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.
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
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
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
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.