How healthy are Westies?
In general Westies are considered to be quite a hardy breed but despite this many will still suffer from occasional ill health. Some dogs may have genetic or hereditary factors that may influence their wellbeing. Allergies and environmental conditions may also play a part in determining your Westies health.
We have a duty of care
As pet owners we have a responsibility to care for our dogs and to do everything possible to aid their wellbeing and health. It is up to us as owners, to recognise and understand what our dog needs and how to make sure he gets it.
To keep your Westie as healthy and safe as possible ensure that he attends regular check-ups with your vet and has any prevention treatments recommended. The most important of these are vaccinations which begin when puppies are just a few weeks old. Vaccinations protect your dog against serious ailments including Bordetellosis (Kennel Cough), Distemper, Parvo virus and Hepatitis. Your vet may recommend other inoculations specific to a country or region. If you are likely to kennel your dog when you go on holiday a clean bill of health and up to date vaccinations will be necessary.
Other preventative treatment will include flea and tick treatments to prevent infestation and bites which can lead to serious illness both for your dog and potentially yourself. Dogs will also need worming twice yearly once they reach adulthood.
Fur, Teeth and Nails
General care for your Westie will also include regular grooming, ideally daily, along with washing and bathing as necessary. When grooming always check the skin. If there is any sign of a rash or irritation seek advice from your vet. Check your dog’s eyes, if there is weeping or discharge consult your vet, his nose should be cold and moist. Check his mouth and teeth to make sure there is no evidence of decay and if possible brush daily. There are many dental chews and supplements to help maintain healthy teeth. Check his feet, pads and claws regularly and clip when necessary. In the spring and summer keep an eye out for seeds getting stuck between the pads as this can cause irritation and possibly infection. Excessive licking of the feet and pads can be a sign of illness.
Pooping and Peeing. A healthy dog will poop between one and six times per day. Keep a check if there are signs of diarrhoea or sudden changes in his habits consult your vet. Male dogs will urinate far more than females, this is partly territorial as urine leaves a scent.
Exercise and Activity
All dogs need exercise and activity, if you have a large outdoor space that he can roam and run freely in he will be happy to explore and play. If not you should aim to walk him for at least an hour a day. Westies love to socialise and a daily walk can provide stimulation and an opportunity to meet up with other canine friends along the way. Exercise is important to your dogs health.
Feeding and Nutrition
There are many different options for feeding, dry, wet, a mixture of the two, fresh cooked, raw, biscuits, treats, the possibilities are endless and you must research and decide on what works best for you and your dog. Dogs don’t have a palate like ours and will not bat an eye if they are fed the same food every day. Once adults, dogs can be fed once per day either morning or evening. If you prefer you can feed a smaller amount twice daily. Make sure he eats at least an hour before a walk, if necessary wait until after the walk or exercise.
Activity time is really beneficial to your Westie so try and have a few minutes to play or chat/cuddle throughout the day. Westies are sociable and form a strong bond with you, they will enjoy your company.
Spaying and Neutering
If you do not intend to breed then consider spaying or neutering your dog. For a bitch as well as avoiding an unwanted pregnancy by removing the entire reproductive systems you reduce the risk of infection and tumours. It is recommended that you consider spaying before the first season – so at about 6 months. Neutering a male early will reduce male aggression and wanderlust in addition to reducing the risk of testicular or prostate cancers. If you are planning to show (exhibit) your Westie they should not be spayed or neutered.
Illness and Disease
Although Westies are considered to be hardy, some unfortunately, will have inherited or acquired ailments throughout their life. You will know if your Westie is ill or displaying unusual behaviour. When this happens consult your vet as soon as possible for advice.
As you will have read either in books or by searching the internet, Westie skin issues are quite common. Not all Westies suffer from the same skin condition. If your Westie has inflamed skin, a strange odour or is constantly licking an area make an appointment to see your vet who will carry out tests. Other symptoms may include bald patches, irritability or a change in skin colour. There are plenty of treatment options to relieve skin conditions and particularly itching and sore skin. The sooner you see your Vet and start a course of treatment the more comfortable your pet will be. For Westies who suffer allergies there are a whole range of new medicines which can alleviate symptoms.
Other less common conditions that are noted for Westies include inflammatory bowel disease, Legg-Perthes with affects the limbs, and Patella problems including dislocation or slipping of the knee. Westie Lung (pulmonary fibrosis) causes damage to the lungs and affects breathing, and early warning signs include a constant cough. Another condition is White Shaker Dog Syndrome, named due to its prevalence amongst white dogs. This is a very serious illness caused by inflammation of the central nervous system which affects brain function. The most notable symptom is a tremor affecting the whole body. This condition needs urgent medical attention.
Old age and health
As your Westie ages you may start to see signs of him slowing down. Keep an eye out for arthritis or joint discomfort or any other signs that your pet is unwell. One of the biggest worries for all dog owners as their pets age is cancer. Older dogs, particularly if they are overweight are at increased risk of diabetes.
There are too many possible illnesses and ailment to list here. Our advice would always be to consult you vet as soon as your Westie appears unwell.
As canine medicine has evolved there are now more treatment options available for many ailments.
We have two Westies who both suffer ailments in varying degrees. We would not change either of them but to keep them well and safe we work closely with our vet.