Picardy Sheepdogs are usually considered to be a healthy breed. Dogs in the breed commonly live to be 12-15 years old.

There are some health problems that can crop up in individual dogs. Eye problems are sometimes found, such  progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and Canine Multifocal Retinopathy (CMR). Brittle nails and sensitive digestion are known in the breed, but are most of the time prevented by good care and careful choice of food. Heart murmurs have been mentioned but in the U.K (and most other countries), we have no evidence of disease, just a physiological split.

You will also find more general information on vaccination and Comprehensive health based on the WSAVA (World Small Animals Veterinary Community) guidelines

Eye Disorders

(The genetics of eye disorders in the dog – Cathryn S Mellersh)

PRA – Progressive Retinal Degeneration

The retina is the tissue that lines the inner surface of the eye, and is the light sensitive part of the eye that acts as the brain’s camera, transmitting images through the rods and cones that are part of its structure, thus enabling the experience of vision. The retina is part of the central nervous system (CNS) and the only part of the CNS that can be easily imaged and examined. In retinal degeneration, the cells of the retina begin to decline in function, thereby leading to impaired vision or even blindness. There are many causes for retinal degeneration.

Symptoms and Types

  • Night blindness that progresses to blindness in light as well
  • Dilated pupils
  • Inability to see clearly in bright light
  • In some conditions, only central vision may be lost, the animal may still retain peripheral vision
  • The pupil (opening of the eye) has abnormal reactions to light
  • The retinal structure appears abnormal when a doctor examines it with an ophthalmoscope; cataract may be observed


  • Genetic: Hereditary degeneration is common. This is characterized by the formation and development of a faulty group of cells, which gradually worsen in function over life
  • Degenerative: Long-term glaucoma, scarring inflammation or separation of the retina due to trauma
  • Abnormal structure: Abnormal structure at birth or abnormal development of the retina with age
  • Metabolic: Insufficient or excess amounts of certain enzymes
  • Cancer: Cancer from other parts of the body that has spread to the retina
  • Nutritional: Deficiency of Vitamin A or E
  • Infectious/Immune: Infections of the retina or infections that spread from other parts of the body
  • Idiopathic (Unknown Cause): Sudden blindness due to sudden acquired retinal degeneration syndrome (SARDS)
  • Toxic: Adverse Reactions to specific drugs

Dogs that have become blind as a result of suffering from retinal degeneration are generally not in pain, so they can continue to lead healthy, full lives once they have learned to compensate for the loss by sharpening their other senses. Be sure to keep your dog under a watchful eye at all times so that it is not at risk of being injured or attack (read more)

CMR – Canine Multifocal Retinopathy

CMR is an eye disorder which can cause of range of symptoms ranging from minor retinal folding, up to detached retinas. Most of the time symptoms are minor, and sometimes symptoms are not even present.  The minor symptoms range from small folding in the retina (folds) to small patches of raised areas on the retina (geographic).  Ophthalmologists say that CMR probably does not affect vision much, it may or may not cause small areas of fuzzy vision, and might cause decreased night vision. Geographic would cause larger patches of fuzzy vision than folding. (Per CERF doctor).

CMR is inherited as a recessive gene meaning the dog must have two copies of the gene to be affected.  Carriers (dogs with only one copy) are phenotypically normal, but carry one copy for the CMR gene.

Nail diseases “Split nails”

The most common disease affecting single claws are: trauma, bacterial or fungal infections; the most common condition affecting multiple claws would be onychodystrophy. The claw is important for the pet for grasping and holding, moving and used as a defence tool. For this reason it is important that the claws are regularly trimmed and healthy. Diseased claws will predispose to trauma, abnormal locomotion, pain, lameness, and pododermatitis.

Physical Injury or Trauma: Nail injuries could be painful for your canines; particularly those dogs who have lengthy nails. Not having been trimmed nails in dogs can crack or break throughout intense training or exercise.

Insufficient Nutrition: Namely, besides the above-mentioned causes, the lack of essential vitamins and nutritional elements also results in cracking nails. You can handle this phenomenon with adding zinc supplements to the meals, together with omega 3 fatty acids.

Fungal Infection: To identify a fungus, a skin scraping could be necessary. Any potential reasons for fungal infections might be some medicine to repress her immune system. Antifungal remedy is prescribed by your vet for treating the status.

Symmetrical Lupoid Onychodystrophy : Now your dog has an immune mediated illness that leads to dry and brittle nails in canines. The disorder ends in an overactive body’s defence system which plays a vital role in the nail and nail beds. In addition this result in splitting and breaking of nails which fails to heal. As soon as your vet performed a proper analysis, the therapy would come with the usage of important fatty acid dietary supplements. They are similar to oil from fish, vitamin A cure, and antibiotic treatment by using niacinamide and tetracycline.

Nail Bed Tumors іn Dogs: Nail bed carcinomas in canines influence the nail beds, the nail matrix, which has nerves, blood veins plus the melanin-developing cells. Aside from brittle claws, these ailments trigger tumour like progress found in the nail bed, bleeding, limping and ulcerations. They are hard not to be confused with bone inflammation sometimes.

Yeast Infection іn Canines: Dog yeast infection is the result of Candida albicans yeast. Those are residing in your furry-friend’s physique, feed sugar and fat necessary to their developing. Other than dry and brittle nails, candida problems in dogs can even trigger itching or allergy symptoms. Furthermore, it is liable for ear infections, constipation, skin rashes and several other canines’ problems.

The efficiency of handling brittle nails problems is depending upon the root cause behind the issue. The fungal and microbial infection could be remedied by topical therapies or medicines that are administered on the affected region. In certain instances the surgical removal of the nail plate is perhaps inevitable.

The most effective brittle nails treatment and prevention would be to maintain you dog’s nails properly groomed.

Sensible digestion

Picardy Sheepdogs do require good quality nutrition. This is really not a breed that can get by on cheaper dog foods. Your dog’s health depends on the nutrition you provide so cutting corners is not recommended.

If your dog’s symptoms are more than just mild and intermittent like the presence of diarrhoea, which is often frequent and excessive, may contain a lot of mucous, and will often smell incredibly foul, or switching to a highly-digestible food doesn’t improve the situation, talk to your veterinarian. If your puppy or dog has just been introduced to your family, the stress off changing homes can lower his resistance fighting Giardia for awhile.

What is a Sensitive Stomach, and What Can Be Done About It?

Some dogs have guts of steel and can eat almost anything they find in the yard or on a walk with no ill effects. However, not every dog is so lucky. Many tend to be more sensitive than this.

Do you have a dog that has one or more of the following symptoms?

  • Intermittent loose stools
  • Occasional vomiting
  • Excessive flatulence

If so, your dog may have a sensitive stomach.

Some dogs cannot handle a lot of variety in their diet or withstand ingredients that make their digestive systems work a little harder than normal. I’m sure you know people who can wolf down a chili cheese dog with extra onions without any problems and some who can’t. The same variability is found in pet populations (although no dog should be eating a chili cheese dog — with or without extra onions).

If you suspect that your dog might have a sensitive stomach, the first thing to do is to simplify his diet. Cut out all the extras — No table scraps, limit yourself to giving just one type of highly digestible treat (or even better, use his regular food as a treat), and make sure he’s not getting into anything that he shouldn’t be (e.g., the garbage).

Next, take a look at your dog’s food. Foods made from high- quality ingredients tend to be much more digestible than lower quality products. Does your dog’s food contain too much fat? Fat is more difficult to digest than carbohydrates and proteins, so a diet that contains a moderate level of fat (approximately 15 percent) is ideal. Certain types of fiber can also promote digestive health. Look for a source of both soluble and insoluble fibre, like beet pulp. Vitamins and minerals, especially those with antioxidant qualities, can also improve digestive function, so make sure your dog’s food contains appropriate levels of vitamins A, C, and E, beta carotene, and selenium.

If you think that your dog’s current diet could be playing a  role in his tummy troubles, switch to a different food that meets the criteria listed above. Of course, you still need to make sure that your dog is getting the balanced nutrition he or she needs. When you make a switch, do so gradually. Take about a week to mix increasing amounts of the new food in with decreasing amounts of the old.

If your dog’s symptoms are more than just mild and intermittent, or switching to a highly-digestible food doesn’t improve the situation, talk to your veterinarian. More serious conditions, like a food allergy or inflammatory bowel disease, can have symptoms that are similar to those seen in dogs with sensitive stomachs.

Dr.  Jennifer Coates

Giardia in dogs – Canine giardiasis

Giardiasis is an unpleasant parasitic infection that is most commonly found in humans, and has a much higher occurrence rate in countries with poor sanitation and limited fresh water facilities. However, the giardia parasite, which causes giardiasis, is also present within the UK, and is equally capable of affecting dogs and other animals as well as people. It is highly contagious, easily transmitted from pet to pet, and can lead to a debilitating bout of diarrhoea and digestive upset that can prove serious in young animals and those with a compromised immune system.

What is giardiasis?

Giardiasis is sometimes referred to as parasitic diarrhoea, as the presence of the giardia parasite in large quantities within the body often leads to intense sickness and scouring, or diarrhoea. Giardiasis not only affects dogs, but can also be transmitted to other household pets such as cats, and people as well.

Symptoms and diagnosis

Giardiasis is more symptomatic in younger dogs than older ones and younger dogs and puppies may appear to become sicker faster than older dogs. Giardiasis development may be either acute (sudden in onset) chronic (ongoing or recurrent) transient (short-lived and temporary) or intermittent (the symptoms seem to come and go over a period of several days).

The most obvious symptom of giardiasis in dogs is the presence of diarrhoea, which is often frequent and excessive, may contain a lot of mucous, and will often smell incredibly foul (much more so than the normal aroma of dog droppings)! It may also lead to soft, unformed greasy stools as well as diarrhoea, and can also cause pain, cramps, general stomach upset and of course, unhappiness in the affected dog.

As the giardia parasite is found and transmitted within affected faeces, your vet will ask for a stool sample for examination in order to make a formal diagnosis of giardia infection in your dog.

Treatment and prognosis

Medications will usually be prescribed to kill the parasites within the body, and your vet will likely also recommend bathing your dog and thoroughly disinfecting any bedding and other objects that they have come into contact with to prevent re-infection or spreading the condition further after recovery.

Ongoing or recurrent giardiasis can be very debilitating for your dog, and so your vet will generally take a second stool sample after apparent recovery to check for the presence of the parasite again. As with any digestive upset in the dog, it is important to avoid dehydration, and ensure that your dog drinks enough water throughout their illness.

Read full article

Heart murmurs

What is a heart murmur?

A heart murmur is an abnormal heart sound, usually heard by listening to the heart with a stethoscope.

What causes a heart murmur?

A heart murmur is caused by turbulent blood flow within the heart. Sometimes a murmur is determined to be ‘innocent’ or ‘physiologic’, while other times the murmur is determined to be pathologic or caused by disease. Pathologic heart murmurs can be caused by a structural problem within the heart (i.e., cardiac disease), or can be due to a problem that is ‘extracardiac’ (i.e., not caused by heart disease).

Do all murmurs sound the same?

No. The loudness of a murmur reflects the amount of turbulence that is present in the heart. However, the loudness of a heart murmur does not always correlate directly with the severity of disease.

Murmurs are graded by their intensity, usually on a scale of I-VI. A Grade I murmur is very soft or quiet, may only be heard intermittently, and is usually only heard in one location on the chest, while a Grade VI murmur is very loud, heard everywhere that the heart can be heard, and can be felt when a person places their hand on the chest in the area of the heart (in cardiac terminology, this is called a ‘thrill’).

Murmurs are also characterized by the time in which they occur during the heart cycle, and by whether they are long or short. Most murmurs are also characterized by their location, or where they are the loudest.

The majority of murmurs in the dog occur during systole, the phase of the heart cycle when the heart is contracting to pump blood out.

The specific characteristics of the murmur, along with any symptoms that your dog might be showing, will help your veterinarian to determine what is causing the murmur.

What is an innocent or physiologic heart murmur?

“An innocent or physiologic heart murmur is a heart murmur that has no impact on the dog’s health.”

An innocent or physiologic heart murmur is a heart murmur that has no impact on the dog’s health.

It is very common for young puppies, especially large breed puppies, to develop an innocent heart murmur while they are growing rapidly. The murmur may first appear at 6-8 weeks of age, and a puppy with an innocent heart murmur will usually outgrow it by about 4-5 months of age. This type of murmur is benign.

In general, a physiologic or innocent heart murmur will have a low intensity (usually Grade I-II out of VI), and does not cause any symptoms or clinical signs.

Read the full article

General informations

Current issues in small animal vaccinology

If vaccination has been so successful, then why is it necessary to continually re-evaluate vaccination practice? There is little doubt that, in most developed countries, some of the major infectious diseases of dogs and cats are considered at most uncommon in the pet population. However, even in those countries there remain geographical pockets of infection and sporadic outbreaks of disease may occur, and the situation regarding free-roaming or shelter populations is distinctly different from that in owned pet animals. In many developing countries these key infectious diseases remain as common as they once were in developed nations and a major cause of mortality in small animals. Although it is difficult to obtain accurate figures, even in developed countries it is estimated that only 30–50% of the pet animal population is vaccinated, and this is significantly less in developing nations. The global economic recession post-2008 has had further impact on the uptake of preventive healthcare by pet owners in developed countries and survey data suggests a recent decline in vaccination (Anon 2013a).

In small animal medicine, we have been slow to grasp the concept of ‘herd immunity’ – that vaccination of individual pet animals is important, not only to protect the individual, but to reduce the number of susceptible animals in the regional population, and thus the prevalence of disease. Herd immunity related to use of core vaccines that provide a long (many years) DOI is highly dependent on the percentage of animals in the population vaccinated and not the number of vaccinations that occur annually. Therefore, every effort should be made to vaccinate a higher percentage of cats and dogs with the core vaccines. It is simply not possible to induce ‘better’ immunity in an individual animal by giving repeated vaccinations, i.e. a dog receiving a core MLV vaccine every 3 years will be equally well protected compared with one receiving the same vaccine annually (Bohm et al. 2004, Mouzin et al. 2004, Mitchell et al. 2012) [EB1], but this may not necessarily be the case for feline core vaccines (see below).

In recent years the re-emerging concept of ‘One Health’ has also impacted on the field of vaccinology. The management of infectious diseases through the collaborative interaction of human medical, animal and environmental healthcare professionals provides a rational and cost-effective goal at a time when the majority of newly emergent human infectious diseases is proposed to derive from wild or domestic animal sources (Gibbs 2014). The WSAVA has embraced the One Health concept with establishment of a One Health Committee in 2010 (Day 2010), the work of which overlaps with that of the VGG when tackling the major small companion animal zoonoses of canine rabies and leishmaniosis.

A second major concept regarding vaccination of dogs and cats has been the recognition that we should aim to reduce the ‘vaccine load’ on individual animals in order to minimize the potential for adverse reactions to vaccine products and reduce the time and financial burden on clients and veterinarians of unjustified veterinary medical procedures. For these reasons we have seen the development of vaccination guidelines based on a rational analysis of the vaccine requirements for each pet, and the proposal that vaccines be considered ‘core’ and ‘non-core’ in nature. To an extent this categorization of products has been based on available scientific evidence and personal experience – but concerted effort to introduce effective companion animal disease surveillance on a global scale would provide a more definitive basis on which to recommend vaccine usage (Day et al. 2012). In parallel with the categorization of vaccines has been the push towards marketing products with extended DOI, to reduce the unnecessary administration of vaccines and thereby further improve vaccine safety. Both of these changes have necessitated a frame-shift in the mind-set of veterinary practitioners, which is now becoming the accepted norm in many countries.

You can access the full recommendations by clicking here or access directly the WSAVA website


General informations

Comprehensive Individual Care beyond Vaccination

In the past, veterinary practice has benefited from the annual administration of vaccines. By encouraging owners to bring their pets yearly for vaccination, veterinarians were able to recognize and treat disease earlier than might otherwise have been the case. In addition, the annual visit provided an opportunity to inform clients of important aspects of canine and feline health care.

Unfortunately, many clients have come to believe that vaccination is the most important reason for annual veterinary visits. Veterinarians have been concerned that a reduction in vaccination frequency will cause clients to forgo the annual visits and that the quality of care will diminish. It is therefore essential that veterinarians stress the importance of all aspects of a comprehensive individualized health care program. Emphasis should be placed on detailed history taking; thorough physical examination performed in the presence of the client, and individualized patient care. The importance of dental care, proper nutrition, appropriate diagnostic testing and the control of parasites and of zoonotic diseases should be addressed during evaluation of each pet. Behavioural concerns should be discussed, as well as the necessity for more frequent, tailored examination of young and geriatric animals and animals of particular breeds with well characterized disease predispositions. Discussion of vaccination is simply one part of the annual health check visit.

During regular (usually annual) health checks, clinicians should assess the need for core and non-core vaccines for that particular year. The practitioner should explain to the client the types of vaccines available, their potential benefits and risks, and their applicability to the particular animal, given its lifestyle and risk of exposure. While an animal might not receive core vaccination every year, most non-core vaccines require annual administration so owners will continue to see their animal vaccinated annually. The regional incidence and risk factors for various infectious diseases should also be discussed. Ways to reduce the impact of acquired disease (e.g. avoiding overcrowding, improving nutrition, and restricting access to infected animals) should also be reviewed.

Vaccinations should be considered as only one component of a comprehensive preventive health care plan individualized based on the age, breed, health status, environment (potential exposure to harmful agents), lifestyle (contact with other animals) and travel habits of the pet.

Age has a significant effect on the preventive health care needs of any given individual. Puppy/kitten programs have traditionally focused on vaccinations, parasite control and neutering. Today, opportunity exists to incorporate behaviour counselling and zoonotic disease management. For the ageing pet, senior care programs are becoming increasingly popular. Nutritional, dental disease and parasite control assessment and counselling should take place on an individualized basis throughout the life of the pet. There is no evidence that older dogs and cats, which have been fully vaccinated as pups or kittens, require a specialized programme of core vaccination (Day 2010, Horzinek 2010, Schultz et al. 2010). Experimental evidence shows that older dogs and cats have persisting immunological memory to core vaccines, as detected by measurement of serum antibody, and that this may be readily boosted by administration of a single vaccine dose (Day 2010) [EB1]. In adult animals, decisions about revaccination with most core products (CDV, CAV and CPV and FPV) may be made via serological testing. Practitioners who offer this alternative to vaccination report that it is greatly appreciated by owners who may have concerns about vaccination frequency and offering this alternative acts as a ‘practice builder’. By contrast, aged animals may not be as efficient at mounting primary immune responses to novel antigens that they have not previously encountered (Day 2010) [EB1]. Studies of UK dogs and cats vaccinated for the first time against rabies for pet travel have clearly shown that more aged animals fail to achieve the legally required antibody titre (Kennedy et al. 2007) [EB1].

The environment in which a pet resides can profoundly affect its health status and should be assessed during annual health care visits in order to define risk factors and develop appropriate preventive measures.

By estimating the extent to which dogs and cats come into contact with other animals in unobserved circumstances, veterinarians can assess the need for non-core vaccinations. Dogs that visit kennels, grooming salons, common areas and wooded, tick-infested areas are potentially at greater risk from certain infectious diseases than dogs that do not frequent these areas.

Just as the human population has become more mobile, so has the pet population, resulting in potential exposure to infectious agents, parasites and environmental hazards not found where the animal normally lives. Determining past and anticipated future travel during each visit allows for greater individualization of preventive care and diagnostic testing plans.

Medical Record Documentation

At the time of vaccine administration, the following information should be recorded in the patient’s permanent medical record:

  • date of vaccine administration

  • identity (name, initials or code) of the person administering the vaccine

  • vaccine name, lot or serial number, expiry date and manufacturer

  • site and route of vaccine administration.

The use of peel-off vaccine labels and stamps that imprint the medical record with the outline of a pet facilitates this type of record keeping which is mandatory in some countries. Adverse events should be recorded in a manner that will alert all staff members during future visits. Informed consent should be documented in the medical record in order to demonstrate that relevant information was provided to the client and that the client authorized the procedure (e.g. ‘off-label’ use of products as discussed above). At the very least, this notation should indicate that a discussion of risks and benefits took place prior to vaccination.

VGG recommends that vaccination certificates be designed to include not just the dates on which vaccines were administered, but also a field for the veterinarian to state the date on which vaccination is next recommended. This will help diminish confusion in the minds of pet owners and kennel/cattery proprietors.


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