Common Australian Shepherd Health Problems - Aussie University

Common Australian Shepherd Health Problems

What are Common Australian Shepherd Health Problems?

There is no guarantee that your dog will suffer from these health issues, but some breeds more commonly see certain conditions than others. Australian Shepherds are one of the most popular breed and for very good reasons! They are best suited for active families, as their high-energy personality means they need athletic challenges to stay happy. Luckily, their active nature seems to play into the breed’s prime health history.

Overall, Australian Shepherds encounter relatively little serious health conditions. They have an average life span of 12-15 years and come with a great track record for being very healthy dogs. Below are a few conditions that have been seen in Australian Shepherds throughout the years.

Hip Dysplasia

A genetic condition, hip dysplasia is a malformation of a dog’s hip socket. It can be difficult to pinpoint, because some dogs with hip dysplasia will appear to be perfectly normal, but over time, the condition will reveal it’s self, if not treated as it can eventually lead to arthritis in dogs. When a dog has hip dysplasia, his thigh bone does not fit properly into the hip socket which will damage the surface cartilage overtime and wear away at the bone.

The condition and symptoms can range from mild to severe, with severe typically requiring complete surgical hip replacement. If it goes untreated a dog will stumble and suffer great pain. Since it is impossible to know if your dog has hip dysplasia by just looking at him, x-rays are required to make a diagnosis. This condition should be routinely checked by your vet. Usually once the dog turns two years old, the condition can be detected.

Statistics indicate that around 6% of Australian Shepherds have abnormal hips, but many cases never get reported. Hip Dysplasia can limit the dog from living a normal life and cause some dogs a great deal of pain.


Elbow Dysplasia

A similar condition, elbow dysplasia, is also sometimes seen in Australian Shepherds. The Symptoms of elbow dysplasia are very close to that of the hips; only this form affects the front legs instead of the rear. While some affected dogs do not present definite symptoms, others experience significant pain.


Collie Eye Anomaly

CEA is a group of eye disorders that range from minor to serious. It can affect one or both eyes, and serious cases can lead to blindness, however, it is usually treatable, depending on the severity.


Multiple Drug Sensitivity or Multi-drug Resistance

Unfortunately, Australian Shepherds are one of the few breeds that suffer from Multiple Drug Sensitivity (MDS). This is perhaps the strangest and most frustrating health conditions that Australian Shepherds get. A mutation of this gene causes dogs to react to certain drugs at dosages that are normally safe. When a dog had MDS, they are hypersensitive to ordinary medications commonly used by vets. This may include common heartworm preventatives.

When your dog has MDS, he is unable to pump these drugs out of his brain, which results in neurological toxicity. This is a serious condition, and Australian Shepherd puppies with MDS can have fatal reactions to commonly prescribed veterinary drugs.



Although not extremely common, canine epilepsy can also occur in Australian Shepherds. If and when a seizure does happen, it can be quite serious. Epileptic seizures in dogs can be caused by a variety of triggers, including infections, genetics, toxic exposure and injury. There are currently no screening tests available for seizure disorders in Australian Shepherds, but if your puppy comes from a reputable breeder with no history of epilepsy, you should be able to avoid being faced with this problem.


Kidney Disease

Kidney disease can arise from different causes but if the disease is renal dysplasia (the internal structures do not develop normally) it is a recessive inherited disease that is frequently fatal. Even in dogs that live with it for many years it likely shortens their lifespans. As in humans, a dogs kidneys act as natural filters, helping to rid the body of built up waste in the form of urine and balancing the normal concentrations of salt and water in the body.

They control blood pressure, aid in metabolizing calcium and helps to sustain proper phosphorus levels. The extra phosphorus causes body changes that pull calcium out of the bones, making them weak. When dog kidney disease occurs, toxins can build up in the body causing severe illness and even death from renal failure. While Kidney disease can be frightening make sure to see a vet to get treatment as quickly as possible and you can help ward off the dangers of kidney malfunction.

Other less common conditions include:
  • Heart disease
  • Ear infections
  • Allergies
  • Inherited Deafness-found mostly in Australian Shepherds with a lot of white coloring on their head
  • Bad bites-besides under or over-bites, there is a condition (Wry) where one side of the jaw grows longer than the other
  • Blood-clotting diseases
What to watch for:

Any abnormal symptoms could be a sign of a serious disease, or it could just be a minor or temporary problem. The important thing is to be able to tell when to seek veterinary help, and how urgently.

  • Change in appetite or water consumption
  • Tatar build up, bad breath, red gums or broken teeth
  • Itchy Skin, hair loss
  • Lethargy, mental dullness or excessive sleeping
  • Fearfulness, aggression or other behavioral changes
Seek Emergency help for:
  • Tender Ears or ear discharge
  • Inability to urinate
  • Labored breathing, pale gums, weakness or sudden collapse
  • Any abnormal shaking, trembling, or tremors
  • Cloudiness, redness, itching or any other abnormality involving the eyes
  • Sudden weight loss, loss of appetite

In order for your Australian Shepherd to live a longer, healthier life make sure you watch his/her diet, maintain an active lifestyle with plenty of exercise, regularly brush his/her teeth or coat and call the vet whenever something seems unusual.



1) “Common Australian Shepherd Health Problems”. Canna-Pet 11 July 2017


Hi there! My name is Erica and I am absolutely in love with Australian Shepherds. These pups have been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember, and I have learned so much about them over the years. I am now excited to share all of my knowledge and experiences with you through my writing for Aussie University. When I'm not typing away, you can find me out and about with my own Aussie crew, exploring all that nature has to offer or participating in fun dog-centered activities. I can't wait to connect with all of you fellow Aussie lovers out there!

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