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 dog’s mind active. Boredom and loneliness are the main causes of destructive behavior. Meeting the Shepherd’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.
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