Dogs of all breeds (as well as mixed breeds) can live long, healthy lives if given proper care, good nutrition, exercise, and routine veterinary attention. Any dog can fall victim to a wide range of health problems including infectious diseases, parasites, allergies, endocrine problems, heart conditions, and cancer to name a few. In addition, each breed of dogs has its own particular health issues. The Westie is no exception. Some of these problems are minor, some impairing, and some possibly fatal. Some conditions may show a very strong hereditary basis and others are caused by environmental factors. For more detailed information on Westie Health Concerns, please visit the Westie Foundation of America Website: http://www.westiefoundation.org/pages/health/ebook.html
Listed below are some common diseases affecting West Highland White Terriers and a brief description of each, for more detailed information visit the website listed above.
• Canine atopic dermatitis- is a common disorder, affecting at least 10% of dogs, with some breeds more susceptible than others, West Highland White Terriers amongthem. Canine atopic dermatitis is the dog version of "allergies". Dogs are more likely to experience allergies to things in the environment, such as pollens and dust. When exposed to these allergens, dogs are more likely to develop itchy red patches on their skin (like hives) than to experience sneezing and stuffy head, like humans. Some westies owners use Atopica to (prescribed by a licensed vet) treat allergies/seasonal allergies/and or itchy skin, and have had good results.
• Luxating patella- A luxating patella, or dislocating knee cap, is a common cause of lameness in small breed dogs, including Westies. Most patellar luxations are medial, meaning that the knee cap has been dislocated towards the inside of the joint (and leg) versus lateral, when the knee cap has moved towards the outside of the joint. While a traumatic event, like a fall or being hit by a car, can dislocate the knee cap, patellar luxation is usually caused by muscle and skeletal problems that dogs may be born with. Needless to say, the condition be a cause of lameness. Fortunately, it can be diagnosed and treated effectively in most dogs.
• Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease-Young Westies, and other breeds of purebred dogs, can develop a debilitating condition in which the bones that form the top of the hind leg (the femurs) deteriorate.
• Addison's disease-(Adrenal gland insufficiency) Addison's disease, also known as hypoadrenocorticism, is an uncommon condition in which the patient's adrenal glands no longer supply the body with very important hormones, called glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids. These hormones help regulate metabolism and electrolyte balance in the body.
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual this disease develops with nonspecific signs of gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea), loss of body condition, lethargy and weakness, and inability to respond to stress in many affected dogs.
• White Shaker- White Shaker Disease Syndrome (WSDS) is a neurologic disease seen primarily in dogs with white coats, particularly in West Highland White Terriers, Maltese Terriers, and Samoyeds The disease presents with a very unique generalized tremor, in young (5 months to 3 years old) dogs of either gender. The cause of the disease is not known and there is little research being done on this condition in any breed.
Because there are several neurologic and neuromuscular diseases that can produce tremor and incoordination, it is essential that the Westie owner immediately get a thorough evaluation of their dog and that an accurate diagnosis is made. WSDS is characterized by a relatively sudden onset of constant tremors over the entire body, which includes the head and eyes.
• CMO (craniomandibular osteopathy)- West Highland White Terriers can be affected with craniomandibular osteopathy (CMO), a nonneoplastic (not a tumor) disease altering form and function of the bones of the skull and mandible (jaw bone). This disease is known by several synonyms, such as 'mandibular periostitis', 'Westie jaw','Scottie jaw' and 'lion's jaw'. CMO is a developmental disease, primarily affecting the form and function of bones of the skull of young dogs. When we say the disease is "developmental" we mean that there is a genetic predisposition to the disease in some dogs, and it usually becomes a problem at a particular stage of life.
• Bladder Cancer- One type of cancer that is of very serious concern to owners of Westies and Scotties is bladder cancer. The medical designation of this type of malignant neoplasm is "transitional cell carcinoma" (TCC) of the urinary bladder. TCC can occur in any dog breed, but is more common in Shetland Sheepdogs, Scottish Terriers and Westies. The median age of occurrence for dogs is around 8 years old.
• Pulmonary fibrosis- also known as "Westie Lung Disease" or acute interstitial pneumonia, is a disease of the lung interstitium in which there is injury to those cells and fibers. As a result of this injury, scaring occurs. The scar tissue decreases the ability of the lungs to function normally, causing difficulty breathing and, eventually maybe death. It is not know what injury originally causes the scaring, or fibrosis, to take place, so the disease is often referred to as "idiopathic" pulmonary fibrosis. The word idiopathic means that one does not know what causes the disease.
• Inflammatory Bowel Disease- Inflammatory bowel disease is an immunerelated disorder in which the intestines are chronically or intermittently inflamed. Canine patients may experience vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss or a combination of any (or all) of these signs. There is a great deal of individual variation in the severity, duration, response to therapy, and longterm effects of having IBD. It is not fully known why some dogs get inflammatory bowel disease and so it is another "idiopathic" condition. Different theories on the cause of this disease have been popular over time, including preexisting problems with blood vessels causing disruption in the intestines, overproduction of mucus, a simply overactive gut, an infectious agent, or a dog with the equivalent of 'hyperactivity disorder'.
• Pancreatic enzyme deficiency- The disease characterized by a decrease or absence of these enzymes in the dog is referred to as 'exocrine pancreatic insufficiency' or 'maldigestion syndrome.' When dogs have this disorder, the proteins, starches, and fats found in their diet cannot be broken down into small enough pieces that allow them to be absorbed through the intestinal wall. The value and substance of the food, therefore, stays in the gastrointestinal tract and is passed out in the feces undigested. The affected dog, without treatment, literally starves to death even though it may be constantly eating. There are several potential causes of pancreatic insufficiency. Chronic pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas) is a common cause of pancreatic insufficiency. In some young animals (usually less than two years of age), the cells of the pancreas just start decreasing in number and functioning. The cause for this is unknown. Many different dog breeds can be affected. Regardless of its cause, the signs associated with exocrine pancreatic insufficiency are usually obvious and fit a distinct pattern. The disorder may come on gradually over a long period of time or it may develop rapidly.
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