OF THE SHETLAND SHEEPDOG
Shetland sheepdogs have a harsh outer coat and a softer undercoat. They are dogs with fur rather than “hair” so they shed. This has its pros and cons. Sheltie coats tend to mat less and tend not to hold as many odors as do non-shedding dogs. Shelties do not need to be groomed as often and a good brushing once a week keeps them looking good. Bathing is less often needed to keep them tidy but they should be bathed to keep their skin clean and to aid in hair removal when they are shedding. Daily brushing when they are shedding prevents matting and keeps the house as well as the dog clean. Generally males do a once a year shed while unsprayed females shed with each cycle (an extra reason to spay females). People who are allergic, however, would do better with a non-shedding dog than with a Shetland sheepdog or any shedding breed. A good breeder will spend time with you and explain the basic grooming techniques and what tools you need to keep your sheltie well groomed. Your sheltie breeder should give you a “grooming lesson” on your Shetland sheepdog puppy so that you know the correct method of brushing. Trimming the nails of your sheltie is important. It is a good idea to keep the nails short on all dogs, not just shelties as they benefit from this. Otherwise, as the nails grow on your sheltie, or any dog, the foot is pushed out of position, which can cause the tendons to be strained. Your breeder should be handling the puppy to get him/her used to this at an early age.
Veterinary care for your Shetland sheepdog is the same as for any dog whether purebred or mixed breed. A good veterinarian should be chosen and yearly health checkups, vaccinations when needed, and heartworm and flea and tick medication should be administered at your veterinarian’s advice. Note: After the series of puppy shots are administered, shots need no longer be administered yearly (according to new information given by DVM Jean Dodd’s vaccine protocol which states that immunizations given after your sheltie or any puppy is six months of age last for 3 years or as much as the lifetime of the dog. Over immunization is now thought to trigger autoimmune problems in dogs as they age. Check with your veterinarian for his regime.) Rabies vaccinations are to be given every one to three years depending on the type of vaccine. Also note: certain heartworm medication containing Ivermectin, such as Heartguard, are detrimental to shelties, collies and mixed breed dogs containing sheltie or collie heritage. These dogs exhibit sensitivity to the drug and can show adverse symptoms. Heartworm medications containing milbemycin, such as Interceptor, were developed for Ivermectin sensitive breeds.
All breeds of dogs have inherited genetic health problems that can appear. A reputable sheltie breeder should screen for these possible health risks, if a test is available, and should not breed any Shetland sheepdog who exhibits such a trait or produces the trait. Documentation as to testing done should be provided by your Shetland sheepdog breeder when you come for your puppy. This becomes a record that you and your veterinarian can refer to.
Possible genetic health problems include:
1. Canine Hip Dysplasia – this is most often associated with larger breeds but can appear in smaller dogs such as Shetland sheepdogs. If the hip socket does not seat the head of the femur correctly, the sheltie can suffer pain and/or disability as it gets older, or it can exhibit no symptoms. This is not inherited with a single gene and is found in many breeds. Any sheltie that is to be used for breeding, whether male or female, should pass either OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals) or PennHip (University of Pennsylvania Improvement Program) screening. The sheltie’s local veterinarian takes x-rays of the hips and sends them to one of these two sources for independent evaluation. Only unaffected Shetland sheepdogs should be bred, which will lower the risk of the trait being passed on. A certification paper is send back to the owner of the adult shelties and should be shown to you when you purchase your puppy.
2. Hypothyroidism – under-active thyroid is also a possible inherited disorder. Mild variations are often unnoticed unless symptoms such as lethargy, weight gain, hair loss and weakness are exhibited. Tests for all - T and free - T can be run by the vet but false positives do show up. Mild manifestation can be controlled with thyroid medication.
3. von Willebrand’s Disease – this is a bleeding disorder that is similar to hemophilia and is found in many breeds besides Shetland sheepdog. There is a relatively new genetic test for this disorder that is done by taking a swab of cheek tissue and sending it in for analysis. This will identify shelties that are “genetically clear” of the disorder. If both parents are clear then the sheltie puppies are all clear of the disorder as well. A certificate is sent to the owners of the Shetland sheepdogs tested and should be provided by the breeder when you pick up you sheltie puppy.
4, “Collie Eye Anomaly” – this is a genetic eye disorder that can be screened for by a veterinary ophthalmologist. It can be screened for in young animals as well as in adults and all Shetland sheepdogs used for breeding should be screened. Your breeder should show you the certificate that indicates that the parents of the sheltie puppy have been checked. It is found in other dog breeds, such as poodles, golden retrievers and labs, as well as in collies and shelties.
5. Progressive Retinal Atrophy – this is a genetic eye disorder, also found in other breeds, which can be screened for by a veterinary ophthalmologist. It does not appear in young puppies and should be screened for in dogs after 6 months of age. Dogs who are checked are given a CERF certificate (Canine Eye Registry Foundation). Since it can appear in adult dogs, Shetland sheepdogs used for breeding should be checked every one to two years.
Do not be discouraged after reading the above “possible” genetic flaws in Shetland sheepdogs. Most if not all purebred dogs and even mixed breed dogs do have genetic disorders that can manifest itself in a dog. A responsible sheltie breeder will screen for and not breed any animal that exhibits or has been found to have a problem. You should ask the breeder of the sheltie puppy if these tests have been done. They should be able to produce relevant paperwork for you to see.
This site was last updated 05/01/05