Shetland sheepdogs are one of the most recognizable breeds out there, as they look like a miniature Collie. “Shelties” as many call them, were known as Shetland Collies in the United Kingdom about 100 years ago. Their heritage is a mix of Germanic Spitz from Scandinavia and other Scottish herding dogs. Finding the best dog food for Shetland Sheepdogs is important for their health and well-being.
Their popularity in the United States began in the 1920's after President Coolidge welcomed a white Shetland Sheepdog into the White House. Surprisingly, white Shelties are not considered “breed standard” and cannot be shown.
Shelties are high energy bundles of long, silky fur. Their characteristic long coat can reach the ground, and they are a double coated dog. Shelties come in 6 approved colors, and their long coat sheds seasonally.
They are a medium-sized herding breed, weighing in at about 15-25 pounds. Like other herding breeds, Shelties are smart, good with children and enjoy a busy, active lifestyle. They excel in sports such as Frisbee, agility and obedience. A relatively long-lived breed, your Sheltie will keep you on your toes for 12-14 years.
Shelties are generally a healthy breed, but you should be aware of a few health concerns and how diet can affect them. It's important to work with your veterinarian to choose the best dog food for Shetland Sheepdogs. Today, I'll be sharing 8 brands that I often recommend to my patients:
|Dog Food Brands||Price||Value||Rating|
|Eukanuba Weight Control Adult||$$||$1.70/lb||4.4/5|
|Hill’s Prescription Diet Oral Care t/d Small Bites||$$$$$||8.40/lb||4.0/5|
|Eukanuba Puppy Growth||$$$||$2.09/lb||4.5/5|
|Purina Pro Plan Focus Chicken and Rice||$$$||$2.02/lb||4.5/5|
|Royal Canin Medium Weight Care Adult||$$||$1.73/lb||4.0/5|
|Royal Canin Sporting Life Agility 4100||$$||$1.62/lb|
|Nutro MAX Senior Chicken and Rice Canned||$$$||$0.13/oz||4.3/5|
|Royal Canin Medium Aging||$$||$1.86/lb||4.8/5|
* Click on the Shetland Sheepdog dog food for more information and prices or scroll down below for more details.
Shelties are one of the few medium-breed dogs that are prone to hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a developmental orthopedic disease in which the “ball and socket” joint of the hip does not form properly.
Genetics play a large part in the development of the disease and it is important to ensure that your pup’s parents had their hips certified – the current best method being the PennHip technique. While screening is helpful in eliminating the genes in breeding stock, it is still possible for Shelties to develop hip dysplasia.
While there is a genetic component to these diseases, there are significant nutritional risk factors that play a part during puppyhood. These risk factors are rapid growth and excess dietary calcium intake.
To be safe, don’t overfeed your Sheltie. Being overweight puts more strain on your dog's hips and joints, leading to early onset arthritis and hip dysplasia. It's also important to feed a recommended breed and age appropriate food.
Best Dog Food for Shetland Sheepdogs
8 vet recommended brands
How to Feed a Shetland Sheepdog
Before switching your dog to any new diet, always consult with a veterinarian. Remember that no article on the internet, including this one, can replace a consultation with a vet.
Common health conditions in Shetland Sheepdogs
Speaking of overfeeding, Shelties can be prone to obesity. Being overweight or obese can lead to problems with their skin, digestion and joint health. It is important to take your dog’s activity level into consideration, as sedentary or older Shelties will require fewer calories.
It can be difficult to monitor your Sheltie’s body condition with all that thick fur, so talk to your veterinarian about their weight and body condition score. If you are concerned about your Sheltie’s weight, a good food to check out is Eukanuba Weight Control AdultEukanuba Weight Control Adult.
Eukanuba is a trusted brand that is a bit more affordable than other premium dog foods. It is great for Shelties that need to lose a pound or two while supporting their overall health.
It contains omega-3 fatty acids (keeping that coat shiny and skin healthy) and Eukanuba’s trademarked DENTADEFENSE kibble structure that helps to reduce tartar. High fiber content keeps your dog feeling fuller for longer and whole grain barley will help keep blood glucose levels steady between meals.
Shelties can also have difficulty with dentistry. It is important to start at-home dental care as early in life as possible, including daily tooth brushing with a dog-safe enzymatic toothpaste. Regular check-ups (once or twice a year) with your veterinarian can also help you monitor his oral health.
If it is impossible to brush your Sheltie’s teeth, don’t despair. I recommend Hill’s Prescription Diet Oral Care t/d Small Bites as the best dog food for Shetland Sheepdogs suffering with dental trouble.
This small bites formula is fantastic for Shelties. The kibble shape and composition allows it to stick to the teeth when bitten. As your dog chews, the matrix of the kibble gently pulls away accumulated plaque from the surface of the tooth and along the gum line. This diet isn’t just good for the teeth – it is a complete, balanced diet for adult dogs.
Puppy Shetland Sheepdogs
A solid foundation of nutrition starts in puppy-hood. Most pups are fully weaned by 6-8 weeks of age and should be on a balanced puppy-specific food. As mentioned above, it is important to not overfeed your Sheltie – a practice that could predispose him to obesity and hip dysplasia.
When I'm asked for a recommendation for the best dog food for Shetland Sheepdogs in the puppy stage, I choose Eukanuba Puppy Growth. This food contains over 20 nutrients that are found in mother’s milk, including brain-boosting omega-3 fatty acid DHA. Shelties are smart, and this food will help promote healthy brain development.
In dogs, the digestive tract is home to many of the lymph nodes that make up the immune system. Prebiotics and an appropriate fiber content not only help support proper digestion, it helps to boost the immune system too.
If you can’t find Eukanuba or it is out of your price range, don’t despair. Another of the best dog food for Shetland Sheepdogs puppies is Purina Pro Plan Focus Chicken and Rice.
Purina has created a great all-around puppy food for multiple breeds. It stands out for the smart Sheltie due to its DHA content. The small kibble size also makes it easy for the long-nosed herder to pick up and chew.
Adult sShetland Sheepdogs
Most Shelties don’t start putting on weight until they are out of puppyhood. Even though they often can have a high energy level, they are easy keepers and can easily become overweight.
It is a good idea to feed Royal Canin Medium Weight Care Adult if your Sheltie isn’t overweight yet, as it may help to prevent unwanted weight gain. Royal Canin is a premium food that has stood the test of time.
They have made great strides in canine nutrition – providing more “tailor made” products for your dog’s particular needs. A great benefit to this food is not just the ingredients list, but how you are instructed to feed your dog.
The feeding guide on the side of the bag provides a range for feeding dogs based on their activity level – low, medium and high. Attention to detail can help prevent overfeeding.
High Energy Shetland Sheepdogs
Shelties are very popular agility dogs and many perform at top levels. Regardless of what level you compete at, it is important to provide the best dog food for Shetland Sheepdogs to your athlete.
In this situation, I recommend Royal Canin Sporting Life Agility 4100. Dogs don’t start to burn protein for energy until they’ve been running for about 30 minutes. Agility athletes are running quickly in a very short amount of time, meaning they need less protein and more carbohydrates than say, a foxhound.
Royal Canin’s agility formula meets these requirements at 21% protein and 42% carbohydrate. It also includes glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to help keep your Sheltie’s joints in top form.
Senior Shetland Sheepdogs
Shelties live a relatively long life and have similar needs to other herding breeds as they age. Joints can suffer from arthritis and teeth may be missing in these golden years. These issues need to be considered when switching to the best dog food for Shetland Sheepdogs in their golden years (9 years+).
Nutro MAX Senior Chicken and Rice Canned is a great choice for dogs in this category. Nutro diets are not available in every pet store, but are easily found online. Seeking them out can make a world of difference in your senior Sheltie.
Nutro has combined tasty chicken, oat bran and a published minimum level of joint protecting glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate to keep your Sheltie on his toes. No teeth? No problem. This soft canned formula is easy to pick up and chew.
Royal Canin Medium Aging is another choice as the best dog food for Shetland Sheepdogs in their senior stage of life. If your Sheltie still enjoys the “crunchies”, look no further than Royal Canin. This food can easily be paired with a canned diet like Nutro and provides premium nutrition.
This special senior formula provides high levels of DHA, EPA and antioxidants for brain health support. Royal Canin is known for its research and development into kibble size and matrix composition – the kibble of this food is unique in that it quickly absorbs water. Adding water to the kibble can make it as soft as your dog needs it to be as she gets older.
The Tail End
Nutrition for Shelties is not one-size-fits-all. There are many things to consider when selecting the best dog food for Shetland Sheepdogs, so don’t forget to ask your veterinarian for guidance. With proper nutrition that your dog enjoys, the cornerstone of good health has been set.
READ NEXT: Dog Nutrition 101 – How To Feed a Dog