Scottish Terrier Health Problems and Raising a Scottish Terrier Puppy to be Healthy
By Michele Welton. Copyright © 2000-2015
The most common health problems in Scottish Terriers:
The most common inherited disease is a neuromuscular disease called Scottie cramp, in which the signal from the brain that tells your Scottie how to walk or run gets "garbled" on its way to the muscles. The reason isn't known for sure, but one theory is that affected dogs may not have enough of some chemical compound (the best guess is serotonin) that acts as a neurotransmitter.
When messages from the brain to the legs become garbled, the result is bizarre spastic movements of the legs. In an affected Scottie, you'll see the first symptoms at 2-18 months old when a puppy who gets excited suddenly begins throwing his front legs to the side, instead of straight forward. He may arch his back and launch into a high goose-step. Or he may find himself completely incapacitated because his leg muscles alternately stretch and flex, as though he's dancing.
This is not a seizure disorder, nor does it seem to be painful, i.e. your puppy's muscles don't really "cramp" the way our own muscles cramp. The puppy just temporarily loses the ability to coordinate his movements because the signals from his brain to his muscles are being scrambled enroute. When the excitement is over or when he stops trying to gallop around, he returns to normal very quickly.
The severity of symptoms varies widely from dog to dog, as does the amount and type of stimulation that brings on an episode. There's no cure for Scottie cramp, but many affected dogs actually learn to anticipate the onset of symptoms and stop running or playing before they occur. By the time such a puppy is grown, he may never exhibit any signs at all. Similarly, an affected Scottie with a laid-back personality is less likely to exhibit symptoms than a more hyper dog.
So Scottie cramp, although it's distressing to watch and certainly no fun for your dog to experience, isn't that serious in the grand scheme of things. Blood-clotting diseases, on the other hand, are very serious. Blood-clotting diseases come in all shapes and severities, and unfortunately, the severest form of von Willebrand's disease AND the severest form of hemophilia (hemophilia B) both occur in Scotties. The only good news here is that a simple DNA test is available so you can find out at any time whether your Scottie has von Willebrand's, carries it, or is completely clear of it. However, there's no DNA test for hemophilia.
Epilepsy (seizures) is an increasing concern in Scottish Terriers.
Tumors and cancers are another problem in the breed. Specifically, bladder cancer (transitional cell carcinoma) is 18 times more common in Scottish Terrier than in any other breed. Other cancers also occur in Scotties, such as lymphosarcoma, melanoma, mast cell tumors, hemangiosarcoma, and squamous cell carcinoma.
Endocrine system diseases are a concern, especially Cushing's disease and hypothyroidism. According to the Michigan State University Thyroid Database, up to 12% of Scottish Terriers have low thyroid levels. Addison's disease and diabetes occur occasionally.
Allergies (which cause itchy skin and often lead to pyoderma) are very common in all terriers. More serious skin diseases, demodectic mange and sebaceous adenitis, have been reported in Scotties.
Orthopedic diseases should be expected because of the breed's deformed chondrodysplastic build. The most common orthopedic diseases in Scottish Terriers are luxating patella (loose knees), intervertebral disk disease, and hip dysplasia. The Orthopedic Foundation of America evaluated the hip X-rays of 27 Scotties and found 11% dysplastic. That's high for a small dog, and the true rate is even higher because most of the obviously bad X-rays were not sent in for official evaluation. Other orthopedic diseases in Scottish Terriers include Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, craniomandibular osteopathy and Wobbler's syndrome.
Eye diseases are not that common in Scotties but include cataracts and lens luxation.
Other health issues in Scottish Terriers include heart disease (pulmonic stenosis), liver shunt, cerebellar ataxia, myasthenia gravis, cystinuria, and deafness (inherited deafness).
Pulmonary fibrosis is a progressive lung disease in Scotties, where the lungs become chronically inflamed and scarred and breathing becomes labored. It appears around 9 years old and the prognosis is very poor.
Can you prevent health problems from happening to YOUR Scottish Terrier?
Yes, often you can.
- Some health problems are genetic, which means inherited from parents. Genetic health issues are common in Scottish Terriers today because of unwise breeding practices. My book, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams, shows you how to find a Scottish Terrier puppy who is genetically healthy.
- Other health problems are environmental – caused by the way you raise your dog. My best-selling dog health book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy shows you how to prevent environmental health problems by raising your Scottish Terrier puppy (or adult dog) in all the right ways.
Here are my dog health tips for raising a healthy Scottish Terrier puppy or adult dog:
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