes, go elsewhere. Do not blindly accept someone's word. Insist on seeing proof of testing.


Brucellosis is often considered a sexually transmitted disease in dogs, however, there are. It is devastating to breeders. Brucellosis can cause abortion of fetuses. It lives in the vaginal tract of a female dog or the seminal tract and testicles of a male and can be transmitted through secretions, urine, breeding and contact with infected fluids. Brucellosis can be transmitted to humans through contact with aborted fetuses or infected fluids such as urine. Breeding dogs (male and female) must be tested regularly for this. There is no reliable cure for this bacteria though it can be detected through a blood test. Breeding dogs should be tested regularly, males and females. Infected dogs should never be bred.

Dermatomyositis - (Sheltie Skin Syndrome)

Dermatomyositis is found in many breeds. Skin and muscle may be involved. The dogs develop skin lesions that are red, scaly, crusty but often not itchy. The lesions may be mistaken for other dermatological issues that can cause skin lesions. DM is diagnosed by skin biopsy. It is genetic and affected dogs must not be bred. Some dogs may have it but never break out. As of now, there is no genetic test for the disease and the mode of transmission is not yet known. It is NOT contagious but there is no cure.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia was once considered a large dog issue. In actuality, any breed or cross can be affected. There is also thought to be an environmental factor to HD, nutritional, etc. But HD is genetic. Before breeding, dogs should pass either OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) or PennHip (University of Pennsylvania Hip Improvement Program) screening. Breeding clear dogs does not eliminate the chance of affected offspring, but it reduces the chance. As of now, there is no genetic test for HD, only screenings.

***MDR1 Gene Mutation

This is a genetic mutation found in many herding breeds but also showing up in some of the mastiff family of dogs as well as mixed breeds not appearing to have any herding breed in them The mutation is recessive and caused multiple drug sensitivities to varying degrees. Ivermectin and Immodium are two medications that affected dogs react to, dosage of the medications also plays a role. (Washington State University information page). There is a genetic test for this disorder.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

PRA is a progressive eye issue and may not be detected in younger dogs. Annual screenings of breeding dogs, even after the are no longer being bred should be done. Dogs should be CERF (Canine Eye Registry Foundation) certified.


Seizures are primarily Epilepsy but also caused by something such as disease, thyroid or liver issues, poisoning or injury. Due to different causes of seizures, part of treating will be to find the cause. Epilepsy is found in Shelties however work is being done by the Canine Epilepsy Network to learn more about the inheritance mode of it.

Sheltie Eye

Unlike PRA, Sheltie Eye is visible in young dogs. If a dog screens clear, the dog does not have it.

Thyroid Disease

Thyroid issues are not uncommon in dogs. Hypothyroidism is a cause of impaired production of hormone from the thyroid gland. It is more often diagnosed in middle aged to older dogs. Symptoms include lethargy, shedding, flaky skin, weight gain (note, most obesity is owner-caused), intolerance to cold.

***von Willebrand's Disease (vWD)

vWD is a genetic bleeding disorder, however it is not canine specific, it can happen in any animal, including humans, but is not contagious. There are (3) types of vWD and Shelties appear to be more affected by the more severe form, vWD Type III.

There are two kinds of tests for vWD. Buccal Mucosal Screening Time and Genetic One. with Genetic One, led by VetGen™, is far more accurate, however Buccal Mucosal Screening Time may be use for initial screening, it is not as accurate and other factors such as medications, can result in unreliable or inaccurate results.

The Importance of Good Breeding Practices

Breeding is serious and must not be attempted by anyone without Breed Specific education! "Backyard breeders'' that buy a pure-bred pet with the intention of making money, or well intentioned pet owners that wish expand their pet numbers, should be aware of the potential problems that may result from improper breeding. Only properly trained/educated, breeders with a network that includes other qualified breeders, should ever attempt to breed any animal.    

Before attempting to breed and sell a purebred dog or other pet, please consider:

the current pet population problem, resources, nbeee expenses for veterinarian expenses, appropriate facilities, upkeep, time, care and attention, potential problems with genetics, health, temperament, and even basic training in order to find interested buyers, and as you watch your baby leave, ask yourself.."is it worth it?"

Please see our Ethical Guidelines page for additional information on this topic.

For more information on Sheltie Health, please visit the: American Shetland Sheepdog Association.

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