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Common Health Problems Associated with Australian Shepherds

Updated on January 17, 2016
Australian shepherd puppies
Australian shepherd puppies

Overall Australian Shepherds are a very hearty breed of dog. Aside from being a sturdy breed of dog the Australian Shepherd is quickly becoming one of the most popular breeds for families because of the breeds easy fit into an active family life. Although the Australian Shepherd is a hearty breed some health effects do affect the Australian Shepherd breed more than other breeds. Below are some of the most common health issues associated with Australian Shepherds.

Hip Dysplasia

What is hip dysplasia?

Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition that causes the abnormal formation of the hip socket. This abnormal formation cause the hip bone to be loose and allow to move around a lot and cause a lot of wear and tear which can pain to the dog. Hip dysplasia is most common in larger breeds such as the Australian Shepherd but can occur in any sized dog.

What can be done for dogs with hip dysplasia?

Since hip dysplasia is a genetic condition there is no way to prevent it from occurring if your dog already has the gene. There are surgical options to treat hip dysplasia such as a hip replacement but are not usually employed unless the dog has severe pain due to the surgery's invasive nature. Less invasive ways to treat dogs with hip dysplasia include anti-inflammatory medications, joint supplements, keeping your dog at a healthy weight and massage therapy.

A full grown Red Tri Aussie
A full grown Red Tri Aussie

Eye Problems

As a breed Aussies are prone to a number of hereditary eye issues including but not limited to cataracts and complete blindness.


Cataracts are the most common eye issue suffered by Australian Shepherds. Most of the cataracts suffered by Aussies are hereditary cataracts which are mean they are bilateral or occur in both eyes.

Australian Shepherds that develop cataracts usually develop them around 2-3 years of age although they can occur in Aussies much older. If one eye develops a cataract it is wise to get your dog's eyes checked every 6 months to make sure cataracts don't begin to develop in the other eye.

If your dog does develop cataracts your vet may be able to help ease the development and will give you a list of ways to keep your dog healthy and comfortable. The only cure for cataracts in dogs is surgical intervention.

Thyroid Disease

Thyroid disease is one of the most common health related problems reported among Australian Shepherds. Thyroid disease can cause issues such as weight gain and skin issues and less commonly fertility issues. While thyroid diseases may sound scary and life threatening they can be diagnosed via a simple blood test and the medications used to manage thyroid disease in dogs are relatively inexpensive.

It is important to make sure the breeder that you decide to get an Australian Shepherd from screens their breeding stock regularly as thyroid problems can be passed on genetically.

MDR1 Drug Resistance

MDRI or Multiple Drug Resistance is a condition caused by the dog inheriting one or two copies of the MDR1 gene. This gene causes affected dogs to have bad side effects, including death, to common veterinary drugs such as the drug Ivermectin which is a broad anti-parasitic drug.

For a dog to inherit this gene both parents must have copies. A dog can inherit one or two copies of this gene, with dogs having two copies of this gene suffering more severe reactions from medications. In one study it was suggested that up to 32% of Aussies have at least one copy of this gene although researchers are still not completely sure of the incidence of the MDR1 gene in Australian Shepherds.

In Conclusion....

While the Australian Shepherd is a generally healthy breed however like any breed some genetic and health issues are more common to Australian Shepherds than to other breeds. If you plan on getting an Australian Shepherd puppy it is important to make sure that the breeders you consider participate in genetic testing and safe breeding practices in regards to genetics since some less responsible breeders skip genetic testing, solely focusing on profit and not the health of the animals.


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