The breed is used as the mascot of the dog food brand Cesar. The Australian dog food manufacturer Mars Incorporated uses the West Highland White Terrier breed as the face of their My Dog brand. The Westie can be seen on My Dog packaging, website, and television and print advertisements.
When Cesars marketing department went looking for a dog to represent the company and sell its products, they chose a West Highland white terrier. Its not hard to figure out why. The Westie, as his friends call him, is more than adorable — hes smart as a whip.
Happy, friendly and curious, Westies make good dogs for individuals or families. Hes adaptable, so as long as you spend time with him it doesnt matter whether you live in the city, suburbs or out in the sticks. Hes a good little watchdog, but might overdo the barking. Westies generally gets along well with other dogs — it could take a while longer with cats. With patience and training, they should learn to cohabit. Although hes small, dont mistake him for a lap dog. He needs regular exercise or all that Westie energy might be channeled into less-than-desirable behavior. As a terrier, digging is second nature. Taking your Westie to obedience classes is a wise investment.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in “Horse News,” “Suburban Classic,” “Hoof Beats,” “Equine Journal” and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.
Westies suffer from several genetic health issues. Allergies often afflict the breed, especially atopic dermatitis, resulting in hair loss and serious skin disorders. If your Westie comes down with skin problems, you might want to visit a veterinary dermatologist rather than your general practice vet. Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, nicknamed “Westie lung disease,” causes severe breathing difficulties. A genetic level defect allows excess copper to build up in the liver.
Keeping his coat pristine with regular bathing is just one aspect of Westie grooming. Hes double-coated, with a soft undercoat and dense, rougher outer coat. Brush your Westie every day and take him to the groomer regularly for clipping. If hes a show dog, hell need his coat hand-stripped by the groomer.
What You Need to Know About West Highland White Terrier Health
Westies are prone to a host of health problems. A few will be discussed here. According to a 2007 survey conducted by the West Highland White Terrier Club of America (WHWTCA), the following conditions commonly affect Westies: atopic dermatitis (inhalant allergies affecting the skin), luxating patellae (knee caps that pop out of normal position), aggression, Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease (a disease involving the hip joint), dry eye, Addison’s disease, white shaker dog syndrome, pulmonary fibrosis, juvenile cataracts, and craniomandibular osteopathy (a disease that causes bony deformity of the jaw in puppies).
There are currently no screening tests for some of these conditions, including craniomandibular osteopathy; allergies and other serious skin conditions; Legg-Calve-Perthes disease; and copper hepatopathy, a defect of the liver that allows elevated levels of copper to build up in the system.
Westies can also develop idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis, or Westie lung disease. This condition is believed to be genetic, but its true cause is unknown. In affected dogs, the air sacs and connective tissues of the lungs become inflamed and scarred, which causes serious, progressive breathing problems.
Westies with white shaker dog syndrome tend to develop signs between six months and three years of age. Dogs with this condition can begin trembling uncontrollably, especially when they try to move or get up. In some cases, long term medication is required.
Westies are also at increased risk of developing transitional cell carcinoma (TCC) of the urinary bladder.
Not all of these conditions are detectable in a growing puppy, and it can be hard to predict whether an animal will be free of these maladies, which is why you must find a reputable breeder who is committed to breeding the healthiest animals possible. They should be able to produce independent certification that the parents of the dog (and grandparents, etc.) have been screened for genetic defects and deemed healthy for breeding. That’s where health registries come in.
The WHWTCA participates in a program operated by the Canine Health Information Center (CHIC). Before a Westie can be listed in the CHIC database, the WHWTCA requires that they receive a clearance from the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF), a patella evaluation from the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA), and a hip evaluation. Eye exams are recommended annually until the dog is at least eight years old, so check that the puppy’s parents’ results are from the past year. Anyone can search the OFA and CHIC websites to see if a puppy’s parents are listed.
A top breeder will also have documentation proving that a puppy’s parents have been tested for a brain and spinal column disease known as globoid cell leukodystrophy through the Jefferson Medical College Department of Neurology, and pyruvate kinase deficiency through the University of Pennsylvania. This enzyme disorder causes a potentially fatal form of anemia. ‹ Previous:
Adopting a Dog From a West Highland White Terrier Rescue or Shelter
There are many great options available if you want to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or breed rescue organization. Here is how to get started.
Sites like Petfinder.com and Adopt-a-Pet.com can have you searching for a Westie in your area in no time flat. The site allows you to be very specific in your requests (housetraining status, for example) or very general (all the Westies available on Petfinder across the country). AnimalShelter.org can help you find animal rescue groups in your area. Also some local newspapers have “pets looking for homes” sections you can review.
Social media is another great way to find a dog. Post on your Facebook page that you are looking for a specific breed so that your entire community can be your eyes and ears.
2. Reach Out to Local Experts
Start talking with all the pet pros in your area about your desire for a Westie. That includes vets, dog walkers, and groomers. When someone has to make the tough decision to give up a dog, that person will often ask her own trusted network for recommendations.
Most people who love Westies love all Westies. That’s why breed clubs have rescue organizations devoted to taking care of homeless dogs. The West Highland White Terrier Club of America’s rescue network can help you find a dog that may be the perfect companion for your family. You can also search online for other Westie rescues in your area.
The great thing about breed rescue groups is that they tend to be very upfront about any health conditions the dogs may have and are a valuable resource for advice. They also often offer fostering opportunities so, with training, you could bring a Westie home with you to see what the experience is like.
You now know the things to discuss with a breeder, but there are also questions you should discuss with shelter or rescue group staff or volunteers before you bring home a dog. These include:
How is he around other animals?
How does he respond to shelter workers, visitors, and children?
Has he ever bitten or hurt anyone that they know of?
Are there any known health issues?
Wherever you acquire your Westie, make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. Petfinder offers an Adopters Bill of Rights that helps you understand what you can consider normal and appropriate when you get a dog from a shelter. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.
Puppy or adult, take your Westie to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues. ‹ Previous:
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