Information on the health of English Shepherds can be hard to find. There are some data recorded with OFA (Orthopedic Foundation for Animals), on breeder websites, and in breed club surveys, but there has not been systematic surveillance or recording of health information. Certain breed characteristics appear to have helped English Shepherds avoid some of the health problems affecting other breeds, such as difficulty whelping or high prevalence of specific genetic mutations. Breed standards and breeder selection have historically favored:
- Moderate size and build
- Natural features without exaggeration in head shape, structure, or coat
- Athleticism and durability
In addition, English Shepherds are commonly reported to have an easy time whelping, large litters, and good maternal abilities. All of this is good!
Longevity and Fitness
Two very basic considerations when evaluating the health of a breed are:
- Longevity — what is the typical lifespan for English Shepherds?
The only available data on longevity in E.S. comes from a 2015 online survey which indicated an average lifespan of just under 11 years (excluding deaths due to trauma). The leading cause of early mortality was cancer, followed by neurologic problems. You can read more detail on the “English Shepherd Source” website.
- Fitness — what is the reproductive success for members of the breed? Data on reproductive traits appears promising. A recent sample of 100 litters revealed an average litter size of 8 puppies with 96% survival to weaning. Data on reproductive patterns within the breed — the size of the breeding population, ratio of males: females, generation time, and sibling contribution — remain to be studied. Even without data specific to English Shepherds, enough is known about how these factors affect breed health to recommend strategies for conservation-minded breeders.
Health & Genetic Screening Tests
The single most important health test for your English Shepherd is a simple physical exam by a veterinarian. In addition to a routine physical, recommended screening tests for prospective breeding animals include an x-ray to rule out hip dysplasia and screening for certain genetic conditions. Your dog’s family history may provide some guidance in choosing additional appropriate tests.