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West Highland White Terrier Health Guide

This breed is relatively healthy with a few health problems that may be of concern to the new owner. Westies are sturdy, compact dogs that require just a bit of exercise to remain in good condition.

A selective diet of fresh meats and some vegetables should work fine with this breed, as should the better commercial grades of food. It may be best to talk with the breeder and your veterinarian to determine the best diet for your Westie. The breeder may have a successful program that the new owner can continue throughout the life of the pet.


Health Problems in the West Highland White Terrier

West Highland White Terriers seem to be prone to skin problems, especially dry skin and skin irritations. It has also been found that some purebred dogs are allergic to the high grain content of cheaper commercial foods.

Some dogs develop skin rashes and even breathing problems in response to a continuous diet of lower quality, store-bought foods. It may be best to avoid this problem by giving your Westie only fresh meats and vegetables or higher quality commercial foods that contain more meat protein and nutrients.

Skin problems are the single most reported health problem for this breed. Such conditions as canine atopic dermatitis with symptoms of scratching to relieve an itch, or sneezing, are seen with this breed. Excessive licking of the feet and ears may also be signs of atopic dermatitis. Westies may develop reddening of the skin and even some hair loss.

Some of the items that may cause problems are grass and weed pollen, certain molds, house dust and dander. The condition can occur in both sexes of the breed but some studies indicate a higher incidence in female West Highland White Terriers.

Atopic dermatitis usually begins after the dog is one year old and generally shows up before the dog is three years old. It is essential to eliminate other medical conditions and thoroughly test for canine atopic dermatitis before deciding that the condition exists. Some cortisone drugs or antihistamines can relieve symptoms.

Veterinarians and researchers believe the condition is inherited but the path of inheritance in the bloodlines is not known at this time.


West Highland White Terrier Health


West Highland White Terriers may also develop Perthes disease. This is a condition that results in deformed development of the ball portion of the hip joint. Perthes disease is most often seen in smaller breeds of dog. Surgery and consistent rehabilitation are necessary to correct the condition.

This disease, also known as Calve-Perthes and Legg-Perthes, may begin when the blood supply to the end of the femur bone is interrupted or limited. As the bone dies off, inflammation and arthritis cause pain and lameness.

Physical examination by a veterinarian and x-rays can reveal the existence of Perthes disease. Surgery may be the only successful treatment in serious cases. Some other conditions that new owners of West Highland White Terriers should be aware of are hernias, liver conditions and jawbone calcification.

Working with a reputable breeder is the first step in avoiding serious health problems with any purebred dog. A good breeder will take care to use only breeding parents known to be disease free. Aside from these more serious conditions, a consistent program of nutrition, occasional bathing and brushing, and regular exercise will help your Westie live a long healthy life. Westies may live 15 years or longer with the proper care.


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