Blue Ridge Shetland Sheepdog Club
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.
Health issues are in alphabetical order. Purple text indicates screenable. Purple with asterisks (***) indicates a genetic test is available. Links open new windows.
Brucellosis - 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. Texas A&M Dermatomyositis Info.
Hip Dysplasia - HD 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 Univ 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 - Seizures can be primary (Epilepsy) or secondary (caused by something else such as disease, thyroid or liver issues, poisoning or injury). Due to different causes of seizures, part of treating will be trying to find the cause. Epilepsy is found in Shelties and there is work being done 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 - 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 is a bleeding disorder and genetic. There are a few types of vWD and Shelties appear to be more affected by the more severe form. There are two kinds of tests for vWD with the genetic one being far more accurate. The old coagulation tests are not as accurate and various things (certain medications, etc) can result in skewed results.
Along with the health issues you should be aware with in the Shetland Sheepdog, you also need to be a responsible and caring owner. This means proper veterinary care, training and undertsanding your role in the big picture of the dog world. Part of being a responsible pet owner is spaying and neutering your pet.
Many people want to breed and often breed for the wrong reasons. There are more benefits to spaying and neutering than not. For the benefits of spaying and neutering and some breeding myths, click the graphic below.
Breeding is a serious endeavor and must not be taken lightly.
For more information on Sheltie Health, go to the American Shetland Sheepdog Association site.
site updated 4/2013