Australian Shepherd Informaion: Breed and Health

Australian Shepherd Informaion: Breed and Health

Thumbnail of Wellness CORE Grain Free Ocean Formula Dry Dog Food

Wellness CORE Grain Free Ocean Formula Dry Dog Food

Dry Food
{{petcare_price|currency}} Price in Cart w/PetPlus {{petplus_price|currency}} See PetPlus Price in Cart

Australian Shepherds are excellent herding dogs that have a long lifespan. However, they are not exempt from common health issues that many other herding breeds are prone to. Learn more about these adorable dogs and their health needs here.

Despite its name, the Australian Shepherd is an American breed, bred to herd Australian sheep in the United States. This breed is characterized by its naturally bobbed tail and its vibrant red and white coat. Related to other herding dog such as other Sheepdogs, Collies, and some Shepherds, the Australian Shepherd is prone to some of the same ailments. Vision problems, epilepsy, and cancers are the primary health concerns with this breed. Approximately 30% of all Australian Shepherds die due to cancer or cancer related problems. The Australian Shepherd has a lifespan of around 11 - 13 years, not uncommon for a dog of its size.

Primary Health Conditions of the Australian Shepherd

Australian Shepherds are especially prone to hearing, eye, and vision problems, including Collie Eye Anomaly (which can be prevented through good breeding practices) and cataracts. Cataracts may occur at any stage of life and present themselves as a cloudiness in the eye. Some cataracts start out and remain small, but others grow until the animal becomes blind. Typically both eyes are affected, though one eye may appear cloudy months before the other one begins to show signs of the condition. There is no cure or guaranteed prevention for canine cataracts.

Various types of cancers are common with the Australian Shepherd. While cancers used to appear in this breed in later years, Australian Shepherds are beginning to suffer the effects of many types of cancer earlier in their life. Some cancers, when caught early, may be treatable. Others are terminal. The variations in the types of cancer to which Australian Shepherds are prone are too wide to classify without a full breed analysis study, which has not yet been done.

Secondary Health Conditions of the Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd is prone to back and hip problems, including the very common hip dysplasia - a painful issue of the hip joint. Dysplasia cannot typically be prevented, although good breeding practices can help, as will a moderated diet and plenty of exercise.

Autoimmune diseases, including thyroid conditions and problems with mange can occur, but these are treatable.

Epilepsy is also common in this breed and is becoming more common over time. There is no way to know if the dog may develop epilepsy, and the issue often begins to show itself between the ages of one to three years. Epileptic dogs should be removed from the breeding cycle.

Australian Shepherd Exercise and Walking Needs

This medium sized, lively dog needs a good deal of daily exercise, including long walks or runs, and lively play. Advanced training may be a good idea to keep this intelligent and inquisitive dogโ€™s mind active. Boredom and loneliness are the main causes of destructive behavior. Meeting the Shepherdโ€™s needs will make the dog and its family happier.

Australian Shepherd Nutritional Needs

The Australian Shepherd should be fed a high quality diet of high protein dog food. Because Australian Shepherds are energetic, they generally need more calories than other breeds. Working shepherds will naturally eat more than house pets.

The Australian Shepherd Personality 

Originally bred to work livestock in the western United States, Australian Shepherds not only have active natures but also are highly intelligent and quick-thinking. They make excellent watchdogs and companions, and are devoted family dogs. Owners may find it challenging to keep one step ahead of their Aussies, but it is essential to do so to allow them to develop into sound dogs that are both fun and reliable. Youโ€™ll get the best results from Australian Shepherds if you start working with them as soon as you bring them home.

Temperament and Socialization

The driving force behind the development of the Australian Shepherd was the need for intelligent dogs that could out-think livestock, with the stamina to work the herd all day. Aussies are happiest when they are given the chance to put their brains to work at jobs of all kinds, and they excel in obedience work, herding and canine competitions. If they get bored they are likely to come up with things to do on their own, and these types of activities are usually destructive and tend to involve digging and chewing. Aussies must also be well socialized to prevent them from developing serious behavior problems, such as being fearful or shy. Such a dog may become a fear-biter, a serious difficulty that can lead to injury of humans and other animals. You can avoid this by taking Aussies out in public as often as possible, exposing them to as many different people, animals, sights and sounds as you can, so that they accept the world around them. This is vitally important when your dog is young, but it is good to allow Aussies to socialize no matter what their age. Never place your dog in a potentially unsafe situation, such as near an aggressive dog or children that may be too rough.


Australian Shepherds should begin training as soon as they are comfortable in their new homes. Find a reputable trainer in your area by asking your vet, groomer or friends for recommendations and sign up for classes. Going to class will give you the chance to teach your dog behavioral commands, as well as help with their socialization. Most areas have classes for dogs of all ages, from puppies to adults. Local dog clubs are also a good source of information regarding these classes, plus you can join a specialized club that focuses on one type of training, such as agility, herding or obedience. The club will help you continue socializing your dog and you will learn how to compete so that your dog can earn titles and awards. These activities help Aussies work off excess energy and gives them a mental challenge, with the added bonus of increasing the dogsโ€™ bonding with their owners. No matter what type of training you choose, youโ€™ll find that your Aussie can rise to the challenge and do very well. Even if you donโ€™t want to involve your dog in a sport, all owners should keep their Aussies socialized and teach them at least the five basic commands: "Sit," "Stay," "Heel," "Down" and "Come," working first on a leash and later without one.


Make sure that your Australian Shepherd gets all the necessary shots, wormings and any other checks your veterinarian deems necessary. This is not only because your Aussie will be around other dogs, but also because this breed is prone to certain health issues, including blindness, deafness and hip dysplasia, and dogs should be watched for signs of these problems as they grow. Dogs that are suspected of having these or other problems should be taken to a veterinarian for a full examination. Aussies also need their heavy double coats brushed at least once a week to avoid mats and skin problems.


The best way to housebreak Australian Shepherds is the crate training system. In this method, Aussies are placed in crates that are large enough for them to be comfortable. Australian Shepherds will not normally soil their sleeping quarters, but they must be let out on a regular basis to prevent accidents. Puppies can usually last only a few hours without needing to relieve themselves, but older Australian shepherds can wait all night, once they are adapted to the schedule. As dogs learn to go outside to relieve themselves they can be given increasing amounts of freedom in the house.

More on Dog Health

Heartworm Medication: Comparison Chart
Prevent Dental Problems Before They Start
How To Find Fleas And Ticks

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.

Was this article helpful?
Epilepsy Cataract Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) Australian Shepherd

You May Also Like