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English Shepherd Health Issues: What You Need to Know

The English shepherd is a rare medium-sized working dog known for their intelligence and ability to effortlessly herd a whole variety of livestock, from chickens and geese to cattle and sheep. They’re also patient and can get along well with older kids who know how to behave around animals. 

The English shepherd is built for work, and this is evident in their physical appearance. They have an athletic, agile stature, well-muscled neck, and strong hindquarters. They also have an alert expression that shows off their intelligence and keenness to please their owner.

If you’re deciding whether to adopt an English shepherd pup, then one of the factors you’re likely considering is just how healthy the breed is. Today, we’ll delve into the English shepherd’s health further and explain how long they live for, what conditions they’re prone to, and how to give them the best chance of leading a long life.

How Long Do English Shepherds Live For?

English shepherds are healthy dogs overall, with most pups living for 12 to 15 years. While some other breeds do have longer lifespans — the Chihuahua for example, can live up to 17 years — this average lifespan is still extremely impressive considering the breed’s size and work-oriented lifestyle.

A possible reason why English shepherds are so healthy is because they have benefited from a diverse gene pool, being bred from several different types of herding dogs over a long period of time.

Of course, the exact lifespan of an English shepherd will depend on their lineage, activity level, diet, and if they experience any health conditions. Which brings us nicely to our next point:

What Health Issues Do English Shepherds Experience? 

English shepherds aren’t susceptible to any major conditions, though there are a few health issues you should be mindful of if you’re considering this breed. English shepherds commonly suffer from mobility and vision-related problems, such as:

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a genetic condition that causes the hip joint to develop abnormally, leading to complications such as mobility issues, pain, and stiffness. One of the most common signs of hip dysplasia is a “bunny hopping” gait, though other indicators include exercise intolerance and a reluctance to climb stairs.

Hip dysplasia is extremely common in medium-to-large breeds, and is exacerbated by factors such as excessive exercise and a rapid growth rate. In most instances, hip dysplasia can be managed with lifestyle changes and anti-inflammatory medication, though severe cases may require surgery.

Source: Andrew Rice/

Luxating Patella

Patellar luxation is a hereditary disorder that occurs when the kneecap (aka the patellar) pops out of its proper place within the groove of the femur (thigh bone). Common symptoms include hind leg weakness, exercise intolerance, a skipping gait, and pain while playing or exercising.

Treatment depends on the grade of severity. Mild cases can typically be managed with physical therapy and pain relief medication, though more severe cases will require surgical treatment.

Collie Eye Anomaly

Collie eye anomaly (CEA) is an inherited eye disease that affects parts (or in some cases all) of the eye. The condition causes vision problems and can even lead to blindness. The most common symptoms of CEA include cloudiness, a sunken appearance, and a small eyeball.

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for collie eye anomaly. However, this condition can be screened for. This means it shouldn’t be a concern as long as you use a reputable breeder who runs the necessary health checks and tests.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is another eye condition that can lead to blindness in dogs. As its name suggests, the condition affects the retina of the eye and deteriorates it over time. Most dogs start to show symptoms of PRA in adulthood, between the ages of 3 to 9 years, though young puppies can also be affected (early onset).

There is sadly no cure for this condition yet. However, PRA doesn’t cause any pain and most dogs adapt to the vision loss well since it happens gradually. This condition can also be screened for.

How to Help Your English Shepherd Lead a Healthy Life

Many of the health conditions that English shepherds are prone to can be screened for with genetic tests or mitigated with proper care and regular vet checkups. Here are some tips on how to help your English shepherd lead a long healthy life:

  • Take them to regular vet checkups, ideally twice a year or more frequently if they’re more at risk of health complications
  • Monitor their behavior closely and take them for an examination if you notice any unusual behavior
  • Check their body regularly for signs of lumps, sores, inflammation, or swelling
  • Feed them nutritious dog food that aligns with their activity level and size
  • Avoid overfeeding them (and don’t offer leftovers)
  • Exercise them for at least an hour or two each day, but don’t overexert their bodies
  • Ensure they’re always up-to-date with vaccinations
  • Groom their coats regularly, with monthly trips to a professional groomer

For even more tips on how to keep your English Shepherd healthier longer, plus tips on things like how to train this breed, check out this complete breed guide.

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