Although collies have a Scottish heritage, they gained international popularity when Lassie first graced the movie screen. They’re a beautiful and intelligent breed recognized for their long nose and coat. As with any purebred, they have the potential to inherit health problems, especially when it comes to their skin. One in particular can be quite severe.
Dermatomyositis is a serious skin disease that may be inherited in collies if both parents carry the chromosome. It’s not only an inflammation of the skin, but it affects muscles as well. It typically manifests in puppies by 6 months of age, and rarely manifests in adults. It causes inflamed crustiness and pustules on the skin, and it’s highly sensitive to ultraviolet light. When muscle inflammation is severe a dog may have difficulty eating or swallowing. In mild cases, a dog usually grows out of it with time, and moderate cases are often managed with medications. In extreme cases, however, euthanasia may be advised.
Collie nose is a common term for nasal solar dermatitis. It’s a crusty and weepy skin disorder that not only affects collies, but also Australian shepherds, Shetland sheepdogs and crosses of these breeds. Collies typically lack pigmentation on their noses, and are therefore sensitive to the sunlight. This disease is more prevalent in sunny regions such as California and Florida. The skin breaks down with continued exposure, and in extreme cases becomes ulcerated. Skin cancer may also develop. Canine lupus and pemphigus foliaceus also present themselves in a similar fashion.
Collies are prone to an autoimmune disease called systemic lupus erythematosus, or SLE. The body’s immune system becomes hyper-defensive, and begins attacking its own organs and tissues as if they were foreign bodies. It can manifest at any age, but symptoms usually begin around 6 years old. Symptoms include, skin lesions, hair loss, lethargy and joint pain. Although SLE is considered rare, some veterinarians believe it is under diagnosed. The appropriate blood work is available to detect this problem. It’s considered an unpredictable and progressive disease that may require long-term immunosuppressive therapy.
Pemphigus foliaceus is another skin problem seen in collies. Pemphigus foliaceus is one of four autoimmune diseases grouped within the pemphigus complex, and it's considered the most common immune-mediated skin disorder in dogs. It commonly causes scabs and ulcers around the eyes, ears, groin and foot pads. It can appear suddenly, or be the byproduct of consistent chronic skin infections or even drug-induced. Like most autoimmune problems it's rarely curable, but it can be maintained with appropriate medication. Talk to your vet about any questions or concerns as well as possible precautions.