Breeding Stock Health
What genetic testing should be done on Shetland Sheepdogs before breeding?

—from Susan Sparks, Sparkshire Shelties

This article first appeared in the Summer 2005  issue.


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Thyroid Panel:
    This is a blood test and should be a complete panel that includes Total T4, Free T4, Total T3, Free T3, T4 autoantibodies, T3 autoantibodies, TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone), and TgAA.  This test is used to detect autoimmune thyroid disease.  Breeding stock should be retested every couple of years, since autoimmune thyroiditis can develop in dogs as they age.


How to Test:
    A blood sample is drawn by your veterinarian and sent to a lab that specializes in canine thyroid evaluation.  Just checking the T4 level is not enough, because the thyroid hormone level may be normal in the early stages of the disease.  A list of labs that perform complete thyroid panels can be found at, and click on the OFA Thyroid Procedures link.


Hip Certification:
    This is done through x-rays evaluated by the specialists at the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or PennHip (University of Pennsylvania) and is used to detect the presence of hip dysplasia.  The OFA will do preliminary evaluations on dogs under two years of age, but will only certify dogs over the age of two.  Dogs that have preliminary certification done through OFA should have x-rays resubmitted after the age of two.


How to Test:
    X-rays of the dog's hips must be done by your veterinarian using specific guidelines required by OFA or PennHip. You will need to take your dog’s registration information with you, so this information can be imprinted on the x-rays. The x-rays are then sent in to be evaluated, and you will receive a certificate with the results of the evaluation. In order for the results to be included in a dog’s AKC record, the dog must be permanently identified using either a tattoo or a microchip.


von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD):
    There is now a DNA test to detect vWD, a bleeding disorder.  The DNA test determines whether a dog is affected (two genes), a carrier (one gene), or clear of the disease.  An older procedure that used a blood test to diagnose vWD has been found to be inaccurate.  If the dog was previously tested using the blood test, it is recommended that a DNA test be run to get an accurate diagnosis.  This test only needs to be done once in a dog’s lifetime.


How to Test:
    A testing kit can be ordered from VetGen.  The testing involves swabbing the inside of the dog’s mouth using small soft brushes to collect the DNA sample.  The brushes are then mailed back to VetGen for evaluation.


Eye exams:
    Eye exams check for the presence of abnormalities in the eyes due to hereditary disease.  In Shetland Sheepdogs, the two main concerns are Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA).  Potential breeding stock should be evaluated for CEA when the dog is five to seven weeks old.  The presence of CEA can be detected when a Sheltie is five to seven weeks old, but may become impossible to detect when the dog is older.

    “Lesions of CH [choroidal hypoplasia, the most common form of CEA] can be seen at five to seven weeks of age but later can become masked by the development of pigment in the back of the eye as the dog ages.  These cases are called ‘go-normals.’  It is because of these cases that it is important to examine puppies at a young age.  Even though these dogs may appear normal as adults, they still are carrying the gene for collie-eye.*”

    PRA is a progressive disease, so breeding stock should be examined periodically throughout their lives for the presence of this disease.


How to Test:
    Eye exams must be done by a specialist who is a Diplomate of the American College Of Veterinary Ophthalmologists.  It is recommended that you have the ophthalmologist fill out a Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF) form after the evaluation.  This form can then be sent to CERF with a small fee to have the results included in the CERF database.  You will also receive a certificate from CERF with your dog’s results.  Sometimes local dog clubs will host “eye clinics,” especially in areas that do not have eye specialists close by.  The CERF site has a partial list of upcoming clinics.

—from Susan Sparks, Sparkshire Shelties
*Reference: Julie Gionfriddo, D.V.M., MS, DACVO, ACVO Genetics Committee/CERF Liaison, “DX Spotlight,
Collie Eye Anomaly,” from Website.

And more....
    Before breeding, take your dog to your veterinarian to have a thorough examination and blood tests for venereal diseases. Also, additional tests will be performed and may include, but are not limited to, x-rays and certification of acceptable hips and eye exams.  The dog should be brought up-to-date on all vaccinations and wormed if necessary.  If your veterinarian sees any problem that may preclude breeding, he or she will discuss it with you.  Remember, this should be done with both prospective parents.  A dog or bitch that has been bred several times and seems to be producing healthy dogs could still be carrying problems that never came forward only because of the dog or bitch it was bred to in the past.

 —via The Colorado Sheltie, via Drs. Foster and Smith


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Last modified: April 19, 2012