If you own an Australian Shepherd, you know how smart, athletic, enthusiastic, and furry these pals can be. Descended from the great Pyrenean Shepherd and a favorite companion for nomadic Basque shepherds, the Aussie is now an iconic symbol of the American lifestyle.1
Whether your Aussie is a new addition to the family or has been your faithful friend for years, it’s important to be aware of their potential health concerns. The 6 most common Australian Shepherd health issues include anxiety, skin and eye problems, joint dysplasia, Multiple Drug Sensitivity, and epilepsy.
Read on to equip yourself with the knowledge behind each of these conditions so that you can make sure your Aussie happily chews bones, treats, and sticks for years to come.
Many people question, “Are Australian Shepherds smart?” Aussies are highly intelligent and energetic dogs. They are both quick-witted and quick-footed, as well as highly aware of their surroundings. How else would they be able to wrangle cows and excel in dog shows while making it look easy?
This makes them incredible companions because they’re sensitive to their owners’ emotions. However, this sensitivity and intelligence can lead to anxiety if your Aussie’s environment is chaotic or disrupted, or if they’re understimulated.2
Common signs of anxiety you should watch for in your Aussie include:3
- Aggression or destruction – If your pup is scaring off your neighbors with her over-the-top barking, or she’s chewing off the legs of your coffee table, she may be doing these things out of anxiousness.
- Pacing, restlessness, and compulsion – Often, anxiety takes the form of compulsive licking, which can lead to hot spots. See your vet about the anxiety, and treat her hot spots with Vetericyn Plus® Antimicrobial Hot Spot Spray or Vetericyn Plus® Hot Spot Antimicrobial Hydrogel.
- Drooling or indoor accidents – Sometimes anxiety can cause extra drooling or throw off your Aussie’s housetraining. It’s important to see your vet if these symptoms occur because they can sometimes signal more serious health concerns.
But not to worry—with the right tools and a little proactive knowledge, you can address your Aussie’s anxiety at home.
Be sure that she is stimulated with fun play and exercise, and left home alone to her own devices as little as possible. This could mean waking up early to explore exciting new trails a few times a week, finding an agility competition to train her for, or hiring a dog walker to take her on afternoon adventures while you work.
If her anxiety is a response to her environment, distract her from the disruptions with a fun game. When she is calm, respond with praise and treats. Avoid reacting to your Aussie’s anxiety with concern; this will reinforce her anxiety and make it harder for her to calm herself down.2
#2 Eye Disease
Australian Shepherd eye problems occur from frequently than in other dog breeds. Some of these problems could include Collie Eye Anomaly, cataracts, and more. In fact, it’s recommended that you take your Aussie to a veterinary ophthalmologist for an eye exam at least once a year for routine care and check-ins.4
In the meantime, you can keep his eyes clear of allergens and irritants and soothe eye inflammation from allergies or bacteria with:
#3 Hip and Elbow Dysplasia
Dysplasia refers to “abnormal growth,” which simply means that your Aussie’s hip or elbow sockets haven’t developed quite right. Her thigh bones don’t fit snugly into the sockets, so the bones rub against each other, become inflamed, and start to wear away. Ouch!
Dysplasia typically leads to arthritis and daily discomfort, so this is a condition you’ll want to work closely with your veterinarian on.
You won’t be able to see your Aussie’s elbow or hip dysplasia with a simple glance. Instead, you’ll need an X-ray to know the status of her sockets. This X-ray will give clear results if your puppy is at least two years old. If your Aussie has elbow or hip dysplasia, talk to your veterinarian about options like medication or joint replacement surgery.
#4 Skin Problems
Aussies are known for their thick merle coat, which stands out with their splotchy dark and light color marbling. But what’s going on underneath that coat?
Aussies can be prone to skin allergies and infections, but you might not be able to tell because their skin is hidden away under boatloads of fur. It can take special attention to detail during a thorough brushing to notice your Aussie’s irritated skin.
She’ll be grateful you took the time to look for signs if you do discover any. And if you don’t, she’ll be grateful for the attention anyway; a regular brush session is a healthy way to bond with your Australian Shepherd puppy.
Like all breeds, Aussies are susceptible to skin allergies. Watch for these common symptoms and their causes:5
- If your Aussie’s ears and paws turn red and he licks and scratches them, this may point to a dog food allergy. Check for any new diet changes, and ask your vet for advice on changing his dog food.
- If you were wondering, “Do Australian Shepherds shed,” the answer is yes. With that being said, excessive scratching and hair loss could be because your Aussie is reacting to flea saliva. Check him for fleas or flea excretions, which look like crusty dirt, then see your vet for a solution to the flea infestation.
- Red skin, little bitty bumps, or blisters concentrated on one part of your Aussie’s body might signal that he’s brushed up against something he’s allergic to, like wool or plastic. Vetericyn Plus® Antimicrobial Hydrogel can provide relief to his inflammation while you discover the allergen and remove it from your Aussie’s environment.
Be sure to brush and bathe your Australian Shepherd puppy frequently so he doesn’t accumulate irritants in his voluminous coat. Use Vetericyn FoamCare® Pet Shampoo for thick coats so his skin gets the nutrients and conditioning it needs.
Sometimes, allergic reactions, normal scrapes and scruffs, and foreign objects like seeds and burrs stuck in your Aussie’s fur can create wounds that lead to infection.
Be on the lookout for wounds—and keep them clean if you see them. Use Vetericyn Plus® Antimicrobial All Animal Wound and Skin Care to flush out infection-causing bacteria and fungus from wounds.
Other potential infections and infestations from the environment can include:
- Ringworms – A contagious fungal infection that causes somewhat circular hair loss in dogs, cats, and humans.6
- Mange – A reaction to a mite infestation that causes hair loss, red and itchy skin, and crusty scabs.
If you notice signs of ringworm or mange, take all affected dogs to the vet. They will perform a skin scraping to confirm the infection and determine the next steps for treatment.
#5 Multiple Drug Sensitivity
Aussies are among the breeds of dogs that can carry and be affected by this inherited disease. Your sensitive pup might react fatally to some commonly used veterinary drugs, like ivermectin, which is used to prevent heartworm.4
The good news is, a simple cheek swab test can determine whether or not your Aussie has this inherited disease. If she does, your vet will take the proper precautions. By keeping this information prominently in her record, your vet will know not to give her these medications.
Australian Shepherds can inherit epilepsy, a condition that makes them prone to seizures. Generally, if your Aussie is epileptic, he will have experienced his first seizure by the time he is three years old.7 If your Aussie is older than three and is seizure-free, it’s likely that he doesn’t have epilepsy.
If your Aussie does have epilepsy, rest assured that your goofy leaper can still live a prosperous and happy life. Work with your vet to find the right medication and blood test regimen to help him thrive.
Be sure to call your vet and take your Aussie to the emergency hospital as soon as you notice signs of a seizure, which include:8
- Losing their balance while walking or standing
- Falling over suddenly, fainting, or losing consciousness
- “Chewing” or contracting their jaw without food in it
- Foaming at the mouth or drooling excessively
- Excessive or unusual twitching or muscle vibrations
Vetericyn: Creating More Healthy, Happy Years with Your Furry Friend
You rely on your canine companion for their loyalty, warmth, goofy antics, and maybe even their wet nose to wake you up in the morning for breakfast. And your Aussie relies on you for care and attention. You’re a match made in companion heaven.
That’s why we do what we do at Vetericyn. We want to keep these beloved relationships prospering for years to come.
One of the best ways to proactively care for your Aussie’s health is with the Vetericyn ALL-IN Dog Supplement. With puppy, adult, and senior formulas, it provides the best support for their life stage. It’s packed with prebiotics, nutrients, biochemicals, and bioactive complexes for your dog’s age, all delivered in a superb absorption process. It even helps your Aussie get more nutrients from the food you’re already feeding them.
You can find Vetericyn products to help prevent Australian Shepherd health issues—including ALL-IN—on Amazon, Chewy, and Petco. And when you’re ready to sniff out some more information about Australian Shepherds, read our complete guide to the breed.
Reviewed by Dan Richardson, Veterinarian
Dan Richardson has been a practicing veterinarian for over 10 years. He specializes in surgery and orthopedics. Dan is originally from rural western Nevada and attended the University of Idaho for undergraduate study and Oregon State University for Veterinary School. The Richardson Family enjoys camping and spending time on the water fishing, paddle boarding, or digging their feet in the sand somewhere warm.
- American Kennel Club. Australian Shepherd. https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/australian-shepherd/
- The Puppy Mag. Why Are Australian Shepherds So Anxious? (Top Solutions) https://www.thepuppymag.com/why-is-my-australian-shepherd-so-anxious/
- American Kennel Club. Understanding, Preventing, and Treating Dog Anxiety. https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/treating-dog-anxiety/
- EMBRACE Pet Insurance. Australian Shepherds. https://www.embracepetinsurance.com/dog-breeds/australian-shepherd
- Australian Shepherd Lovers. A Look At Different Types Of Dog Skin Problems. https://www.australian-shepherd-lovers.com/dog-skin-problems.html
- VCA Animal Hospitals. Ringworm in Dogs. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/ringworm-in-dogs
- Central Texas Veterinary Specialty & Emergency Hospital. Australian Shepherd. https://www.ctvsh.com/services/dogs/breeds/australian-shepherd
- MedVet. SEIZURES IN PETS – KNOWING THE SIGNS AND WHAT TO DO. https://www.medvetforpets.com/seizures-in-pets/