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West Highland White Terrier Health Care & Feeding

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Last Updated: October, 2019

West Highland White Terrier

Start your West Highland White Terrier off on the right foot by feeding the right food, giving the right vaccinations, finding the right vet, and if you're going to spay or neuter, don't do it too early.


Jump down to this list of
Westie Health Problems


Or check out my advice for raising a healthy West Highland White Terrier puppy or adult dog:

Obedience instructor and author Michele Welton Dog Health Care – The Sensible Way
Read my advice on daily health care so your Westie lives a long, healthy life and seldom needs to see the vet... [read more]

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You can dramatically increase your dog's chances of living a long, healthy life by feeding the right food. Cutting right to the chase, the best foods for your West Highland White Terrier are... [read more]

Real homemade dog food A Quick Way To Make Homemade Dog Food
Your Westie will love real chicken, turkey, beef, fish, eggs, yogurt, broccoli.... this is not just "people food" and I'll tell you why... [read more]

Dry kibble and canned dog food 5 Best Kibble and Canned Dog Foods
Some are better than others, but I must be honest – I'm not a huge fan of dry or canned dog food. Here are my concerns... [read more]

NomNomNow homemade dog food service Feed Homemade Dog Food Without Needing To Make It
Would you like to feed your dog homemade, but don't have the time to make it? I have a solution for you... [read more]

Pet insurance Should You Buy Pet Insurance? An Honest Review
My advice on the pros and cons of pet health insurance. The best pet insurance company I've found is... [read more]

Information on booster shots for your German Shepherd. Vaccinations and Booster Shots: Needed or Not?
How many vaccinations does your West Highland White Terrier puppy really need? Does your adult dog need yearly booster shots? The vaccination guidelines have changed! Find out what some vets aren't telling you... [read more]

Information on spaying Spaying Your Female Dog: Pros and Cons
Should your female Westie be spayed? Current research says, "The AGE at which you spay can be vitally important to your dog's future health." So what's the best age? [read more]

Information on neutering your male dog. Neutering Your Male Dog: Pros and Cons
Have you been told that you must neuter your male Westie? Current research shows that the issue is not so simple. Pet owners are not being told about some risks associated with neutering male dogs, especially neutering too early... [read more]

Information on choosing the best vet Make Sure Your Vet is the Best!
Is your current veterinarian really the best choice for your dog? Here's how to tell... [read more]

Assisi Loop Assisi Loop Review
Does your Westie suffer from arthritis, hip dysplasia, disk disease, colitis? My honest review of a veterinary device you can use at home to reduce inflammation and pain. [read more]

West Highland White Terrier

Complete list of West Highland White Terrier health problems

The West Highland White Terrier Club conducted a health survey in which 1 in every 2 Westies was reported as having at least ONE of the health problems in this article.

Skin problems

The skin is a weak area in Westies. In a recent study, 66% (two-thirds) of the breed were affected by some form of skin disease by 3 years of age.

Allergies (which cause itchy skin and often lead to pyoderma) are very common in all terrier breeds.

Other skin diseases in Westies include seborrhea, and a very serious disease: epidermal dysplasia.

Let's talk about epidermal dysplasia in West Highland White Terriers.

Epidermal dysplasia is also called Westie armadillo syndrome – for good reason, as you'll see. This inherited skin disease is quite dreadful.

Between 3 and 12 months old, an affected dog becomes inflamed and itchy on his head, feet, and belly. As the disease spreads, the puppy scratches constantly and loses his hair. His skin becomes dark and greasy and thickened like an armadillo.

Then come recurrent yeast infections. Yeast is a fungus that normally lives in low numbers on the skin of most healthy dogs without doing any harm. But when the poor puppy's skin becomes broken by scratching, yeast seize the opportunity to attack.

So when you see inflamed skin and intense itching in a Westie puppy, more common conditions like allergies and mange do need to be ruled out....but these symptoms are ominous warning signs of epidermal dysplasia.

Allopathic medicine tries to manage this incurable disease with steroids, antihistamines, and antifungal shampoos. These come with a host of side effects and only tend to resolve the current yeast infection so that itching stops for a little while. As soon as treatment stops, the yeast return.

Eventually these episodes run right on top of each other so that the poor puppy is coping with a constant yeast infection requiring medication every couple of days.

Holistic treatment combines diet, nutritional supplements, and medicinal herbs. These can be effective without side effects.

This disease is difficult to control and after awhile, if nothing natural works and your Westie must constantly be on drugs with side effects, euthanasia becomes the kindest option to end his discomfort.

Endocrine system diseases

Addison's disease is the most common and the most serious. It's a complicated, chronic disease that's tricky to manage.

Diabetes, Cushing's disease, and hypothyroidism also occur in Westies.

Liver disease

First, Westies are vulnerable to liver shunt.

Second, copper toxicosis is a serious inherited disease in Westies, in which copper accumulates in the liver. Westies are the 2nd most commonly affected breed (following the Bedlington Terrier).

In dogs who have inherited this disease, copper starts accumulating very early in life, but it takes time to build up, so typically you don't see symptoms until 3-6 years old.

If your adult Westie ever acts ill, the vet should do blood tests for liver function. This disease is ultimately fatal unless treated with medication.

Neurological diseases

Young Westies are vulnerable to a fatal neurological disease called globoid cell leukodystropy (GCL), as well as a neuromuscular disease with a fitting descriptive name, white shaker dog syndrome which causes tremor episodes.

Eye diseases

Hereditary eye diseases include "dry eye" and cataracts. In a Swedish study, cataracts were found in over HALF the Westies examined. Cataracts are not as common in American Westies, but they definitely occur and can lead to blindness.

Orthopedic diseases in Westies

Luxating patella (loose knees), Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, and hip dysplasia. The Orthopedic Foundation of America evaluated the hip X-rays of 500 West Highland White Terriers and found over 12% dysplastic. That's very bad for a small dog.

Less commonly, elbows can be dysplastic, or the knee joints can be loose (luxating patella).

Even less common, but very serious, is a degenerative hip disease called Legg-Calve-Perthes.

In a painful disease is called crandiomandibular osteopathy, excessive bone grows on a pup's jawbone. There aren't that many affected Westies, but about 25% of the breed are carriers of the disease.

Digestive diseases

Westies are vulnerable to colitis   (inflammatory bowel disease) and pancreatitis.

Urinary problems

West Highland White Terriers are prone to urinary stones and susceptible to bladder cancer.

Other health problems

Inherited deafness is a concern in the breed.

Pulmonary fibrosis occurs more often in Westies than in any other breed, appearing around 9 years old. It's a progressive lung disease and prognosis is poor.

Other health issues in West Highland White Terriers include lymphoma, blood-clotting disease, and multiple heart diseases.

Preventing health problems

Some health problems are inherited. For example, if your dog inherits from his parents the genes for an eye disease called PRA, he will go blind and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Dog feeding and health book by Michele Welton But most health problems can be prevented by the ways you raise your dog.

My best-selling book, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy shows you how to raise your West Highland White Terrier in all the right ways that help prevent health problems. Become your dog's health care champion!

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

To help you train and care for your dog

dog training videos Dog training videos. Sometimes it's easier to train your puppy (or adult dog) when you can see the correct training techniques in action.

The problem is that most dog training videos on the internet are worthless, because they use the wrong training method. I recommend these dog training videos that are based on respect and leadership.

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy. For puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
If your dog is over 18 months, you'll want book coverRespect Training For Adult Dogs: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved dog. Again your dog will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life.
book coverDog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams will help you find a good-tempered, healthy family companion.