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Looking like cute miniature collies, Shetland sheepdogs have long, double coats that need constant attention. Besides keeping them free of tangles and mats, regular grooming will help you head off skin conditions that plague this energetic herding breed.
Sheltie Skin Disease
Sheltie skin syndrome, also called Sheltie skin disease and dermatomyositis, or DM, is an ugly condition, but it is neither fatal nor contagious. Your first clue that your Shetland sheepdog has the disease will usually be a rough appearance due to hair falling out on the head, ears and front legs. Lesions develop, sometimes looking like flaky skin, bald spots or crusty scabs. Vets often misdiagnose the condition, treating for mange or skin allergies to no avail. A bald tail tip is a defining factor distinguishing this from other diseases. Treatment involves long-term steroid use and minimizing stress in the dog's life. There is no cure for DM, only periods of remission.
If your Shetland sheepdog is itchy, check him for parasites. Fleas, ticks and biting flies easily go undetected in your Sheltie's thick coat. Tiny mites are the root cause of mange, a disorder that causes dogs' hair to fall out. Hair loss may stay in one area or spread out on his entire body. A Shetland sheepdog's thick foot hair also sets him up for a foot mange known as demodectic pododermatitis, which is often accompanied by bacterial infections.
That Little Itch
Allergies are another condition that can cause your dog's skin to itch and turn red -- and all his scratching can set him up for further infection. Allergies may stem from plants he comes in contact with outdoors, the shampoo you use to wash him, or his food. A condition known as seborrhea makes his skin greasy or dry and itchy. Most minor skin conditions are easily corrected with special shampoos or medications. A vet check will help reveal underlying conditions that may be making him more susceptible.
Shelties are prone to hypothyroidism, a condition in which their bodies don't make enough thyroid hormone. Dry, itchy skin is a common symptom. It makes the dog more susceptible to other skin disorders. A Shetland sheepdog suffering from hypothyroidism may prefer sleep to exercise, might pack on extra pound and might seem a little confused or disoriented. A simple blood test at your veterinarian's office reveals the presence of the disorder, and hormone pills are effective at correcting the condition.
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