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West Highland White Terrier Information: Health

By Lauren Leonardi . July 05, 2012 | See Comments

West Highland White Terrier Information: Health

The West Highland White Terrier is subject to a number of hereditary disorders but can lead a very long life if healthy. Learn more about keeping your Westie healthy here.

The West Highland White Terrier, also known more simply as the Westy, has its origins in Scotland, with official recognition of the breed in the early 20th century. The breed is prone to an abnormality of the jaw known as “Westie jaw” as well as a breed specific skin disease called hyperplastic dermatosis. A disease the West Highland White Terrier shares with Beagles and Pomeranians is globoid cell leukodystrophy. The healthy Westie has a long life expectancy of 12 to 14 years.

Primary Health Conditions of the West Highland White Terrier

Because the West Highland White Terrier so frequently bears the condition craniomandibular osteropathy, the disease has been dubbed “Westie Jaw.” In this condition, the jaw bones thicken such that eating can become difficult. It usually presents before the dog is a year old and can be treated with anti-inflammatory drugs. Another serious albeit uncommon disease affecting Westies is hyperplastic dermatosis, a skin condition that causes hair loss, scratching, and severe skin irritation. Treatment is possible via topical and oral medication. The West Highland White Terrier is also prone to a hereditary condition called globoid cell leukodystrophy, in which the dog cannot produce an important enzyme, causing tremors and weakness. The condition has no cure other than not breeding affected dogs.

Secondary Health Conditions of the West Highland White Terrier

The West Highland White Terrier can be susceptible to Legg-Perthes disease, although to a lesser degree than many breeds. In this condition, the head of the femur is malformed, causing discomfort and gait problems. Surgery can correct the problem. Among small dogs, the Westie is less prone to luxating patella, or slippage of the kneecap, than other small dogs, but it can occur in this breed. Surgery can help relieve the dog of pain or discomfort as can keeping the dog’s weight in check.

West Highland White Terrier Exercise and Walking Needs

The West Highland White Terrier has moderate exercise needs, with short daily walks and a chance to run and play usually sufficient for this dog. The Westie has a strong prey instinct, meaning that they love to chase balls, toys, or other animals. This instinct should be kept in mind by owners who take the dog outside so as to avoid the dog running into dangerous situations.

West Highland White Terrier Nutritional Needs

As an enthusiastic eater, coaxing the West Highland White Terrier to eat should not be a problem. The breed is not particularly prone to weight issues, but food portions should be matched to the dog’s age and activity level to ensure that obesity does not develop. As with any dog, feeding the Westie a high quality food well balanced in protein, carbohydrates, and nutrients will help to ensure health and a long life.

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified professional with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard or delay seeking professional advice due to what you may have read on our website.

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