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Ideal Diet for Shelties – The Ultimate Shelties Feeding Guide

Written by: Arlene Divina
Arlene Divina, one of the content writers at IHD, loves going on adventures with her adorable fur baby. She now creates informative content for pet parents. Read more
| Published on November 29, 2023

Shetland Sheepdogs, affectionately known as Shelties, are known for their intelligence, agility, and loyalty. As a breed with specific dietary needs, understanding the ideal diet for Shelties is crucial for their health and longevity. This guide aims to provide Sheltie owners with comprehensive insights into the best nutritional practices for their beloved pets.

Understanding Sheltie’s Nutritional Needs

Shelties require a well-balanced diet that includes proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals. Their diet should support their active lifestyle, maintain their lush coat, and cater to their overall health. High-quality protein is vital for muscle maintenance, fats aid skin and coat health, carbohydrates offer additional power, and fiber is essential for digestive health.

Our 5 Top Foods for Shelties

The diets were selected by our founder Justin Palmer, a certified canine nutrition expert, specifically with Shelties in mind:

Food Pros Cons

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  • No filler carbohydrates, mostly animal protein
  • Freeze dried is the closest you can get to homemade/fresh. Retains 95% of nutrient value
  • Single source protein (many to choose from) ideal for dogs with allergies. Available in Chicken or Beef
  • Rich in Omega-3 and probiotics, which retain their value in a freeze dried food.
  • Pricier Option
  • Dog may never go back to kibble after trying!

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  • Multi-meat formula, which exposes your dog to multiple protein sources, which can reduce chance of allergies later in life
  • For a dry dog food, contains VERY high protein (38%). Most kibbles contain less than 25%.
  • Contains fish, providing a good source of Omega-3 fatty acids


  • For a dry dog food, its on the pricier side
  • Uses some legumes for protein, which is less ideal for dogs

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  • For a dry dog food, contains moderately high protein (27%)
  • Quality protein from free-range chicken, eggs, and turkey
  • Added fish oil and probiotics can help skin, coat, and digestion
  • Less protein than options above
  • Uses some grains for protein, which is less ideal for dogs

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  • Human grade ingredients that look fresh and homemade
  • Smells like actual human food!
  • Minimally processed and cooked at temperatures much lower than kibble, retains more nutrients.
  • Many flavor & protein options available
  • Pricey on a per meal basis
  • Your dog may not go back to eating cheaper food!

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  • Canned wet food cooked at lower temperature than kibble and retains more nutrient
  • High quality free-range chicken protein
  • Added antioxidants from Artichokes, Cranberries, Pumpkin, Tomato, Blueberries, Broccoli, Cabbage, Kale, Parsley that you can actually see in the food
  • When buying wet food, you're paying for water weight
  • More expensive than dry food

High-Quality Protein: Essential for Sheltie Health

Protein is a crucial component in a Sheltie’s diet. Sources like chicken, beef, lamb, and fish provide the essential amino acids for muscle development and repair. For Shelties with food sensitivities, novel proteins such as duck or venison can be beneficial alternatives.

Balancing Fats in a Sheltie’s Diet

Fats are essential for Shelties, especially for maintaining their beautiful coat and providing energy. Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are beneficial in sources like fish oil and flaxseed. However, the fat content should be carefully monitored to prevent obesity, a common issue in the breed.

The Role of Carbohydrates and Fiber

Carbohydrates provide Shelties with the necessary energy and contain fiber, which is crucial for healthy digestion. Sources like whole grains, vegetables, and certain fruits offer healthy carbohydrates and fiber. However, their carbohydrate intake should be balanced to maintain a healthy weight.

Essential Vitamins and Minerals for Shelties

A balanced diet for Shelties must include an appropriate mix of vitamins and minerals. These support various body functions, including immune health, bone strength, and metabolic processes. Most high-quality commercial dog foods are fortified with these essential nutrients.

Importance of Hydration

Hydration is critical for Shelties. They should always have access to clean water to support their active lifestyle and aid digestion and nutrient absorption. Proper hydration is also crucial in maintaining kidney and urinary tract health.

Feeding Schedule and Portion Control

Shelties typically benefit from a structured feeding schedule, usually two meals daily. Portion control is essential to prevent overfeeding and maintain a healthy weight. The portion size will vary depending on the dog’s age, size, and activity level.

Special Dietary Considerations for Sheltie Puppies

Puppy-specific formulas are recommended for Sheltie puppies as they have different nutritional needs than adults. These formulas are richer in nutrients and appropriate for their developmental stage, ensuring proper growth.

Managing Health Issues Through Diet

Shelties are prone to specific health issues like dermatomyositis and Collie eye anomaly. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids can support skin health, while diets rich in antioxidants can help boost overall immune health.

Choosing the Right Food: Dry Kibble vs. Wet Food

Choosing between dry kibble and wet food for a Sheltie depends on individual needs and preferences. Dry kibble is often recommended for its convenience and dental benefits, while wet food can be more palatable for some dogs. Some owners opt for a combination of both.

Supplementing Your Sheltie’s Diet

While a balanced diet should provide most nutrients, some Shelties might benefit from supplements. Supplements like glucosamine for joint health, omega-3 fatty acids for coat health, and probiotics for digestive health can be considered. Consultation with a vet is vital before adding supplements.

Human Foods: Safe and Unsafe for Shelties

Certain human foods, such as lean meats, some vegetables, and fruits, can be safe for Shelties in moderation. However, avoiding foods that are toxic to dogs, like chocolate, grapes, onions, and anything with xylitol, is essential.

The ideal diet for a Sheltie fulfills their specific nutritional needs and helps prevent common breed-specific health issues. A balance of high-quality proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and plenty of water, is critical to their health. Regular check-ups with a vet and monitoring their diet and body condition can ensure that your Sheltie maintains a healthy and happy life.


What Health Issues Are Shelties Prone To, and How Can a Proper Diet Help?

Shetland Sheepdogs, known as Shelties, are admired for their intelligence, beauty, and loyalty. While they are generally healthy dogs, Shelties are prone to specific health issues. A proper diet is crucial in preventing and managing these conditions, contributing significantly to their overall well-being. This article explores the common health issues in Sheltie and the importance of nutritional management.

Dermatomyositis: Skin and Muscle Health in Shelties

Dermatomyositis is an inherited autoimmune condition affecting the skin and muscles, commonly seen in Shelties. A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil and flaxseed, can help manage inflammation and support skin health. Antioxidant-rich foods can also bolster the immune system.

The Threat of Collie Eye Anomaly

Collie Eye Anomaly (CEA) is a congenital condition that Shelties are predisposed to. While nutrition cannot cure genetic conditions like CEA, maintaining overall health through a balanced diet can help support eye health. Foods rich in antioxidants and vitamins A and E are beneficial.

Combatting Hip Dysplasia with Nutrition

Hip dysplasia, a developmental condition of the hip joint, can affect Shelties. A diet with the right balance of calcium and phosphorus is crucial for bone health. Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can also support joint health, particularly in aging Sheltie.

Hypothyroidism: Dietary Management

Shelties can suffer from hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones. While diet alone cannot treat this condition, a well-balanced diet can support overall health and complement medical treatment. Foods rich in iodine, like fish, can support thyroid function.

The Risk of Obesity and Dietary Control

Sheltie tend to gain weight, especially if they are not active enough. Obesity can lead to other health problems like diabetes and joint stress. Controlling calorie intake and providing a balanced diet rich in protein and fiber, along with regular exercise, is critical.

Preventing Dental Issues with a Proper Diet

Dental health is crucial for Shelties, who are prone to dental and gum diseases. Dry kibble can help reduce tartar buildup. Regular dental check-ups, teeth cleaning, chew toys, and dental treats are also important.

Maintaining a Healthy Coat and Skin

The lush coat of a Sheltie requires proper nutrition to stay healthy and shiny. A diet rich in omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids can promote skin health and improve coat quality. Regular grooming complements the diet in maintaining a healthy coat.

The Importance of Gastrointestinal Health

Shelties can experience gastrointestinal sensitivities. A diet with easily digestible proteins, probiotics, and the right balance of fiber can promote a healthy digestive system. Avoiding foods that cause gas and bloat is particularly important for this breed.

Supporting Heart Health Through Diet

Shelties can be affected by heart conditions such as valvular heart disease. A diet low in sodium and rich in heart-healthy nutrients like taurine and L-carnitine can support cardiac health. Regular veterinary check-ups are essential for early detection and management.

Nutritional Needs of Senior Shelties

As Shelties age, their dietary needs change. Senior dogs may require diets lower in calories but higher in fiber, along with supplements to support joint health and cognitive function. Adjusting their diet to cater to these changing needs is crucial for their health.


Understanding the health issues Shelties are prone to and the significant impact of diet in prevention and management is essential for caring for these dogs. A balanced diet tailored to their needs and regular veterinary check-ups can help mitigate many health risks. Each sheltie is unique, and their dietary needs may vary, so personalized advice from a veterinarian is always recommended.


Frequently Asked Questions About Feeding Shelties

1. What is the best type of food for a Sheltie?

The best diet for a Sheltie is high-quality, balanced, protein-rich dog food. It should include real meat as the first ingredient and be suitable for their age, size, and activity level. Avoid foods with excessive fillers or artificial additives, as Shelties can have sensitive stomachs and be prone to allergies.

2. How much should I feed my Sheltie each day?

The amount of food for a Sheltie varies based on age, weight, and activity level. Generally, adult Shelties require about 1 to 2 cups of dry food per day, divided into two meals. Adjust the portion size based on your dog’s needs and consult your veterinarian for specific recommendations.

3. Can Shelties eat grain-free diets?

Grain-free diets can suit Shelties, especially if they have grain allergies or sensitivities. However, ensure the diet still provides all the necessary nutrients, and consult with a veterinarian before making any significant changes to your dog’s diet.

4. Is it safe to feed my Sheltie human food?

Some human foods are safe for Shelties in moderation, like plain, cooked meats, and certain vegetables and fruits. However, avoid foods toxic to dogs, such as chocolate, grapes, onions, and anything containing xylitol.

5. How often should I feed my Sheltie?

Shelties should be fed twice a day – once in the morning and once in the evening. This helps manage hunger, maintain consistent energy levels, and aid digestion.

6. What supplements should I consider for my Sheltie?

Some Shelties may benefit from supplements like fish oil for omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health, and probiotics for digestive health. However, always consult a veterinarian before introducing supplements to ensure they are necessary and appropriate for your dog.

7. Can Shelties be vegetarian?

Feeding a Sheltie a vegetarian diet can be challenging, as it may not provide all the necessary nutrients, especially protein. If considering a vegetarian diet, consult with a veterinarian to ensure all nutritional needs are met.

8. How can I tell if my Sheltie is overweight?

An overweight Sheltie may have a less visible waist and no palpable ribs under a layer of fat. Regular check-ups with a vet and monitoring their body condition can help determine if they are overweight and need dietary adjustments.

9. What should I feed my Sheltie puppy?

Sheltie puppies should be fed a high-quality formula rich in protein and fats to support their growth. Choose a formula designed for small to medium breeds to ensure proper development.

10. Can I change my Sheltie’s diet quickly?

It’s best to gradually transition your Sheltie to a new diet over a week or more. Start by mixing a small amount of the new food with the old, gradually increasing the new food and decreasing the old to avoid gastrointestinal upset.

11. How does diet affect my Sheltie’s health?

A proper diet is crucial in preventing obesity, maintaining joint health, supporting digestive health, and ensuring a healthy coat and skin in Shelties. A balanced diet can also reduce the risk of chronic diseases and allergies.

12. Should I feed my Sheltie wet or dry food?

Both wet and dry foods are suitable for Shelties. Dry food can help with dental health and is often more calorie-dense, while wet food can be more palatable and hydrating. Some owners choose a combination of both for variety.

13. What are the signs of food allergies in Shelties?

Signs of food allergies in Shelties include itchy skin, ear infections, chronic diarrhea, and vomiting. If you suspect your Sheltie has a food allergy, consult a vet who may recommend an elimination diet to identify the allergen.

14. How do I know if Sheltie’s diet is nutritionally balanced?

A nutritionally balanced diet for a Sheltie should result in a healthy weight, a shiny coat, regular bowel movements, and overall good health. If you have concerns about your Sheltie’s diet, consult a veterinarian for advice and dietary adjustments.

15. Can Shelties have dairy products?

Some Shelties can tolerate small amounts of dairy products, but many are lactose intolerant. Dairy can cause gastrointestinal upset in these dogs, so avoiding or limiting dairy products is best. If you do choose to give dairy, start with small amounts and monitor for any adverse reactions.

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