6 Genetic Health Problems in Shelties
Being genetically similar, purebred dogs are more likely to suffer from inherited diseases. Here are 6 such Sheltie health problems which affect the joints, hips, kneecaps, blood, skin and eyes.
Shelties are basically a healthy dog breed, so don't let this article about possible health problems scare you. Careful breeding and genetic testing should rule these out for your dog, but if not, these are the potential issues to look out for.
1. Weight Gain
It's all too easy to overfeed a Sheltie. One of the most important things you can do for your Sheltie's health is prevent him from becoming overweight.
Experts warn that some commercial dog foods suggest larger portions than are actually needed. This alone can make your Sheltie overweight, putting extra strain on his heart, joints and bones.
If you can't easily feel your Sheltie's ribs at the sides then he is likely overweight. Immediately cut down on his food and ensure he gets more vigorous exercise - at least 30 minutes brisk walking per day.
A healthy Shetland Sheepdog that receives the right diet and exercise regime will usually live for 12-15 years.
2. Patellar Luxation (Kneecap Dislocation)
This is more common in small and toy breeds and is where the knee cap floats out of position, causing pain and difficulty straightening the leg.
If your Sheltie has patellar luxation, he will limp and hold his hind leg up. This may only last for 10 minutes before he returns to normal, but it will be a recurring problem.
It most often affects dogs in their middle years and can be caused by an injury or a genetic defect. Ongoing treatment involves massaging the affected knee, but in chronic or severe cases, he will need surgery with a 30-60 day recovery period.
Learn more about Patellar Luxation at Pet MD.
3. Hip Dysplasia
This is usually a large breed health problem, however it can also appear in smaller purebreds like Shetland Sheepdogs as a genetic abnormality.
Hip dysplasia is caused by a subluxation in the hip joint, which causes extra wear and tear of the joint, leading to painful arthritis.
It usually shows up in middle age and you'll see your Sheltie limping on his hind leg (or hopping like a rabbit while running) and hesitating when climbing stairs because of the pain it causes.
A vet can diagnose hip dysplasia with a physical exam and x-rays. You then have two options: medical management or surgery.
The former means maintaining your dog's healthy weight, giving him low-impact exercise like slow jogging and swimming, a warm sleeping area and massage therapy.
If you can afford it, there are many types of surgical treatment available depending on the age of your dog and the severity of the hip dysplasia.
Learn more about Hip Dysplasia at Pet MD.
4. Dermatomyositis (Skin Inflammation)
This is a common Sheltie skin problem that affects young herding breed dogs. It's also known as Collie Nose.
It is genetic but can be aggravated by trauma and UV light. If you see your Sheltie has any redness, scaling, crusting or hair loss on the face, take him to the vet.
The lesions can appear as early as 7 weeks old and in some cases treated with blank ink tattooed on the affected areas.
Other treatments take the form of medication and a diet rich with Vitamin E and fatty acids. In extreme cases, the lesions can become cancerous and the condition fatal.
Learn more about Dermatomyositis at Pet MD.
5. Scleral Ectasia (Collie Eye)
Also known as Collie Eye or Sheltie Eye Syndrome, this is an inherited health problem which prevents the eyes from developing properly in the womb.
This causes impaired vision due to a detached retina, optic nerve abnormalities, or loss of retinal cells.
Sadly, due to it's hereditary nature, it's thought to affect 90% of modern American Collies to some degree. This is why professional breeders eye-check all their Sheltie puppies and notify the new owners if any abnormality is found.
Selective breeding means a professional will never mate dogs with Sheltie Eye. This reduces the incidence of the disease in future, for which there is no treatment.
Learn more about Collie Eye at Pet MD.
6. Von Willebrande's Disease
This is an inherited bleeding disorder which prevents the blood from clotting normally. It's like hemophilia in humans.
Von Willebrande's Disease is more common in a number of dog breeds including Shetland Sheepdogs, which reveals a genetic basis.
The symptoms include excessive bleeding after surgery, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, bloody stool (caused by stomach or intestinal bleeding) and even blood in the urine.
Shelties with this health problem can bleed to death after surgery or injury. There is no cure but treatment involves blood transfusions or potential drugs to help clotting.
Learn more about Von Willebrande's Disease at Pet MD.
You can rule out most of these health problems with hip and eye checks by your vet. If you've had your Sheltie neutered or spayed, you can eliminate Von Willebrande's Disease too. And any serious skin problems should show up when your Sheltie is a puppy.
Of course, like all dogs, Shetland Sheepdogs can still develop various cancers with old age and this is a good reason to take your Sheltie for an annual vet check up. Early diagnosis can make all the difference and could even save your Sheltie's life.