The leading causes of death for West Highland Terriers, Westies, are Heart Disease, Westie Lung Disease, and cancer. The Westie dog breed is also susceptible to other health issues that potentially lessen life quality and longevity.
Part of keeping your West Highland Terrier happy and healthy is knowing the common health problems of the breed. As a loving and responsible pet parent, you’ll want to know the disease symptoms and treatments. So let’s take a closer look at what can affect the Westie lifespan.
What do Westies Die From the Most?
Heart disease is the leading cause of death of the West Highland Terrier. Westies also succumb to Westie’s Lung Disease and certain cancers.
Westies are genetically susceptible to some fatal diseases.
To have a better understanding of what these diseases are, we will investigate them one at a time.
What are the Symptoms of Heart Disease in Westies?
Symptoms of heart disease in Westies include intolerance to exercise. The dog may have episodes of fainting, difficulty breathing and other ailments.
You should be aware of the signs of heart disease in your Westie. These signs include:
- Inability to exercise
- Appearing weak
- Difficulty breathing
- Rapid breathing
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Sometimes jaundice, a yellowing of the skin, may be seen in the eyes.
In dogs where the disease has progressed, you may notice abdominal swelling caused by fluid buildup. They may develop a bluish color to the skin and have fainting spells due to a lack of oxygen to the brain.
Are there Cures for Heart Disease in Westies?
Heart disease in Westies is not curable. It is something that will need to be monitored by the pet owner and the veterinarian. Even though there is no cure for heart disease, it can be treated in a variety of ways.
Your Westie’s veterinarian will listen to the heart during visits throughout its life. If any changes or suspected problems arise, your veterinarian will perform tests to see the progression of the disease. These tests include:
- ECG or electrocardiogram uses electrical signals to monitor how the heart is pumping.
- Echo or echocardiogram gives a visual picture of your Westie’s heart pumping using sound waves.
If the findings from the diagnostics suggest intervention is necessary, your vet will recommend
- Diet changes
- Surgery possibly
Through close monitoring and vet visits, you will be able to give your pet a longer life.
What is Westie Lung Disease?
Westie Lung Disease is also known as Canine Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. CIPF is characterized by excessive amounts of collagen in the lungs. It is not infectious or cancerous. It is a terminal disease. CIPF is found mainly in West Highland Terriers.
CIPF is similar to Human Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis. The disease scars the lungs to the point of not being able to work properly. Though other dogs can end up with CIPF, it is the Westie that is most susceptible and has a genetic predisposition for it.
CIPF is a chronic and progressive disease that makes it difficult for the body to acquire the oxygen it needs. The American Kennel Club says that this lung disease is rarely caught early, making it difficult to reverse or slow the disease.
What are the Symptoms of Westie Lung Disease?
The symptoms of Westie Lung Disease often mimic the signs of heart disease or pneumonia. This often causes an initial misdiagnosis and delayed proper treatment.
The symptoms of Westie Lung Disease are:
- Intolerance to exercise
- Fast breathing
- Respiratory distress
- Loud wheezing “crackles”
The symptoms often start out subtly. Some Westie owners have reported that they began noticing changes up to a year before a proper diagnosis of the disease. Sadly, the majority of Westies who are diagnosed with CIPF die within a year. If you notice any changes in your Westie, talk with your vet immediately.
How Do You Treat Westie Lung Disease?
Treatment options are few for Westie Lung Disease. Prednisone has been shown to alleviate symptoms for a short while. Dogs that begin showing signs of lung hypertension are given Viagra to reduce pressure. Other drugs commonly used in humans may also be prescribed.
There is no way to reverse Westie Lung Disease. Your veterinarian may prescribe prednisone, and some Westies are given drugs that help combat Cushing’s Disease, such as vetoryl.
Clinical studies of dogs and similar diseases in humans may produce advancements in the future to help Westies that have CIPF.
What Cancers do Westies Die From?
Lymphoma is leading cancer among West Highland Terriers. This cancer causes abnormalities in the white blood cells known as lymphocytes. Lymphoma can occur anywhere within the body.
According to the AKC there are thirty types of lymphoma. The four most common types are:
- Multicentric – the most common type of lymphoma. Up to 85% of dogs will be diagnosed with multicentric lymphoma. It affects the lymph nodes.
- Alimentary lymphoma attacks the intestines and is found in 10% of dogs diagnosed with the disease.
- Mediastinal – this rare form of lymphoma is caused by high-grade malignant T lymphocytes, which cause the chest to become enlarged.
- Extranodal lymphoma attacks different organs of the body, the most common being the skin.
Knowing that your Westie may be more susceptible to lymphoma, it is important to examine your pet physically and visually on a regular basis and take her to the veterinarian if she shows any abnormalities.
What are the Symptoms of Lymphoma in the Westie?
There are many symptoms the Westie may have with lymphoma. Some of these symptoms include swollen lymph nodes, vomiting, swelling, and skin lesions. This list is far from complete, and there are different symptoms depending on the type of lymphoma.
These are some signs of multicentric lymphoma:
- Stomach pain
- Loss of weight
- Trouble breathing
The list of lymphoma symptoms is extensive. You know your Westie well and if you suspect there is something wrong, it is best to get a checkup early on. Your vet will draw blood and possibly perform a biopsy of the affected tissue to make a diagnosis.
Are Treatments Available for Westies with Cancer?
Treatments are available for Westies that have cancer. If caught early there is a high success rate of remission. However, this is a lifelong disease and will require constant monitoring.
The most common form of treatment is chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is expensive. On the plus side, dogs often do not have the same side effects from chemo as people do. The prognosis of the disease is dependent on your dog and the progression of the disease before it is diagnosed.
Other Common Westie Health Problems
Unfortunately, the top three leading causes of death are by no means the only issues faced by these adorable and energetic dogs. Westies are known to be susceptible to a number of other ailments, particularly as they age. These are the most common Westie illnesses:
- Dental disease
- Ear disease
- Digestive allergies
- Skin allergies
- Joint stiffness – particularly hips, knees and spine
- Overgrown nails
Regular visits to the vet will help you spot the sign of any ailment. Your vet will give you advice on your to treat the illness and recommend any lifestyle changes.
Taking preventive and proactive steps will help to prolong the life, and happiness, of your West Highland Terrier.
Always take your Westie to the vet for an examination at the first signs of illness. It may be nothing, but it may be something and the earlier illnesses are diagnosed and treated, the better the chances of a positive, happy, healthy outcome.