Health Problems with Australian Shepherds

australian shepherd health issues

The Australian shepherd is an intelligent, active, and very high-energy breed that was originally bred to herd sheep and cattle.

To round up all of those sheep and cows, this dog had to be an energetic bundle with not a lazy bone in its body.

The Aussie makes an excellent family pet, especially for the busy, on-the-go, and energetic family.

If you or your family are physically active, and big into jogging, hiking, and throwing balls around then your Australian shepherd wants to be right there in the mix.

People who consume healthy foods and who get plenty of exercises are generally healthier overall than sedentary people who snack on junk food constantly. The same goes for dogs and the Australian shepherd is no exception.

Unfortunately, this is no guarantee for people or dogs that we will not have any health problems whether common or rare.

Even though the Australian shepherd is a relatively healthy breed it’s best to be informed and prepared.

This post will deal with Australian shepherds’ common health problems and Australian shepherds’ genetic diseases.

australian shepherd health issues
Image by Pixabay

For your dog’s vitamin supplement, food, toys, or other dogs product please visit the Sundays for Dogs website.

Australian Shepherd Common Health Problems

Your Australian shepherd may never suffer from any type of health problem or disease, but listed below are health problems more common to this breed.


This is a common disease seen in Australian shepherds and is often called underactive thyroid. At the base of the brain is the pituitary gland.

This gland controls the thyroid and the thyroid regulates metabolism by producing the hormone thyroxine.

If the pituitary gland is underactive, the thyroid does not produce enough thyroxine. Symptoms can be weight gain, coldness, dry, flaky skin, lethargy, and loss of fur.

Replacing the hormone with a medication called levothyroxine is the treatment and must be taken for life with dosages fluctuating at times.

MDR1 (multi-drug resistance)

There are few breeds that suffer from this anomaly of MDR1 and unfortunately, the Australian shepherd is one of them.

Dogs who have this will have adverse effects from commonly used drugs such as even heartworm medication.

A gene mutation causes dogs to have a reaction to certain drugs and dosages that are normally safe. Care must be used when trying new medications because reactions are sometimes fatal.


In Australian shepherds, cataracts are the most common eye disease. Cataracts can be found in one or both eyes and cause the eye to become cloudy. This leads to impaired vision and can cause eventual blindness.

Cataracts can appear in Australian shepherds as young as one to three years old but can also develop in senior dogs due to the aging process. Surgery, although quite expensive is an option.

Iris coloboma

An eye condition that can affect your Aussie is iris coloboma. These are holes in the iris due to the iris not being fully developed at birth.

This can affect one or both eyes and will cause your pup to squint in bright light because the eyes cannot dilate properly. This is a birth defect and there is no cure. It is found mostly in Aussies that are merles.

Elbow dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is common in Australian shepherds but often goes undiagnosed. This would present with lameness in the front end which sometimes comes and goes adding to the problem of diagnosing this type of dysplasia. Surgery or pain meds are options.

Cancer and tumors

There are two types of cancer that are more common in Australian shepherds which are lymphoma and hemangiosarcoma.

Lymphoma can be found in a dog’s liver, spleen, and lymph nodes and is usually found in older dogs. Symptoms are fever, weakness, dehydration, and lethargy. It is treated with chemotherapy.

There are a few different types of hemangiosarcoma and they can affect separate areas of the body with differing symptoms.

Some symptoms are fatigue and tiredness, weakness, pale gums, a lump under the skin, abdominal swelling, difficulty breathing, bleeding, nosebleeds, heart rhythms that are abnormal, and seizure.

Depending on what type of hemangiosarcoma and the location, treatments can range from surgery to chemotherapy and palliative or hospice care.

To check your shepherds’ health status or their DNA checks, please visit the Embark vet website for all the help you may need.

common health isuess in Australian shepherd
Image by Pixabay

Australian Shepherd Health Problems (Infrequently Found)

The following are health problems that your Australian shepherd can suffer from but these aren’t as commonly found.

Hip dysplasia

This can occur in Australian shepherds but isn’t as common as in larger-boned breeds. It occurs from a malformation in the ball of the femur which does not fit into the hip socket, causing rubbing and grinding and eventual arthritis.

Dogs should be screened as well as all breeding dogs. Pain medication is an option as well as orthopedic surgery, which can be quite costly.


Australian shepherds can suffer from both environmental and food allergies. Symptoms can be watery eyes, sneezing, gastrointestinal issues,

skin rashes and conditions, and loss of fur. Medications are available for environmental allergies.

Skin conditions can be treated with oral or topical meds and your pup’s diet should be changed if a food allergy is suspected.

Collie Eye Anomaly

Genetic testing can be used to detect CEA, which is a group of eye conditions that can range from mild to severe.

It can affect one or both eyes and in severe cases, blindness can occur. This is a treatable condition although milder cases have a more positive outcome.

Inherited deafness

Deafness is not common in Australian shepherds but shepherds that don’t have much pigment on their heads, having white fur, are more at risk.

Australian Shepherd Health Problems

Australian Shepherd Genetic Diseases

According to https//, a Genetic disease is “a disease that is passed from one generation to the next, but does not necessarily appear in each generation.” Genetic diseases are inherited conditions. Information on all but one of these diseases is referenced above.

The diseases that are genetically based are cataracts, iris coloboma, epilepsy, hip and elbow dysplasia, allergies, and MDR1 (if both parents do not have the DNA for MDR1 then the puppies need no further testing).

Autoimmune Thyroiditis

This is not the same as hypothyroidism but it is one of the causes of it. This disease is genetic in nature just as those above and breeding parents should be screened.

In autoimmune thyroiditis, the immune system attacks the thyroid. Dogs require the same treatment, levothyroxine as hypothyroidism because the immune system destroys the thyroid.

Everyone who yearns for a dog in their family desires a healthy, happy pet and one that can remain active long into their senior years.

Unfortunately, dogs, many purebreds, and yes, Australian shepherds can be affected by a disease no matter how careful we are when raising them.

The best way for you to take home a healthy, robust Australian shepherd is to seek out a reputable breeder who participates in DNA and genetic testing and keeps good records.

Many conditions can be avoided or treated by taking home your Australian shepherd puppy who had sturdy, healthy parents cleared of many preventable diseases.

This is the best start you can give them for a long, exuberant, comfortable, and healthy quality of life.