Australian Shepherd Genetic Diseases Info (+ Tips From A Vet)

As with any breed of dog, there are certain genetic diseases and disorders that can affect Australian Shepherds. Some of these conditions are minor and easily treated, while others can be more serious and even life-threatening.

Choosing a reputable breeder is your best assurance of getting a healthy and happy puppy. Puppies from breeders can still inherit genetic problems but breeders are usually aware of these conditions and take steps to avoid and manage them. In some cases, you can check during Australian shepherd pregnancy for certain conditions.

 

Australian Shepherd Genetic Eye Diseases & Conditions

One of the most common health problems seen in Aussies is genetic eye disease since Australian Shepherds are prone to eye issues. Problems can occur for reasons other than heredity (other diseases, injury, or nutritional imbalance) but other causes that are not heredity related are not common and should not be assumed to be the reason without consulting a veterinary ophthalmologist.

 

Cataracts

One of the most common eye problems seen in Australian Shepherds is cataracts. A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye and can occur in one or both eyes. They can be small and not cause any vision problems or they can be large and cause blindness. Surgery is the only way to remove cataracts and it is usually successful.

Signs of cataracts usually appear between the ages of 2-3 but can show up as early as 1 year or as late as 7-8 years of age. It’s best if the condition is caught early and treated as soon as possible. Cataracts can be caused by other health problems such as diabetes, so it’s important to have your dog checked by a veterinarian if you notice any signs of cataracts.

 

Collie Eye Anomaly

Collie eye anomaly (CEA) is a genetic disorder that affects the eyes of Collies and other herding breeds like the Australian Shepherd. It is a congenital condition that is present at birth and can range from mild to severe. The severity of the condition depends on how much of the eye is affected. The eye(s) affected are not able to dilate or contract which can cause discomfort for the dog around bright light

Mild cases may not cause any symptoms or problems and the dog may not even be aware that they have CEA. In more severe cases, dogs may experience vision loss, blindness, and/or other eye problems. There is no cure for CEA and there is no way to prevent it from happening. The best way to deal with the condition is to have your dog checked by a veterinarian so that they can be monitored for any problems.

This hereditary condition needs to be detected or diagnosed early to be properly dealt with, specifically before 8 weeks, due to a phenomenon known as “go normal” wherein the defect becomes impossible to detect as the eye develops. Early detection is key since the colombas responsible can be seen at birth and are almost always found in merle colored aussies. The problem however still exists and as a result any puppy diagnosed with this condition should not be used for breeding.

 

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a degenerative eye disease that affects the retina. The retina is the light-sensitive layer of tissue at the back of the eye that converts light into electrical impulses which are sent to the brain and allow us to see. PRA causes the cells in the retina to break down and die, which leads to blindness.

PRA is a genetic disorder that is inherited from the parents. It usually affects both eyes and can occur at any age, but is most commonly seen in older dogs. There is no cure for PRA. The best way to deal with the condition is to have your dog checked by a veterinarian so that they can be monitored for any problems.

PRA is a serious condition that can lead to blindness. It is important to have your dog checked by a veterinarian if you notice any signs of PRA, such as difficulty seeing in low light or complete loss of vision. Signs of the disorder can start as early as 3-5 years of age.

 

Eye Testing

All dogs should have their eyes checked by a veterinarian at least once a year. This is especially important for Australian Shepherds since they are prone to eye problems. During an eye examination, the veterinarian will check for any signs of problems and will be able to diagnose and treat any conditions that are found. All results of testing should be recorded with the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF).

Some of the tests that may be performed during an eye examination include:

– Visual acuity test: This measures how well the dog can see.

– Tonometry: This measures the pressure inside the eye.

– Slit lamp examination: This is a detailed examination of the eye using a special microscope.

– Fluorescein dye test: This is used to check for corneal ulcers.

– Electroretinography: This is a test that measures the function of the retina.

Breeders should have all dogs used for breeding tested for genetic eye diseases before being bred. This will help to ensure that only healthy dogs are being bred and that any conditions are not passed on to the puppies. Puppies should also be tested at an early age.

 

Australian Shepherd Joints & Bones Genetic Diseases & Conditions

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a condition that affects the hip joint. The hip joint is a ball and socket joint where the head of the femur (thigh bone) fits into the acetabulum (hip socket). In dogs with hip dysplasia, the joint does not fit together properly and the ball and socket rub against each other, causing pain and inflammation.

Hip dysplasia is a hereditary condition that can be affected by environmental factors, such as diet and exercise. Hip dysplasia can be diagnosed with x-rays or an MRI.

 

 Elbow Dysplasia

Elbow dysplasia is a condition that affects the elbow joint. The elbow joint is made up of three bones: the humerus (upper arm bone), the ulna (forearm bone), and the radius (forearm bone). In dogs with elbow dysplasia, these bones do not fit together properly and they rub against each other, causing pain and inflammation.

Elbow dysplasia is a hereditary condition that can be affected by environmental factors, such as diet and exercise. Elbow dysplasia can be diagnosed with x-rays or an MRI.

 

Luxating Patellas

The patella is the kneecap and it sits in a groove at the end of the femur (thigh bone). The patella is held in place by ligaments and muscles. In dogs with luxating patellas, the patella can pop out of the groove and move around. This can cause pain and lameness.

Luxating patellas are a hereditary condition that can be affected by environmental factors, such as diet and exercise. Luxating patellas can be diagnosed with x-rays.

 

Joints & Bones Testing

All dogs should have their joints and bones checked by a veterinarian at least once a year. This is especially important for Australian Shepherds since they are prone to joint and bone problems. During a joint and bone examination, the veterinarian will check for any signs of problems and will be able to diagnose and treat any conditions that are found.

Some of the tests that may be performed during a joint and bone examination include:- X-rays: This is the most common way to diagnose joint and bone problems.- MRIs: This can provide more detailed images of the joints and bones

 

Other Australian Shepherd Common Health Problems

Other than genetic diseases and disorders that Australian Shepherds can face, they also face other problems that are not necessary linked to their genetics. Cancer is a big one, like all other dog breeds, unfortunately face sometimes. Along with cancer, Australian Shepherds also face other problems like Multiple Drug Sensitivity, Epilepsy, and Hypothyroidism.

 

Cancer

Unfortunately, like many other breeds, Aussies are also prone to certain cancers.

 

Hemangiosarcoma

Hemangiosarcoma is a cancer of the blood cells that can grow as a mass in different parts of the body including organs. Some common places are the liver, spleen, or heart.

Unfortunately, symptoms can be late to appear. Sometimes symptoms won’t show up until the animal has collapsed. The disease can be diagnosed with ultrasound, X-rays, biopsy, and the accumulation of abnormal body fluids. Currently, there are a few different treatments but no cure.

 

Lymphoma

Lymphoma occurs in different parts of the dog’s body like the lymph nodes, bone marrow, or spleen. It’s a cancer of the white blood cells. One common sign or symptom is an enlarged lymph node typically found either below the dog’s jaw or behind the knee. Other symptoms include:

  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Lethargy

Currently, there is no cure. Radiation and chemotherapy are used as common treatments.

 

Multi-drug Sensitivity

Multi-drug sensitivity (MDR1) is fairly common in Australian Shepherds. This sensitivity to drugs can affect your Aussie from surgery drugs to daily medications. Even simple simple medications, like flea medication can potentially put an Australian Shepherd at risk.

MDR1 makes it impossible for the dog’s system to clear the drug, which makes them permanently affected by it. In severe cases, this can cause physical disability, brain damage, and even death.

Diagnosis is done with a DNA test. Your vet must be made aware of this condition in order to treat any health issues with proper medication that your Aussie won’t have a reaction to. Unfortunately, there are no substitutes for certain drugs/medicines.

 

Epilepsy

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder in dogs that causes seizures and can lead to a loss of consciousness. Seizures can be caused by:

  • Exposure to toxins
  • Problems in the blood or organs
  • Genetic problems
  • Brain tumors
  • Other unknown reasons

There are certain warning signs to look for before a seizure occurs. Your dog may:

  • Be stressed, worried, dazed, or frightened
  • Have difficulty controlling bladder or bowels
  • Might hide or seek help from you
  • Have contractions in muscles or limbs
  • Might see and react to a hallucination

There are treatments for Epilepsy but no cure. Treatments can include antiepileptic medication and other meds that help with convulsions.

 

Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism occurs when the dog’s body doesn’t make enough thyroid hormone. Some common signs or symptoms include (but are not limited to):

  • Hair loss
  • Weight gain without apparent reason
  • Excessive shedding
  • Weakness
  • Scaly skin
  • Lethargy
  • Appearing inactive
  • Not mentally alert
  • Slowed or abnormal hair growth
  • Skin infections that don’t heal
  • Intolerance to coldness
  • Dry and dull coat

Treatment exists but is lifelong and current a cure does not exist. Treatment common includes medication and dietary restrictions (typically reduced fat), and careful monitoring of your dog’s condition. The hormones are given synthetically and the dose tends to need adjusting throughout your Aussie’s life.

 

Frequently Asked Questions

 

What genetic testing should be done on Australian Shepherds?

For Aussies it would be useful to have at least, CEA, PRCD (PRA), HSF4, and MDR1 tested. Additionally, hereditary cobalamin malabsorption, canine multifocal retinopathy, cone degeneration, degenerative myelopathy, vonWillebrand’s Disease, and the form of neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis found in Aussies are useful to find out the full extent of your Aussies genetic conditions.

What is MDR1 in Australian Shepherds?

A mutation at the MDR1 gene which makes them more sensitive to the negative effects of certain medications. Herding breeds in general (including Collies and Australian Shepherds) can have a mutation at the MDR1 gene which causes them to become more sensitive to negative effects of certain medications.

 

What is the leading cause of death for Australian Shepherds?

Cancer. It’s estimated that 30% of all Australian Shepherds die from cancer or cancer related issues.

 

What is toxic to Australian Shepherds?

If you believe your Australian Shepherd has consumed something toxic, reach out to the ASPCA Poison Control or call their number (888) 426-4435. Foods your Australian Shepherd should NOT have include: dairy products, chocolate, avocados, grapes, raisins, and bones. Other foods you shouldn’t give your Aussie are artificial sweeteners, macadamia nuts, onions, and garlic. However this list is not all inclusive and we recommend you seek medical help for your Aussie.

 

Conclusion

There are many different genetic diseases and disorders that can affect Australian Shepherds. It’s important to know the health problems your Aussie might face. It’s also good to learn more about Australian Shepherds as a breed.

Some of these conditions are more common than others and some can be more serious than others. It’s important to be aware of the different conditions that can affect your dog so that you can get them the help they need if they develop any of these problems. If you are thinking about getting an Australian Shepherd, be sure to do your research and make sure you are getting a dog from a reputable breeder who can provide health clearances for the parents of the dog.

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