West Highland White Terrier

By | 2009-10-18

Origin of the dog breed: Scotland

Size of dog: 11 inches 15 to 22 pounds

Dogs coat: Wiry, flat and straight

Color of dog: White

The Westie is known for its high energy level. A breed known for its courage, this dog serves well as both a watch-dog and companion. It is a loyal breed that will challenge any sized dog in its territory. The use of the Westie as a hunting dog was aided by its white coat. Rarely is this breed used to hunt today.

Dog Breed Predisposition to Conditions, Diseases and Disorders

Cardiovascular conditions

Ventricular septal defect

• Congenital

• Uncommon

• Relative risk 13.4

Tetralogy of Fallot

• Congenital

• Rare

• Relative risk 14.1

Pulmonic stenosis

• Third most frequent cause of canine congenital heart disease

• May be polygenic mode of inheritance

• Relative risk 4.2

Dermatological conditions

Malassezia dermatitis

• Affects adult dogs of any age or sex

• Often seasonal

Generalised demodicosis

• West Highland Whites are in the ten breeds at highest statistical risk of this disease in the Cornell, USA population


• Females probably predisposed

• Age of onset: from 6 months to 7 years

• May or may not be seasonal

Food hypersensitivity

• No age or sex predisposition reported

Primary seborrhoea

• Probably inherited as an autosomal recessive trait

• Signs first appear at early age and get worse with age


• Rare

• Congenital

• Possibly inherited as an autosomal recessive trait

Epidermal dysplasia in West Highland White Terriers

• Also known as Armadillo Westie syndrome

• Uncommon

• Familial

• Probably inherited as an autosomal recessive trait

• Usually affects dogs aged 6-12 months

Skin tumours

• See under Neoplastic conditions

Gastrointestinal conditions

Chronic hepatitis

• Breed predisposition in the USA

• Seen in young to middle-aged dogs

• Chronic hepatitis may be seen with or without copper accumulation. Copper levels do not appear to increase with age as seen in the Bedlington. The relationship between copper accumulation and chronic hepatitis is not clear in this breed

Haematological conditions

Pyruvate kinase deficiency

• Affected dogs have abnormal red blood cells with a lifespan of about 20 days

• DNA test available in this breed

Musculoskeletal conditions

Aseptic necrosis of the femoral head

• Also known as Legg-Calve-Perthe’s disease

• Mean age of onset: 7 months

• Aetiology unknown

Craniomandibular osteopathy (see figure 15)

• Inherited as an autosomal recessive trait in this breed

• Usually affects dogs aged 3-8 months

Pyruvate kinase deficiency

• Causes intramedullary osteosclerosis

• Inherited disease

Inguinal hernia

Neoplastic conditions

Canine cutaneous histiocytoma

• Possible breed predisposition

• More common in young dogs 1-2 years of age

Neurological conditions

Congenital deafness

• Signs seen from birth

Lysosomal storage disease – globoid cell Leukodystrophy(Krabbe’s disease)

• Autosomal recessive inheritance

• Rare

• Signs seen at 3-6 months

Shaker dog disease

• Breed predisposition

• Age of clinical onset: 9 months to 2 years


• Congenital

• Occasionally seen

Ocular conditions

Keratoconjunctivitis sicca

• Breed predisposition; high incidence in this breed

• Age of onset: 4-7 years

• Females predisposed (70%)

Refractory corneal ulceration

• Breed predisposition

• Usually middle-aged

Persistent pupillary membranes

• Congenital defect; inheritance not defined in this breed

• Schedule 3 of the BVA/KC/ISDS Eye Scheme

Lens luxation

• Autosomal dominant inheritance suggested

• Age of onset: 3-4 years, later in the USA

• Often followed by glaucoma

Congenital cataract

• Inheritance suspected

• Localisation: posterior sutures

• Schedule 3 of the BVA/KC/ISDS Eye Scheme

Multiple ocular defects

• Autosomal recessive inheritance has been suggested

• Defects may include congenital cataract, retinal dysplasia, persistent pupillary membranes and microphthalmia

• Schedule 3 of the BVA/KC/ISDS Eye Scheme

Physiological conditions


• Mean gestation reported as 62.8 days

Renal and urinary conditions

Polycystic kidney disease

• Autosomal recessive inheritance suspected

• Reported in young (5 week-old) dogs

Ectopic ureters

• Congenital anomaly; higher incidence reported in this breed

• Usually presents < 1 year of age

• More commonly diagnosed in females

Respiratory conditions

Pulmonary interstitial fibrosis

• Aetiology unknown

• Affects older dogs