Australian Shepherd Dog Guide: What You Need to Know

Australian sheperd standing in tall grass

The Australian Shepherd

The Australian Shepherd is a well-known, hardworking dog breed. Australian Shepherd puppies are one of the most intelligent dog breeds in the world. Their intelligence and focused personalities make them great companions for people and families who love going outside. Australian Shepherd puppies began their life as herding dogs. Eventually, they made their way into dog competitions and the hearts of many owners, as these dogs are the 15th most popular breed in the United States.

Australian Shepherd dogs are intelligent, tireless working dogs that can be the most loyal companions to any family with the proper care and training. Best known for their beautiful merle coats and strong herding instincts, an Australian Shepherd puppy is an excellent choice for any active, dedicated owner. More than most other breeds, Australian Shepherd dogs are athletic, high-energy dogs that need a healthy outlet for all of that energy. When an Australian Shepherd puppy gets all the proper nutrients, exercise, and love, they will live a long healthy life that can last to be around 13 years long.

An Australian Shepherd puppy has tons of energy, so they aren’t great with families that hold sedentary lifestyles. Australian Shepherd dogs are the perfect herding dogs. In fact, they were the most popular dog for cowboys in the American west. Australian Shepherd dogs are still used in the midwest to herd animals and have since grown to be workers in the strangest of jobs. Because of their history as herding dogs, they have natural herding instincts that don’t stop on the farm. When an Australian Shepherd herds, it nips gently at the back of an animal’s heel to coax the animal into the right location. An Australian Shepherd puppy will herd just about anything: birds, other dogs, cats, kids. While it’s not a dangerous behavior, Australian Shepherd dogs will need additional training to mitigate this behavior if they don’t have a flock to herd.

What Makes an Australian Shepherd Special?

Australian Shepherd dogs are medium-sized herding dogs with a rich history. They’re a mixed-breed, but the exact combination of breeds remains a mystery. Many experts theorize that the Australian Shepherd is a gorgeous combination of collies from Australia, German sheepdogs, and Basque shepherds brought over to America in World War II. This unique combination makes them an intelligent, high-energy breed with the stamina to keep going all day.

An Australian Shepherd puppy is so bright that they have received training to do many different jobs since their famous beginning. These dogs have successfully become therapy dogs, service dogs, bomb-sniffing dogs, and drug-sniffing dogs. Although there are many intelligent dogs, it can be difficult to teach some dog breeds to perform as many different jobs as you can with the Australian Shepherd. With the right attitude and patience, an owner can teach their Australian Shepherd puppy how to do yoga, go on jogs with them, gather sticks for fires, put away their toys, and they can even play hide and seek.

australian sheperd jumping through water

The History of Australian Shepherds

Despite what their name suggests, Australian Shepherds aren’t Australian at all. They’re an American breed popular with cowboys and ranch owners throughout the American west. Countries like Spain, Scotland, and England began migrating to the United States, and they brought their dogs with them. Most people agree that the Australian Shepherd puppy resulted from the many cultures and breeds that came together during the land rush of the 1800s.

The indigenous people of the Pyrenees mountains, called Basques, used shepherd breeds for farming on the borders of France and Spain. In the 1800s, Basque farmers brought these dogs to Australia.Australians already used border collies for cattle ranching, but they were interested in the Basque shepherds’ herding abilities. They crossbred the two in hopes of creating the perfect cattle dog. When the Gold Rush began in the western United States, people traveled from all across the country and the world searching for gold and good fortune. Many travelers were farmers from the midwest and east coast who brought their herding dogs. These dogs were typically English shepherds, British-derived sheepdogs that resembled today’s Australian Shepherd in color and pattern. This new influx of the mining population created an intense demand for sheep. After the Civil War, supply dwindled, so by the mid-1800s, America faced a sheep shortage.

These farmers brought the new Merino sheep from Australia and their new mixed-breed shepherd dogs to the United States. Despite not originating in Australia, Americans associated these new sheep (and sheepdogs) with the Australians that brought them over. The Australian Shepherd puppy finds its origins in many places, but it found its home on the American homefront. Australian Shepherds are brilliant dogs, and their high stamina ensures they can keep working for hours on end. Their high energy and intelligent instincts made them the perfect cattle dog for many cowboys and ranchers–but herding isn’t all they’re great at doing. Over the years, people realized they could use Australian Shepherd dogs for search and rescue missions, therapy, and as service dogs.

The Australian Shepherd puppy boomed in popularity around the second World War, and eventually, the Australian Shepherd Club of America was founded in 1957. This club served as the dog registry until the National Stock Dog Registry was created in 1970. The American Kennel Club was late to the party and only welcomed the Australian Shepherd breed as late as 1993.

Australian Shepherd Intelligence

Australian Shepherd dogs are brilliant. These dogs might not seem comparable to some dog breeds, but they are the 42nd most intelligent dog breed. They excel in learning for themselves and learning new tricks. Because of their herding history, they excel in obedience training and working intelligence. They’re easy to train, and they have an instinctively high IQ.

These dogs are great at training because of their eagerness to please their owners. Technically, the Australian Shepherds fit into a category labeled as ‘above average’ in terms of dog intelligence, but their intelligence is far more than just above average. Having the right motivators for an Australian Shepherd can result in an Australian Shepherd puppy that turns their energy and agility into fun games and rescue missions.

Health Conditions That Affect Australian Shepherds

Overall, Australian Shepherds are prone to very few severe health conditions, and most live their entire lifespan as healthy, happy dogs. However, there are still a few health conditions that Australian Shepherds can see, and it’s a great idea to familiarize yourself with them, just in case you adopt a dog that suffers from any other of these health issues.

An Australian Shepherd puppy is at risk of developing many immune diseases like hypothyroidism or heart disease. These dogs are also at risk of a few neurological issues like separation anxiety and epilepsy. Sadly, skin issues are familiar with this breed and can appear due to the chronic allergies many Australian Shepherd dogs experience or due to the skin infections this breed has an elevated risk of developing. The Australian Shepherd puppy is also at a higher risk of developing abnormal eye diseases like progressive retinal atrophy, collie eye anomaly, and iris coloboma.

Even though this list of diseases seems long and daunting, remember that not all Australian Shepherd dogs ever get an illness or disease. While your might get an Australian Shepherd puppy with some of these issues, some of these diseases have cures. Some of the diseases have treatments that last for the entirety of a dog’s normal life. Sadly, some forms of illnesses they’re prone to can result in death, but it is very rare. As long as you take your Australian Shepherd puppy to normal vet checkups and give your puppy the proper nutrition and exercise, they are likely to stay as fit as a fiddle.

close up of australian sheperd sitting in flower field

Psychological Conditions

Cognitive Conditions


Epilepsy is one of the most common psychological diseases seen in dogs. About .75% of the canine population suffers from this neurological disease, and Australian Shepherds are also predisposed to this health condition. Australian Shepherds can pass this disease down genetically, which is why so many dogs suffer from it. An Australian Shepherd puppy that suffers from epilepsy will experience random seizures that can often occur depending on their type of epilepsy. Several issues can cause these seizures, but most often, epilepsy is a result of some abnormality in the brain.

Many pet parents are stressed when they see their Australian Shepherd puppy suddenly freeze up and start shaking. Some dogs don’t move at all while they experience a seizure, and sometimes they’ll fall right over. An Australian Shepherd owner should know what to do if their dog suffers from seizures. They should be prepared to assist their dogs and secure them so they aren’t at risk of putting themselves in danger. If your Australian Shepherd puppy ever experiences a seizure, it may very well scare you. While it’s completely understandable to be scared, you still need to be prepared to help your Australian Shepherd puppy through the ordeal.

When your Australian Shepherd puppy experiences a seizure, the best way to help them is by making sure they’re safe. When dogs seize, they often pass out or fall over and have very little control of their bodies. When dogs are seizing, they are just as scared as their owners. It may be tempting to pet them to try comforting during an episode, but because dogs don’t know what is happening to them, they can feel scared and try to bite at anything that touches them. A lot of time, these actions are just reflexive protective measures. Sometimes when dogs have an attack, they lose all sight and aren’t aware of what their body is doing or where they are. It’s understandable to see why they are so on edge.

So, if your Australian Shepherd puppy is having a seizure, check to see if they are near any objects that can hurt them and remove those objects. If your Australian Shepherd puppy is near the edge of the stairs or the edge of a bed, carefully push them away from the edge or block their body from falling by using your body to stop them. Try not to pet your Australian Shepherd puppy as a comforting measure because this will likely not comfort them and only make you feel more comfortable. Please take notice of your dog’s actions and talk calmly to them so they know you are still there. When dogs finish seizing, they can still be very tense, and their body temperature can change rapidly. It’s best not to move your Australian Shepherd puppy after a seizure until they come to you. When your Australian Shepherd puppy comes to you, comfort them with pets and try to check their paws and ears to see if they’re very hot or cold. If they’re hot, try putting a damp washcloth on the paws or their back. Some owners choose to wrap their dogs in a blanket to make them feel comforted, and this may work, but make sure your Australian Shepherd puppy is no longer seizing when you do this. Some dogs are exhausted or hungry after experiencing an attack. These episodes take a lot of their energy, so let your Australian Shepherd puppy rest, eat or do whatever they seem inclined to do.

It’s hard, but owners need to observe their dog’s seizures. When an Australian Shepherd puppy experiences seizures, they will show symptoms during, before, after, and in between seizing. Vets rely on these symptoms or descriptions of attacks to help them determine the specific type of seizures your Australian Shepherd puppy is having and the type of epilepsy they’re suffering. By keeping an organized list of notes on your phone or in a notebook, you can help your Australian Shepherd puppy get treatment for their neurological disorder. Owners should keep track of anything that happens before their Australian Shepherd puppy starts seizing. For example, some dogs run around in circles, and then they’ll pass out when they start having an episode. This information is essential, and you should pass it along to your vet. So in your seizure logs, owners need to record what the date is, the time of day, the duration, and the severity of the seizure occurring. Australian Shepherd puppy owners should keep track of their dog’s behavior during and after their attacks.

There are a few different types of seizures your Australian Shepherd puppy might experience. They could have a tonic seizure when their muscles flex and become stiff for several minutes. They can have a tonic-clonic seizure where a tonic phase is then followed by short jerking motions. An Australian Shepherd puppy can experience a sudden loss of muscle tone that lasts several seconds or possibly longer, and these seizures are called atonic seizures. These puppies can also have myoclonic seizures where they get brief and sudden contractions of their muscles. Dogs many experience focal seizures which occur when a specific part of the brain is affected, so only some of the body is affected. A generalized seizure occurs when the attack originates from both brain hemispheres. If an Australian Shepherd puppy experiences multiple seizures within a 24-hour period, they are experiencing cluster seizures.

When an Australian Shepherd puppy has an attack, they may show automatisms during or before the seizures occur. Austomatisms can look like lip-smacking, chewing, licking, or any movements that are usually voluntarily controlled. Some dogs may experience blindness, anxiety, sedation, or other strange behaviors when they have an attack. Some dogs also have difficulty standing or moving during and before seizures. Owners need to observe any activities that occur before your dog’s episode, and you should alert your vet as soon as your Australian Shepherd puppy finishes having an attack. A particular type of seizure is a status epileptics, which is when dogs experience multiple episodes followed closely by one another, or they can have one seizure for five minutes or longer.

Other causes of seizures can be ingesting toxins or anything that causes metabolic derangement. For example, toxins cause a reactive seizure to occur. Dogs can also experience reflexive seizures, which occur consistently after specific exposures like bright flashing lights or loud noises. Brain abnormalities cause neither of these seizures, so they aren’t considered epileptic seizures. However, metabolic issues, toxins, and separate exposure can cause dogs to develop brain abnormalities and lead to a specific type of epilepsy.

Different types of epilepsy Australian Shepherds may experience can be idiopathic, structural, refractory, or epilepsy of an unidentifiable cause. Idiopathic epilepsy is typically caused by genetics, although unidentifiable structural issues can also cause this epilepsy. Dogs with this type of epilepsy generally are between the ages of one and five years old. Metabolic disease and toxins can cause idiopathic epilepsy in an Australian Shepherd puppy.

Structural epilepsy occurs when vets can identify developmental damages or malformations in a dog’s brain. Different inflammatory diseases affect the brain, intracranial tumors, or head trauma can also cause structural epilepsy in dogs. Sadly, strokes or any vascular events can also cause dogs to develop this type of epilepsy. Typically, if an Australian Shepherd puppy experiences epileptic symptoms and seizures, but is outside the age range of idiopathic epilepsy, then vets assume they have structural epilepsy.

Two other types of epilepsy are refractory or epilepsy of an unknown cause. Epilepsy of an unknown cause usually means vets suspect an Australian Shepherd puppy has structural epilepsy but lack identifiable abnormalities in their brain to support these theories. Dogs can also experience refractory epilepsy, which happens when dogs are already being treated for their epilepsy and still experience seizures. Sadly, refractory epilepsy affects 30-40% of all dogs with epilepsy and typically means their medication is no longer practical for their epilepsy.

Although there is no permanent care for dogs with epilepsy, there are treatments. Anti-epileptic drugs are the most common treatments given to dogs with epilepsy. Vets can only determine the correct medication once they understand the cause of a dog’s epilepsy and seizures. Vets decide which anti-epileptic drugs to give your Australian Shepherd puppy based on which neuro-channels cause the attacks to occur. They do this because the drugs that treat epilepsy do so by blocking specific stimulators to change the brain’s ion function, preventing any seizures from occurring. Sadly, not all drugs work equally in dogs, which is why there are so many different types of treatment for this neurological disease. Some medicines can cause significant side effects. If you’re ever worried about the treatment for your Australian Shepherd puppy, you can always talk to your vet about finding other treatment methods. This article shows that about 89% of dogs with epilepsy who received treatment with CBD saw a decline in the frequency of seizures. Although there has been evidence that this method works, treatment will always vary for different dogs with different types of epilepsy. Always talk to your vet before treating your Australian Shepherd puppy for epilepsy.

australian sheperd sitting on concrete


Because an Australian Shepherd puppy has so much energy and a natural desire to work, they are prone to separation anxiety when they have to be left alone to their own devices. They don’t handle boredom well, and they need a specific job to do, or they will channel that energy in other unhealthy, destructive ways. An Australian Shepherd puppy bonds with its owner and wants to spend as much time with them as possible. While some dogs will never experience separation anxiety, some Australian Shepherd puppies will share many symptoms of this disease. Some cases can be so severe that owners need professional help to ensure their dogs receive the correct treatment.

Have you ever heard of a dog barking, crying, or tearing up the house when the owners are away? It might sound stressful, irritating, or like the Australian Shepherd puppy is not trained. However, many Australian Shepherd puppies that act out like this only do so because they’re experiencing anxiety attacks. When dogs have anxiety attacks, they might urinate, defecate, howl, bark, chew, dig, shake, pace, pant or drool. Some dogs get so anxious they cause self-inflicted trauma through scratching or licking. An Australian Shepherd puppy only acts this way because they get incredibly stressed out and upset when their guardians are away from them. Some Australian Shepherd puppies can get so upset that they’ll show signs of depression or try to stop their owners from leaving and might even show signs of aggression because of how severe their anxiety affects them.

Australian Shepherd dogs bond extremely close to their families. While these dogs are independent workers, they still love their owners and can misbehave when they are away from home. Before adoption, dogs who have experienced abandonment or homelessness are more likely to have separation anxiety, but any Australian Shepherd puppy can develop this health condition.

Suppose your Australian Shepherd puppy has this health condition. The best way to help them is by slowly conditioning them to get used to your absences. At the root of this anxiety, dogs are simply fearful of being alone. An Australian Shepherd puppy with mild anxiety can receive treatment with at-home training. Owners can start by leaving dogs for only short periods of time and then then returning home to their dog. They can try giving dogs delicious treats by showing them they receive rewards when alone. Giving your Australian Shepherd puppy a treat they can only get when you leave can help turn these anxious periods into positive learning sessions. When dogs get goodies over these short periods, they should become more comfortable being left alone. This type of treatment with patience can help some dogs learn that their owners will always come home. Sometimes, dogs can be distracted with puzzle toys or kong toys stuffed with frozen cream cheese, bananas, cottage cheese, or peanut butter.

Some owners will never be able to soothe their dogs with more severe cases of anxiety with foods. Some Australian Shepherd dogs get so upset when their owners eat they will not eat at all. When situations like this occur, owners should consider talking to their vet about anxiety medications, CBD oil, or other behavioral treatment techniques. For example, techniques like counterconditioning can help dogs with more severe types of anxiety. Still, animal behaviorists or dog trainers will be incredibly helpful to guide owners and help them understand their dog’s severe anxiety. Severe anxiety is more complex than more straightforward anxiety attacks. So the gradual method of giving dogs tons of treats won’t work, especially if your Australian Shepherd puppy isn’t eating.

Owners should know that rescued Australian Shepherd puppies are very likely to experience this health condition and should be ready to help them with their ordeal. They should also rest assured that there are many methods to help your Australian Shepherd puppy, and they can overcome this anxiety. However, if your Australian Shepherd puppy ever experiences a different form of trauma, they can get anxiety again, or the trauma could worsen their already existing anxiety.

Australian Shepherd Physical Conditions


Chronic Allergies

Many dogs suffer from allergies the same as humans, and an Australian Shepherd puppy is more likely to develop allergies than other dog breeds. More often than not, dogs develop symptoms of allergies during their second year of life. An Australian Shepherd puppy can get skin allergies, inhalant allergies, contact allergies, food allergies, or flea allergies. Luckily, at least 90% of dogs with allergies can receive successful treatments that provide allergy relief.

An Australian Shepherd puppy with allergies may experience a few different symptoms. Symptoms like sneezing, compulsive scratching or itching, fur loss, runny eyes, inflamed, red skin, chewing on the same spot, diarrhea, vomiting, constant licking and chronic ear infections all point to allergies. An Australian Shepherd puppy is most likely to experience skin-related symptoms when they suffer from allergies, although they can show any of the symptoms mentioned earlier.

Thankfully, there are many ways to treat allergies in an Australian Shepherd puppy. Coconut oil and oatmeal baths are some of the most common ways to treat skin allergies. CBD is a powerhouse treatment for dogs, and while it can treat epilepsy and anxiety, it can also help some dogs with their allergies. Different types of topical treatments like soothing conditioners and shampoos can also help subdue skin allergy symptoms. Treatment can also be as easy as vets prescribing medication.

Sometimes, treatment can be a little difficult, especially if you don’t know what is causing your dog’s allergies. If you can avoid the conditions that are causing your dog’s allergies, you can stop the symptoms. Owners can keep their dogs in other rooms while they vacuum, wash their dog’s bed regularly, and keep uncarpeted flooring. Keep your Australian Shepherd puppy out of the basement or off of freshly mowed lawns. You could use humidifiers and dehumidifiers, depending on the climate. Treatment can be as simple as finding out what irritates your dog’s health condition and removing that thing. The hard part is identifying what is causing your dog’s symptoms. Owners should always talk to vets about any signs their Australian Shepherd puppy may show from allergies, and your vet can help lead you in the best treatment options for your Australian Shepherd puppy.

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Gut Health

Umbilical Hernia

Umbilical hernias appear in some Australian Shepherd dogs. This condition occurs when dogs experience bits of protruding tissue through the umbilical opening. This health condition appears in puppies and can vary in severity. Although an Australian Shepherd puppy is at a higher risk of developing this health issue than other breeds, it is a rare health condition for many dogs.

Some people think an umbilical hernia is caused by tugging on the umbilical cord consistently at birth, but this is untrue. This health condition is hereditary, and many dogs can carry this disease without experiencing it, only to pass it on to their puppies. These hernias occur in puppies, but they can heal themselves sometimes. If a puppy still has an umbilical hernia at five months old, likely, they won’t heal themselves, and they will need surgery to prevent their health condition from worsening.

This disease can vary in different dogs. Sometimes the hernia develops as a lump between the skin and abdominal walls. Sometimes, these hernias can be so severe that they can cause a hole to open in the skin where the umbilical cord was, which risks a dog’s intestines slipping through the hole.

There are treatment methods for this condition, and vets will determine the correct treatment route by examining the size and location of the hernia on your Australian Shepherd puppy. There are no home treatments for this health condition. If your dog’s hernia does not heal itself, then vets will only perform surgery if the disease is severe enough. The surgery is not very difficult, and since it affects puppies, vets may perform corrective surgery while also neutering or spaying a puppy.

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Eye Health

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

An Australian Shepherd puppy has a somewhat elevated risk of developing progressive retinal atrophy. This disease is hereditary and caused by a gene mutation in the Australian Shepherd breed. The gene mutation is called progressive rod-cone degeneration (PRCD). The gene is recessive, which means dogs can carry the conversion but will not be affected by this health condition unless they have two traits of this degenerative eye disease.

Progressive retinal atrophy affects an Australian Shepherd puppy by slowly degenerating the rods and cones in their eyes. Most dogs affected by this disease begin experiencing symptoms of vision loss in their first year of life. This disease progresses at different speeds for all dogs, but many Australian Shepherd dogs with this health condition become entirely blind by the time they turn one. Some dogs, however, don’t experience complete blindness until they are three to four years of life.

This disease affects an Australian Shepherd puppy by taking away the rods of their eyes first. When the eyes degenerate, dogs lose their ability to see at night. This development can happen over several weeks or months. An Australian Shepherd puppy that loses its night vision will become fearful of going into dark rooms or outside at night. To help your Australian Shepherd puppy during this stage, offer them a lot of comfort and treats. Always stay with your Australian Shepherd puppy when they’re outside. At this stage, your dog will also start losing their peripheral vision. The loss of their peripheral vision means they won’t be able to catch treats in the air and become easily spooked if people pet them from behind or next to them. Help dogs through these phases by offering comfort.

When the rods have completely degenerated, an Australian Shepherd puppy will then eventually lose their ability to see in bright lights. This disease then attacks the cones in the eyes. Dogs might become extra anxious during this period and will need more support and guidance from their owners. Try switching any hand signals for tricks or obedience commands with verbal commands. Dogs may be very unsure during this period, so providing them with your comfort and company can help them adjust better. Some owners opt to give their dogs physical or scented markers to help them figure out where they are. Provide your dog beds or blankets to lay down on the floor so they don’t have to figure out jumping on couches or beds to relax. Alternatively, owners can provide mini staircases for their dogs to climb onto a bed or a sofa. It might seem a little bourgeoise, but considering your Australian Shepherd puppy would be blind, it is a kind thing to do.

There is no cure or treatment to prevent blindness in dogs with PRA who will go blind. Sometimes, dogs with this degenerative eye disease will develop cataracts while losing their eyesight. If an owner or vet catches these cataracts early enough, a vet can perform surgery to remove them. Cataracts can make an Australian Shepherd puppy with PRA go blind before its rods and cones have completely degenerated. So removing cataracts early in the development of this disease can extend your dog’s eyesight. But, these dogs will still go blind because of the nature of the disease, so it is really up to the owner if they want to or can afford to pay for this surgery. A dog’s most vital senses are hearing and smell, so they can adapt to living fairly well without sight. As people, we may feel blindness may affect us more severely, but the same is not valid for dogs. Dogs will be just as happy with their sight as they can be without sight as long as their owner helps them meet all their activity needs, and they receive plenty of love and attention.

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Iris Coloboma

While any dog can get this hereditary eye disease, Australian Shepherds are the most likely breed to develop iris coloboma. This disease causes holes to form in the iris and can cause some discomfort in dogs and even reduce their vision. Almost all iris coloboma cases in Australian Shepherds happen in merle dogs, although issues can happen in dogs that aren’t merles. There isn’t much known about other causes for this disease or why it affects merles more.

Owners or vets can discover this disease, but an eye exam most commonly diagnoses it. Sadly there is no treatment for dogs with this health condition, and owners cannot prevent this disease from occurring in their dogs, since it is hereditary. An Australian Shepherd puppy with this eye disease should always be kept on a leash when they’re outside and should not be allowed to wander in the street or other open areas. While this disease does not mean an Australian Shepherd puppy will go blind, it will affect their vision, and they may have difficulty adapting to new homes or furniture. Make to keep the floors clean if your Australian Shepherd puppy has this health issue. When owners find that their Australian Shepherd puppies have this disease, they should spay or neuter them to prevent their Australian Shepherd puppies from spreading this hereditary condition. An Australian Shepherd puppy with this eye disease will be happy as long as their owner takes proper care of them.

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Collie Eye Anomaly

Collie eye anomaly is most common in Shetland Sheepdogs, Collies, and Australian Shepherds. A merle-colored Australian Shepherd puppy is especially susceptible to colobomas. A section of the iris doesn’t develop in this condition, which affects how the dog’s eye dilates and contracts. As a result, your Australian Shepherd puppy will be uncomfortable in bright light. Collie eye anomaly ranges from mild to severe cases when the Australian Shepherd puppy receives the correct treatment and can cause blindness if they don’t receive any treatment.

A mutated gene that changes the development of a dog’s eyes and defects many layers of their eyes is the cause of this disease. A veterinarian can identify this eye disease when they examine the dog’s eyes.

An Australian Shepherd puppy may show common signs and symptoms when dealing with this health condition including vision loss, blindness, or lines in a dog’s eyes. This disease used to be much more of an issue in the Australian Shepherd puppy in the 1980s but has since relaxed, as dogs with this disease are often spayed or neutered to prevent the spread of this hereditary disease. If an Australian Shepherd puppy has this disease and their retina detaches, laser surgery can re-attach their retina, but this surgery isn’t always successful.

If a vet doesn’t diagnose an Australian Shepherd puppy between the ages of five to eight months old, it can be complicated to analyze this in a dog’s eye. The eye disease can go unnoticed, and vets call this ‘going normal.’ This disease still affects these dogs, but it is incredibly hard to diagnose them. A vet ophthalmologist is best suited to test for this eye issue in an Australian Shepherd puppy. Sadly, this disease doesn’t have any other treatment besides the possibility of laser surgery. Australian Shepherd owners cannot do anything to prevent this disease from occurring.

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Ear Health


The Australian Shepherd puppy is more predisposed to deafness than other breeds. It seems strange, but their deafness is related to the color of their coats. Some Australian Shepherd dogs are white or have white merle fur, and these dogs most commonly have hereditary deafness. Some dogs can have one brown ear and one white and may only be deaf in the white ear. The reason this happens is because of a lack of melanocytes (the thing that causes pigmentation of the fur). These cells help translate vibrations in the ear to electrical impulses that travel through the brain. This lack of melanocytes is related to white marking, especially on or around the ears.

There is no way to cure or prevent this in Australian Shepherd dogs. Owners of a deaf Australian Shepherd puppy should get them spayed or neutered in order to avoid spreading this hereditary deafness. Any deaf animal will need special lifetime care, so if you are looking to adopt an Australian Shepherd puppy, you should try to get one that has no white colors on or near its ears. Alternatively, you can be prepared to provide exceptional care.

Immune Health

Inflammatory Bowel Disease

Some breeds are predisposed to develop inflammatory bowel disease, and the Australian Shepherd breed is one of them. An Australian Shepherd puppy can only get this disease hereditarily, which means any dogs with this disease should be spayed or neutered to prevent spreading this disease in the breed further. An abnormal growth of inflammatory cells causes this disease. Scientists and veterinarians do not entirely understand this condition, and they think it has multiple causes, but most often, the causes are genetic.

An Australian Shepherd puppy with inflammatory bowel disease can experience chronic vomiting, diarrhea, or weight loss. Some dogs may have blood in their stool, which is an emergency. In fact, as soon as blood in the stool appears, owners should call their vets and schedule an exam as quickly as possible.

There is no cure for this issue. A vet may recommend a change in diet in an attempt to find foods that don’t irritate your dog’s bowels too much. Vets can also prescribe medication like antibiotics and steroids. Because every dog with this disease experiences it differently, medication usually needs to be altered a few times before the owners and vets determine the most effective treatment. An Australian Shepherd puppy owner can help their vets find the best medication by keeping track of their dogs symptoms. Please take note of your dog’s appetite, mood, weight, activity levels, and old symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea.

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Lymphoma is one of the most common cancers that Australian Shepherd dogs experience. An Australian Shepherd puppy with lymphoma can have a few different types of cancer stemming from lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are white blood cells, and their job is to fight off infections in an Australian Shepherd puppy. These white blood cells can be in the spleen, bone marrow, and lymph nodes, and the cancer most commonly locates itself in these areas.

There are more than 30 types of lymphoma cancer, and all vary in aggression. The four most common types of lymphoma are multicentric, alimentary, mediastinal, and extranodal. In fact, about 80-85% of dogs with lymphoma have multicentric lymphoma. This type of cancer affects the lymph nodes and often causes visibly enlarged lymph nodes. The other cancers are rarer and target the intestines, skin, eyes, kidneys, lungs, and nervous system.

Symptoms dogs with lymphoma have can vary, but if an Australian Shepherd puppy has swelling in their lymph nodes, lethargy, fever, anorexia, weakness, dehydration, abdominal pain or weight loss, they might have lymphoma cancer. Diarrhea, weight loss, difficulty breathing, swelling in the face, increased thirst and urination and swelling in the front legs are also symptoms of dogs with lymphoma cancer. Raised nodules and scaly lesions can point to lymphoma that targets the skin. At its worse, lymphoma can cause blindness, seizures, bone pain, fractures, respiratory distress, or death.

It can be hard for vets to diagnose lymphoma in dogs, but they can figure out what the best treatment options are once they’ve had an official diagnosis. Scientists and vets don’t know much about what causes this disease, but they know how to help dogs through it. Chemotherapy and radiation therapy are the most common types of treatments. Some dogs may get surgery, but this can cause the same cancer to pop up somewhere else. Dogs treated with chemotherapy or radiation therapy might get mild symptoms as a side effect. They could have vomiting, diarrhea, decreased appetites, or decreased activity levels.

Even though there are treatment options, this type of cancer is not curable. The purpose of treatments is to lessen your dog’s symptoms or cause the cancer to go into remission. Remission is almost never permanent, but it basically means the symptoms your Australian Shepherd puppy gets when they have lymphoma stop occurring temporarily. Lymphoma cancer almost always comes back, and when dogs do go into remission, it’s common for lymphoma to come back more severe the second time. This type of illness is usually fatal, although pet parents can try to increase their dog’s quality of life and lengthen their lifespans with treatment.


Some Australian Shepherd dogs will experience hypothyroidism. This health condition happens when the thyroid fails to produce enough of the hormones it is supposed to be making. This condition alone is not life-threatening, but it can cause secondary health issues.

The thyroid plays a large part in regulating the metabolism and skin health, and that’s why dogs that suffer from this disease often experience obesity or hair loss and thinning. If your Australian Shepherd puppy begins suffering from dry skin, fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes along with weight and skin condition, they might have hypothyroidism.

Only a vet can properly determine if an Australian Shepherd puppy has this health condition. However, if a vet diagnoses this condition, it is usually treated simply by providing the dogs with the necessary hormones their thyroid fails to make. Many vet hospitals test for this health condition yearly, and they can give medication in the form of a pill your Australian Shepherd puppy will take. Owners cannot do anything to prevent this condition. Still, they need to regularly take their dog to the vet to make sure a vet can catch the condition early enough before it causes secondary health conditions like infections or obesity.

Heart Disease

Some breeds, like the Australian Shepherd puppy, are more predisposed to different types of heart disease. Although it is rare, an Australian Shepherd puppy has an elevated risk of developing congenital heart vessel defects. Patent ductus arteriosis (PDA) is when fetal blood vessels fail to go away before birth.

This disease varies in severity. Certain blood vessels usually go away before birth, but this disease occurs when those blood vessels are still apparent after the puppy is born. The blood vessels can prevent blood from traveling to a dog’s lungs. An Australian Shepherd puppy has to breathe through its lungs before birth in order to bring oxygen into the blood. After delivery, these vessels can cause some blood to bypass the lungs altogether. If too much blood is missing from the lungs, it can cause mild or severe symptoms. The worst outcome can be fatal.

Thankfully, this disease is easily detected in young puppies since it causes a heart murmur. Owners should make sure their vet examines their Australian Shepherd puppy for this murmur since they are at an elevated risk of developing this heart disease. However, not every heart murmur means an Australian Shepherd puppy has this disease, and some murmurs are benign and go away on their own.

This disease is inherited and thought the be a genetic disorder in some Australian Shepherd puppy families. In the most severe cases of this health condition, vets can perform surgery, but these surgeries are riskier than others. Owners cannot do anything to prevent their Australian Shepherd puppy from having this disease.

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Joint Health

Hip Dysplasia

Like many other dogs, an Australian Shepherd puppy is at risk of developing hip dysplasia. This health condition is a congenital condition in which the hip socket doesn’t form properly. Because of this, the thigh bone doesn’t fit properly into the socket and causes painful grinding when a dog runs or walks. Over time, this will damage the cartilage of the thigh bone and wear it away. Hip dysplasia is a common condition seen in larger dogs, but this can happen in any size dog. Genetic, weight or other health conditions can lead to hip dysplasia or increase the genetic predisposition an Australian Shepherd puppy already has.

Depending on the severity, hip dysplasia can lead to arthritis as well as lameness in the back legs. This disease can also cause loss of motion and drastically reduce a dog’s quality of life. When an Australian Shepherd puppy struggles with this health condition, too much exercise or too little can cause strain on their joints. After dogs go on walks or get some sort of exercise, they should rest to allow their joints to heal as best they can. Over time this joint will not be able to heal itself, and that is when the health issues like arthritis set in.

An Australian Shepherd puppy will experience many different symptoms when they’re struggling with this illness. They might have decreased activity and range of motion. An Australian Shepherd puppy with hip dysplasia might experience inflammation. Dogs with this issue are commonly in pain, and so they will over time develop difficulty rising, jumping, standing, walking, or moving their joints in general.

This might make an Australian Shepherd puppy reluctant to climb into lifted beds and couches. They might avoid staircases or develop a strange walk that some think appears like a ‘bunny hop.’ Some dogs lose muscle mass in the back legs while they try to avoid putting pressure on their hip joint, and then they will gain muscle in their front legs and shoulder muscles because they try to compensate by putting more weight on the front of their body. More severe cases of hip dysplasia can leave an Australian Shepherd puppy in pain with stiffness and limping.

While vets may be able to do just one physical exam to diagnose this health condition, more often than not, they need a list of symptoms from the owner. So if you are ever concerned that your Australian Shepherd puppy has hip dysplasia, try to write down any signs your Australian Shepherd shows.

There are a few different treatment options for dogs with this health condition. Vets might provide supplements to help strengthen the dog’s joints. Other treatment options depend on the specific dog and the severity of their condition. For example, dogs might be able to treat this health condition by a simple change in lifestyle. If your Australian Shepherd puppy is obese, weight loss can significantly help the symptoms of this health condition. Depending on how much pain your Australian Shepherd puppy experiences and how much their motion is affected, physical therapy, anti-inflammatory medication or joint fluid modifiers can help them get a handle on their condition.

Owners cannot do much to prevent this disease except make sure they are feeding their dogs with proper nutrients and supplements and check that their dogs are not obese. Owners can also stop their dogs from running on hard surfaces to reduce any pain their Australian Shepherd puppy may be experiencing. Providing your Australian Shepherd puppy with a plush bed might help them manage any symptoms as well. If the condition is severe enough, vets will likely recommend surgery and might even recommend complete hip replacement surgery.

Osteochondrosis Dissecans

In addition to hip dysplasia, Australian shepherds also sometimes develop osteochondrosis Dissecans (OCD). This health condition is an orthopedic condition caused by the cartilage in the joints growing improperly. Because of this, the joints stiffen. This health condition can form in many different joints in an Australian Shepherd puppy. Veterinarians consider this health issue a form of elbow dysplasia if it occurs in their elbow. Other areas that may be affected include the shoulders or any joints in the hind legs. This disease is most common in large dogs but also common in breeds that grow fast, like the Australian Shepherd breed.

An Australian Shepherd puppy with this disease will likely have lameness in the affected joint, but this symptom might wax and wane. Dogs with this condition will often cry or yelp when someone touches the affected joint. Sometimes the joint might be swollen and feel warm when you touch it. Dogs can be in constant pain if the disease is severe enough, and they might try to prevent putting any weight on the affected leg.

If you think your Australian Shepherd puppy has this health condition, you should consult your vet and arrange an exam. If this condition only results in a crack or a very small flap of damaged pieces of cartilage, dogs could recover without surgery. Vets may try to treat this condition without surgery. They may recommend short walks only and encourage your Australian Shepherd puppy to have tons of bed resting opportunities. Vets may prescribe medications that can relieve inflamed joints and give you supplements to aid the joint’s health. A vet will likely teach you how to perform passive range of motion exercises on your dog, which can help your dog maintain more range of motion and ease your dog’s joint stiffness. These exercises involve the owners moving their dog’s joints through their normal ranges of motion. These exercises will help your Australian Shepherd puppy maintain its joint flexibility and mobility.

In more severe cases, vets might recommend that your Australian Shepherd receives surgery. Vets will likely have owners try non-surgical methods no matter what, but if those methods don’t help your Australian Shepherd puppy in a few weeks, they will probably suggest surgery. During this corrective surgery, vets remove the defective flaps or any floating pieces of cartilage. After surgery, your Australian Shepherd puppy will have many activity restrictions, and owners will be required to perform those range of motion exercises to help their dogs heal. By three weeks after surgery, your vet may encourage swimming to help the rehabilitation process along. By six weeks, they might be able to partake in other controlled activities like walks or jogging.

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Skin and Coat Health

Skin Infections

An Australian Shepherd puppy is more likely to develop skin issues than other dogs because a lot of allergies these dogs experience may expose themselves through a dog’s skin and coat. However, these Australian Shepherd puppies are also prone to other skin infections like mange and roundworms. The fur on the Australian Shepherd protects their skin from bacteria or diseases. The most common skin disease these pups will experience is generalized demodicosis mange.

Generalized demodicosis mange affects about 3% of all Australian Shepherd dogs. This health condition can be chronic or reoccurring in different dogs. Localized cases of this health condition almost always occur in Australian Shepherd dogs that are one year old or younger. More chronic severe cases of this disease generally affect dogs that are two years of age or more. This condition happens because the immune system fails to control mites that are normal for canine skin. Usually, the immune system stops these mites at some point. Still, when an Australian Shepherd puppy suffers from this condition, these mites proliferate a dog’s skin and cause hair loss and skin irritation. This condition is more frequent in Australian Shepherd puppies with a family history of autoimmune disease, even though this disease is not an autoimmune disease.

If your Australian Shepherd puppy has a few areas of hair loss or has skin that appears irritated and rough, they might have this skin infection. In the most severe cases, rough skin patches can spread, covering most of the body. A veterinarian can confirm the diagnoses of these infections by examining a sample of your Australian Shepherd puppy’s skin under a microscope.

Stress from travel, fatigue, malnutrition, or other illnesses can cause this infection in Australian Shepherds. Anything that impacts immune function may cause this disease to occur.

This condition is lifelong, and many dogs experience repeated outbreaks requiring treatment. Generalized versions of this mange can be life-threatening if there is no treatment.

Vets can treat localized forms of this infection with topical medication, and the generalized form of this infection requires much more aggressive methods. Special shampoos and dips can help aid an Australian Shepherd puppy suffering from this infection illness. Vets may also prescribe your Australian Shepherd puppy oral medication. Sometimes, owners can use other treatments for their dogs’ diseases like imidacloprid and moxidectin. In many cases, especially more generalized cases, Australian Shepherd dogs can develop secondary skin infections and will require antibiotic therapy to help manage the very red and inflamed skin they will experience. Treatments for this health issue are typically successful but may take a long time. Vets will regularly take scrapings of a dog’s skin when they have this health condition to make sure their skin is properly cared for and treatment is effective.

Coat Care

Australian Shepherd dogs have very unique and recognizable coats and patterns. These coats require care to ensure their health is in tip-top shape. An Australian Shepherd puppy has double-layered coats, and they need brushing sessions weekly so owners can ensure they remove any excess fur. Owners should never shave their dog’s coats but rather wash and brush them to clean them. Brushing reduces the likeliness of matting and helps stimulate the skin, and it spreads natural oils throughout the Australian Shepherd puppy’s coat. Owners can happily brush their coats more than once a week, but once a week is a minimum to maintain coat health.

An Australian Shepherd puppy will likely buff up their coat during warmer months. When warmer seasons come, they’ll shed off this excess hair and require a little more grooming than usual. Extra brushing sessions are necessary, as loose fur can cause the matting of the coat. Owners and groomers will not be able to brush out any matted fur. Owners and groomers can only rid their dogs of matted fur by cutting the fur off.

Did you know fur protects sensitive areas on dogs? That’s why dogs grow hair inside their ears sometimes! But while this hair can prevent some bacteria from entering their ears, it can also hold extra bacteria there if they aren’t cared for properly. Owners will need to trim their dog’s hair near their ears, under their tails, and near their eyes. If owners aren’t comfortable trimming their Australian Shepherd puppy near such sensitive areas, that’s completely understandable. That’s why there are professional groomers at most pet stores, and you can hire a groomer to take proper care of your dog’s coat health.

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Never shave your dogs, and refrain from bathing them excessively. Shaving your dog’s coat can cause permanent damage and result in sunburn or other skin issues. The only time it is okay to shave an Australian Shepherd puppy is if the puppy was rescued and has an insanely matted coat. If their coat is matting beyond repair, shaving them might be the only option to get rid of this issue.

Owners can help prevent skin infections and bacterial growth by regularly examining their dog’s fur. It would be best for an owner to check their dog’s coat every other day, but they could also quickly look at the skin during brushing sessions.

If this all seems a little overwhelming, or you are unsure whether you can meet an Australian Shepherd’s activity needs or health needs, consider looking into other dog breeds to adopt. If you are considering adopting an Australian Shepherd and still want one after reading about all of these health conditions, that’s great. Keep in mind you need to give them plenty of exercise while caring for them. Australian Shepherds are high energy hardworking dogs and they would do best with families that are willing to reciprocate that energy back. These pups are some of the smartest dogs in the world and they deserve families that are willing to give them tons of attention and love.

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