Breed-Specific Conditions and Pet Insurance for Shelties


Ru Chen

- Updated March 6, 2024

Key Takeaways

  • Shelties are susceptible to eye, hip, and thyroid problems.
  • Timely veterinary care can help your Shetland Sheepdog’s health.
  • Pet insurance offers reimbursements for vet expenses.
Breed-Specific Conditions and Pet Insurance for Shelties

Shetland Sheepdogs, fondly known as Shelties, are affectionate and intelligent dogs. These dogs from Scotland are fantastic watchdogs, traditionally trained to herd sheep. However, Shelties are vulnerable to various breed-specific conditions, which can result in expensive veterinary expenses.

Obtaining pet insurance is an effective strategy to reduce the financial burden of costly pet care bills. Let’s go over Sheltie breed-specific conditions, the pros and cons of pet insurance, and how you can get the best insurance for your Shetland Sheepdog.

Common Breed-Specific Conditions in Shelties

Here are the health issues commonly found in Shetland Sheepdogs.

Collie Eye Anomaly

Shetland Sheepdogs are genetically predisposed to have Collie eye anomaly (CEA), which is also known as choroidal hypoplasia (CH). This inherited eye disease can result in vision deficits, eye malformations, retinal problems, and blindness in Shetland Sheepdogs.

A Sheltie puppy can be checked for Collie eye anomaly around 6-8 weeks old by a certified vet. Compared to progressive eye disease, Collie eye anomaly is rarely progressive. Severe cases of CEA that involve vision loss are relatively rare. However, in cases with more visible negative effects, vets may recommend surgery.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is an inherited eye disease that can lead to blindness.

Common symptoms of progressive retinal atrophy include:

  • Worsening vision, especially at night
  • Dilated pupils
  • Abnormally reflective eyes
  • Clumsiness and hesitance to use stairs
  • Cataracts in both eyes

To diagnose progressive retinal atrophy, your vet may send your Shetland Sheepdog to a veterinary eye specialist. Additional testing, such as an electroretinography, may be necessary to determine whether your Sheltie has PRA.

To deal with progressive retinal atrophy, a veterinarian can recommend a management plan focusing on reducing pain and risk of injury. Example action steps include adding safety gates to block stairs at home, keeping furniture in clear and fixed arrangements, and adding lighting around the home.

A Sheltie with PRA may also be given training with verbal commands to help guide and comfort the dog after the vision loss and blindness set in.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is a common health risk in dogs, including Shelties. Hip dysplasia involves the hip socket not properly covering or fitting with the ball of the hip. Over time, this can lead to arthritis and muscle atrophy, which can hurt and tire a dog.

While there is no cure to eliminate hip dysplasia entirely, vets can prescribe treatment to help your Shetland Sheepdog experience less pain. Joint supplements and pain medications can be helpful for a Sheltie with hip dysplasia.


Dermatomyositis (DMS) is an inflammatory disease that can affect the skin and muscles of Shetland Sheepdogs. DMS can be deeply uncomfortable for Shelties, making it more difficult for them to run around.

Symptoms of dermatomyositis include:

  • Skin and muscle lesions
  • Stiff gait
  • Difficulty eating and drinking from a bowl
  • Stunted growth
  • Muscle atrophy

To treat dermatomyositis, vets may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications and corticosteroids. Topical ointments can also provide effective relief for Shelties with skin lesions.

Thyroid Disorders

Shetland Sheepdogs are prone to thyroid disorders. In particular, they can suffer from hypothyroidism, which occurs when the body cannot produce enough of the thyroid hormone.

Signs of thyroid problems in a Shetland Sheepdog can include:

  • Hair loss
  • Dry skin and coat
  • Weight gain
  • Aggression and other behavioral changes

Dogs with hypothyroidism need to be treated for life with prescription drugs. Vets may also recommend a different diet for your Sheltie if they have a thyroid disorder. Fortunately, hypothyroidism has an excellent prognosis with proper management.

Von Willebrand’s Disease

Von Willebrand’s Disease (vWD) is an inherited bleeding disorder that can affect Shelties. Symptoms can include:

  • Bruises
  • Bleeding gums
  • Nosebleed
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Spontaneous bleeding

If your Sheltie gets injured or needs surgery, von Willebrand’s Disease can be a life-threatening condition if not taken into consideration. Vets may prescribe medications and plasma products to help Shelties survive bleeding episodes and surgical intervention.


The Importance of Pet Insurance for Shelties

Pet insurance is a tool that can improve the financial stability and medical care of your beloved Shetland Sheepdog. Here are the main advantages of pet insurance.

Get financial protection

Shetland Sheepdogs are lovable, energetic dogs. Because they love to run around and play, they have a higher chance of getting into accidents. For example, a broken bone, bite, laceration, or swallowed toy can require expensive veterinary care.

Deal with breed-specific conditions

Shelties are prone to numerous breed-specific conditions, including Collie eye anomaly, progressive anomaly atrophy, hypothyroidism, and hip dysplasia. Treatment and management of these conditions are essential but can cost significant money. With pet insurance, Sheltie owners won’t need to worry as much about paying thousands of dollars at the vet every time there is an emergency.

Manage chronic conditions

Shetland Sheepdogs can develop chronic and age-related conditions over time. For example, arthritis, vision problems, and thyroid disorders can prove problematic and require persistent treatment plans. As the visits to the vet become more frequent, the expenses can accumulate to be quite costly. Pet insurance helps pet owners manage the recurring vet bills for chronic conditions more easily.


Understanding Pet Insurance Coverage

Pet insurance helps cover pet care expenses, giving you valuable monetary reimbursements that offset the costs of visiting the veterinarian.

How does pet insurance work?

After you obtain an invoice from your vet for the pet care expenses, you can file a claim with your pet insurance provider. The pet insurer will evaluate your claim and determine if it involves covered expenses. If your claim is approved, you will receive financial reimbursement.

Essentially, pet insurance offsets the high upfront costs of vet bills, spreading out the costs through more affordable premiums every month. If you happen to need assistance from your pet insurance provider for emergency vet expenses, such as for surgery following an accident, the reimbursement you get can be a significant financial help.

Accident-only pet insurance

Accident-only coverage can provide reimbursements for accidents involving your pet. An accident-only pet insurance policy is as basic as it gets and typically covers claims such as:

  • Broken bones
  • Swallowed foreign object
  • Bites
  • Lacerations

Comprehensive pet insurance

Also known as accident and illness pet insurance, comprehensive pet insurance provides coverage for more than just accidents. Dog illnesses will also be covered, such as cancer, infections, and diabetes. Comprehensive pet insurance tends to offer coverage for a wide variety of relevant vet expenses, such as diagnostic tests and medications.

Wellness coverage and preventive care

While the standard pet insurance policy does not include preventive care, many pet insurance companies offer a wellness plan or preventive care add-on. This type of coverage includes routine vet expenses that are not covered by the original pet insurance.

A wellness plan generally provides quick reimbursement for:

  • Annual wellness exam
  • Routine health screenings
  • Vaccinations
  • Dental cleanings
  • Spaying/neutering
  • Deworming

The advantage of getting preventive care coverage for your Sheltie is that you can easily receive reimbursements for common vet bills that are not otherwise covered by the basic pet insurance plan.

A preventive care plan also encourages pet owners to bring their furry companions to the vet more often for routine checkups and dental cleanings, which can enhance a Shetland Sheepdog’s overall health. Checkups allow vets to detect health conditions more quickly, improving the chances of a successful treatment process.

Factors to consider when choosing a pet insurance policy for Shelties

When buying pet insurance for your Shetland Sheepdog, it is important to first know any restrictions and requirements for the insurance policy. Most pet insurance providers implement breed and age restrictions. Once you know your Sheltie can be covered by the policy, it’s time to consider various factors. Let’s go over how to find suitable pet insurance for a Shetland Sheepdog.

Beware of pre-existing conditions being excluded from the policy you purchase. Many pet insurance providers will not provide financial assistance for any conditions that are diagnosed before your coverage becomes active. Because of this, it can be a good idea for Sheltie owners to get pet insurance for a Sheltie puppy once they are old enough. Then, a complete pet exam can help diagnose any conditions the puppy may have, allowing those diagnoses to be covered by insurance.


How to Find Pet Insurance for Shelties

Researching pet insurance providers

Finding a reliable pet insurance provider with affordable premiums and quality coverage is essential for any pet owner. If you’re looking for the best pet insurance for Shelties, check out our expert rankings of top pet insurance.

Premium costs

The insurance premium is how much you need to pay for pet insurance every billing cycle (usually monthly). The pet insurance premium typically falls between $15 and $90 a month, with dog insurance averaging around $66 monthly. If you want a wellness plan or accident-only coverage, the premium will be lower. The more endorsements you want to add to tailor your policy, the more expensive insurance will cost.

Deductibles and co-pays

The pet insurance deductible is how much a policyholder must pay out-of-pocket before pet insurance kicks in to provide coverage for the rest. The deductible for a pet insurance policy averages around $250, with cheaper premiums coming with higher deductibles.

The co-pay of a pet insurance policy refers to how much you still need to pay once you have met your deductible on covered claims.

Coverage limits and exclusions

Always read an insurance policy thoroughly prior to purchasing it. Pet insurance companies often impose limits and exclusions to prevent policyholders from buying insurance in bad faith. Most pet insurers exclude pre-existing conditions that are diagnosed before coverage is activated. Age and breed restrictions are also common in pet insurance policies.

If an injury or accident occurs as a result of illegal activity (e.g. dogfighting), coverage may also be revoked.

Customer reviews and satisfaction ratings

Customer reviews can give you valuable insight into whether a pet insurance company is right for you. Look at online reviews and ratings for each insurance provider you consider. A highly rated pet insurance company is more likely to provide a smooth claims process, fast reimbursement, and useful coverage.

Special considerations for Sheltie-specific health conditions when selecting coverage

Make sure you consider your own Sheltie’s health circumstances and needs when choosing pet insurance. If your Sheltie already has an existing condition, be careful with buying insurance if it excludes pre-existing conditions. If your Sheltie is growing older, comprehensive accident-and-illness coverage might be helpful so that age-related conditions can be covered by insurance.

Tips for obtaining quotes and customizing coverage to suit individual needs

Quotes, or estimated costs of pet insurance, can help you better decide whether an insurance policy aligns with your budget. While there are generic, convenient pet insurance policies that fit the average pet owner’s needs, it is a good idea to specifically search for coverage for your Shetland Sheepdog. When obtaining quotes, compare them with the average dog insurance cost (~$66 a month) to get a better idea of whether you are receiving a good deal.



Shelties are highly active and energetic dogs, making them prone to injuries and accidents, which often require emergency vet care. Shelties also have a chance of breed-specific conditions and diseases, including progressive retinal atrophy, hip dysplasia, and Collie eye anomaly.

Investing in pet insurance provides numerous benefits, such as:

  • A financial safety net for vet expenses
  • Helping you get the best veterinary care for your Sheltie
  • Facilitating the treatment of Sheltie breed-specific conditions

Proactive pet care measures can improve your Sheltie’s quality of life and safety. If you have a Sheltie companion, consider investing in pet insurance. It serves as valuable financial protection that ensures your furry companion gets the necessary medical attention.

About The Author

Ru Chen

Ru Chen

Content Writer

Ru Chen is a content writer with several years of experience in creating engaging and well-researched articles. She mostly writes about insurance, business, digital marketing, and law. In her free time, she can be found watching horror movies and playing board games with her partner in Brooklyn.

The Latest Articles

Read Articles