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Westie Origins

The West Highland White Terrier, commonly known as the Westie, is a breed of dog with a distinctive white coat. This breed is not considered a lap dog, as they are very energetic and slightly restless. They are small but are known for their strong-willed and self-confident personality. Originating in Scotland, the breed was used to seek and dig out foxes and badgers. This breed is commonly recognized through its use as a mascot for Black & White (a brand of Scotch whisky), Cesar brand dog food, and various other logos.

Commonly, Westies have bright, deep-set, almond-shaped eyes that are dark in color. Their ears are small, pointed, and erect. A male typically weighs between 15 and 20 pounds (6.8 and 9.1 kg) and a female between 13 and 16 pounds (5.9 and 7.3 kg). The average height is 9 to 11 inches (23 to 28 cm) at the withers. ]The Kennel Club has recommended that their tails, typically “carrot-shaped”, should never be docked; hence the tail should be between 5–6 inches (13–15 cm).

 They also have deep chests, muscular limbs, a huge skull, a large black nose, a short and a closely fitted jaw with “scissors” bite (lower canines locked in front of upper canines, upper incisors locked over lower incisors).The American breed standard states that a level bite is equally acceptable. Their teeth generally appear quite large for the size of the dog. Westies have a very strong bone structure for their size.

They have a soft, dense, thick undercoat and a rough outer coat, about 2 inches long, that requires regular grooming. Some Westies have “wheaten tippings” on their backs, though for individuals put forward for conformation showing this can be regarded as undesirable. Also, some Westies do not have a top coarse coat, and just a second silky coat, but this is not considered a correct coat.

This breed is a dog which sheds moderately. As they develop into adults, their coarse outer coat is normally removed by either ‘hand-stripping’, especially for dog-showing, or otherwise clipping. Their coarse coat is easily pulled out as it was designed to do so when the dogs would hunt vermin in underground bramble to prevent them from getting caught.

Health

As with most other dogs, Westies generally require around thirteen hours of sleep per day. In order to acquire their needed sleep, Westies will usually follow the sleep patterns of their human companions and also take several naps during the day. US owner surveys put the average lifespan of a Westie at 12 to 16 years, and some beyond that. They also need regular walking, although if they have access to a large yard they can exercise on their own. Although Westies are the mascot for Ceaser dog food vets generally direct owners away from feeding their pets the “junk food”. Because of the skin problems Westies often encounter they are usually put on diets which have them consume mostly lamb and rice.

Mandibular osteopathy

Westie puppies may be affected by mandibular osteopathy, a disease also known “lion jaw”. (The disease is an autosomal recessive condition and so a puppy can only be affected by it if both its parents are carriers of the faulty gene.) With this disease, the only current way to identify carrier breeding stock is if an affected puppy is produced. Therefore, breeders may be unaware that breeding stock are carriers until an affected puppy is born. Mandibular osteopathy is a non-neoplastic proliferation disease of the ventral mandibular rams, occipital base of the skull and tympani bullhead, characterized by excessive bone deposition in these areas. In most incidences, the defect is bilateral, although this is not always the case. The disease varies in severity, the region(s) affected and the individual pain threshold of the affected puppy. Definitive diagnosis is achieved by radiographic examination.

Mandibular osteopathy is extremely painful to the puppy. Affected puppies will most likely display signs of pain or discomfort, such as yelping, when their head is touched and when chewing or eating. The puppy may be lethargic and be reluctant to eat as a result.

The condition usually manifests when the puppy is around 3–6 months of age, and regresses spontaneously around 12 months of age. Treatment of the disease is concerned with managing the symptoms and providing appropriate analgesia to improve quality of life and enable the puppy to eat until the disease resolves spontaneously. Corticosteroids are the usual therapeutic agents used to manage the disease. The exact treatment protocol depends on the severity, localization and pain sensitivity of the affected puppy. In extreme cases, euthanasia may be required.

History

The breed was originally named the Poltalloch terrier, after the estate in the Argyll region of western Scotland where they were developed by Colonel Edward Donald Malcolm (1837–1930) and his family. It is said that the breed gained its white coat after the Colonel’s red terrier (perhaps a Norwich terrier) was mistaken for a fox and shot: the dog breed was to be white in colour so as to help distinguish it from its quarry.

The Westie came to the United Statesin the early 1900s, originally called Roseneath Terrier. The name was changed to reflect the breed’s origins more clearly. Some dog breeders and fanciers also believe that Westies developed with contributions from white dogs in the litters of Cairn Terriers. Others believe that there are contributions from similar dogs developed by the 8th Duke of Argyll (Chieftain of Clan Campbell).