Originating from the Shetland Islands in Scotland, the Shetland sheepdog, or sheltie, is a small herding dog known for an intelligent, energetic, and playful nature. The expected Shetland sheepdog life span is 12 to 14 years if the dog is in good health. All dogs should have an annual veterinary checkup to screen for health issues and address any concerns early.
The Shetland sheepdog life span of 12 to 14 years assumes that your dog is free from diseases that can shorten a dog's life. Some dogs may live even longer. The oldest sheltie on record lived to be 20 years old.
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Sheltie care requirements
While there are a host of factors outside your control when it comes to ensuring your dog has a long life, she won't become the longest-living sheltie without proper care, food, and exercise. Shelties have a fairly high energy level and need plenty of mental stimulation. Make sure your sheltie gets regular daily exercise.
They are intelligent and eager to please, which makes training enjoyable. Shelties also excel at canine sports, such as agility and herding.
Feed her high-quality dog food and make sure your pup always has access to fresh water. Shelties have a long, thick double coat that you need to brush at least once per week. Be sure to take your pup to the vet each year for a checkup and vaccinations.
Sheltie health problems
In general, shelties are healthy dogs with few problems. There are some genetic sheltie health problems that affect the breed, although responsible breeders test for these conditions and don't breed affected dogs. However, affected dogs may have a decreased life expectancy or a decreased quality of life. A hip dysplasia evaluation and eye examination are required tests by the American Shetland Sheepdog Association.
In addition, breeders should also complete at least two elective tests. Elective tests include an elbow dysplasia exam and DNA testing for several hereditary diseases. These include von Willebrand's disease, which causes blood clotting problems; multiple drug sensitivity, which increases the chances of adverse reactions to medications; autoimmune thyroiditis, which can cause hypothyroidism; collie eye anomaly, which prevents normal development of the eye; and dermatomyositis, which causes a skin rash and muscle inflammation.
Optional health testing for shelties
The American Shetland Sheepdog Association also has a list of optional health testing for hereditary conditions in shelties. These include additional DNA testing for degenerative myelopathy, progressive retinal atrophy, and lance canine tooth susceptibility. Other optional tests include an exam for patellar luxation, a heart exam to rule out congenital heart problems, and a dental exam.
Caring for older dogs
Senior shelties may develop conditions common to all dogs as they age. Some of these may include diabetes, arthritis, cancer, heart disease, and weakness. Work with your veterinarian to address your senior dog's needs. You may need to make adjustments to your pup's diet and exercise program. Monitor your dog's weight closely, as an overweight dog may struggle more with weakness and joint problems, and this can make him more prone to developing diseases.
Make changes to your dog's environment as needed. He may need additional rugs in the home to walk comfortably on hard floors, and you may need to move her bed or food so that she doesn't have to navigate stairs.
- American Veterinary Medical Association: Senior Pet Care FAQ
- Gloucestershire Live: Is This One of the Oldest Dogs in Gloucestershire?
- American Kennel Club: Shetland Sheepdog
- American Shetland Sheepdog Association: Canine Health Information Center (CHIC)
- American Shetland Sheepdog Association: Explanation of Elective Tests
- American Shetland Sheepdog Association: Explanation of Optional Tests