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The largest ever study of illnesses suffered by West Highland White Terriers has produced insight into the most common issues encountered by the breed.

The Royal Veterinary College released results that had been analysed using data from over 900,000 Westies under UK veterinary care.  Common illnesses recorded included: dental disease (16%), ear disease (11%), overgrown nails (7%), allergic skin disorder (7%) and obesity (6%).

The study revealed that lower respiratory tract disease and cancer were the most common causes of death, with each accounting for over 10% of deaths.  This was then closely followed by spinal cord disorders at 8%.

The popularity of the West Highland Terrier has been overtaken in recent years by breeds such as Pugs and French Bulldogs; researchers suggest this may have relieved the pressure on breeders to breed from less healthy individuals to meet demand.  As a consequence of the Westies decline in popularity, the researchers suggest that this could result in healthier pups now being born.

Why is this study important?

The study, which was recently published in the journal Epidemiology, may help vets and breeders predict the likely issues particular breeds can encounter.  Hence we can look at ways to prevent and manage such problems to improve health and welfare for the animals.  

O’Neill, D.G., Ballantyne, Z.F., Hendricks, A., Church, D.B., Brodbelt, D.C., Pegram, C. (2019) ‘West Highland White Terriers under primary veterinary care in the UK in 2016: demography, mortality and disorders.’ Canine Genetics and Epidemiology (6) 1. 


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