Most common health problems in Australian Shepherds, plus health care and feeding.


My Complete Health Care Program for your Australian Shepherd

If you want to AVOID health problems in your Australian Shepherd, you'll find my health care program very valuable.

It's called "11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy."

Raise your dog the RIGHT way, feed him the RIGHT food, give him the RIGHT vaccinations, avoid unnecessary veterinary expenses, and help him live a longer, happier, and more comfortable life.

If your Australian Shepherd already HAS a health problem, I'm sorry to hear that. You should immediately begin my health care program, and you may be able to restore his good health – or at least make him much more comfortable. Let me help!

My best-selling dog health book


Australian Shepherd dog breed

Australian Shepherd Health Care & Feeding

By Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2017


Quick list of Australian Shepherd health problems

Epilepsy is a serious problem in Australian Shepherds, with up to 12% of the breed affected.

Hereditary eye diseases can cause blindness in middle age. Joint diseases (especially hip and elbow dysplasia) can cause pain and lameness that can require expensive surgery. Heart disease is a big concern in the breed.

About one-third of Australian Shepherds suffer from chronic allergies that cause terribly itchy skin. The itching makes the dog miserable, and the constant scratching can lead to skin infections (hot spots).

All Australian Shepherds should have a simple DNA test to determine whether they have inherited a gene mutation known as MDR1. If a dog has this gene, certain medications can be deadly to him.

(See more health problems below.)


Preventing health problems

Some health problems are inherited. For example, if both parents of your Australian Shepherd have certificates proving they were tested and cleared of hereditary eye diseases and hip and elbow dysplasia, your Australian Shepherd has less risk of developing those conditions.

Other health problems can be prevented, or partially prevented, by the ways you raise your dog. If you're serious about doing everything you can for your Australian Shepherd, my best-selling book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy, shows you how to raise your Australian Shepherd puppy (or adult dog) in all the right ways. It will help you be your dog's health care champion!


Here are my dog health tips for raising a healthy Australian Shepherd puppy or adult dog:

Obedience instructor and author Michele Welton Dog Health Care – The Sensible Way
Read my advice on daily health care so your Australian Shepherd lives a long, healthy life and seldom needs to see the vet.


Real homemade dog food The Best Dog Food For Feeding Your Australian Shepherd
Food is the #1 foundation for good health. The best diet for feeding your dog is real food. Real chicken, turkey, beef, fish....these are not just "people foods" and I'll tell you why.


Natural dog foods for your Australian Shepherd. The Second-Best Dog Food For Your Australian Shepherd
If you can't feed homemade dog food, here are your next-best choices.


Information on booster shots for your Australian Shepherd. Vaccinations and Booster Shots: Needed or Not?
How many vaccinations does your Australian Shepherd puppy really need? Does your adult Australian Shepherd need yearly booster shots? The vaccination guidelines have changed! Find out what some vets aren't telling you.


Information on spaying your Australian Shepherd. Spaying Your Female Dog: Pros and Cons
Advantages and disadvantages of spaying your female dog.


Information on neutering your male dog. Neutering Your Male Dog: Pros and Cons
Advantages and disadvantages of neutering your male dog.


Information on choosing the best vet for your Australian Shepherd. The Type of Veterinarian I Recommend
Is your veterinarian really the best choice for your dog? Learn about the differences between vets who practice conventional, holistic, and alternative veterinary medicine.


Assisi Loop Assisi Loop Review: How I Helped Treat Inflammation and Pain
Does your dog suffer from arthritis, hip dysplasia, disk disease, colitis, a skin wound? My honest review of a veterinary device you can use at home to help reduce inflammation and pain.


Complete list of Australian Shepherd health problems

The Australian Shepherd Club conducted a health survey in which 28% of the breed were reported with allergies, which cause itchy skin and can lead to bacterial skin infections (pyoderma).

19% were reported with tumors and cancers.

The most common eye diseases were cataracts (18%) and coloboma of the iris (18%). Cataracts usually appear at 1-3 years old (but can appear as late as 7 years) and often progress to full blindness. Coloboma of the iris appears primarily in the merle colors.

Other eye diseases in Australian Shepherds include persistent pupillary membranes (15% in the club survey), eyelash abnormalities (8%), collie eye anomaly (3%), retinal dysplasia, and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA).

Autoimmune diseases are those in which your dog's defective immune system attacks and damages parts of its own body, often the skin. The most common autoimmune diseases in Australian Shepherds are hypothyroidism (8% in the club survey), demodectic mange (6%), and lupus (3%).

Orthopedic diseases in Aussies are led by hip dysplasia, then osteochondritis and elbow dysplasia (6%), and occasionally luxating patella. The Orthopedic Foundation of America evaluated the hip X-rays of 36,000 Australian Shepherds and found 6% dysplastic. That wouldn't be high for this size dog, except that the true rate is higher because most of the obviously bad X-rays were not sent in for official evaluation. And sure enough, the club health survey shows a 22% hip dysplasia rate. That's bad!

Epilepsy (seizures) is a serious problem in Australian Shepherds, with 12% affected, according to the club survey.

Heart disease (patent ductus arteriosus) is increasing in the breed.

Inherited deafness is somewhat common in Aussie puppies, especially if the puppy has a lot of white on his head.

Blood-clotting diseases (von Willebrand's disease and hemophilia) have been reported, along with liver shunt and megaesophagus.

Australian Shepherds and other collie-type breeds often react adversely to certain drugs such as ivermectin (in heartworm prevention products such as Heartguard), Imodium A-D, flagyl, and certain anesthetics. If your dog has a mutant gene called mdr1, he cannot pump these drugs out of his brain, which results in neurological toxicity. Don't give any of these drugs to your Aussie unless he has been tested for this mutant gene. It's a simple DNA test offered by the Washington State University Veterinary School.

Aussies are prone to losing pigment on their nose and muzzle – this can be caused by nasal solar dermatitis, vitiligo, or lupus, but most commonly it's a harmless condition called "snow nose", where the nose only loses pigment in the winter.


To help you train and care for your dog

book cover To learn more about training your dog to be calm and well-behaved, my dog training book is Teach Your Dog 100 English Words. It's a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your dog to listen to you and do whatever you ask.

book cover My dog buying guide, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, will teach you everything you need to know about finding a good-tempered, healthy dog.

book cover My dog health care book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy, shows you how to help your dog live a longer life while avoiding health problems and unnecessary veterinary expenses.