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West Highland White Terrier

West Highland White Terriers, commonly known as Westies, are a breed of dog known for their spirited personality and distinctive white coat. This breed is commonly recognised through its use as a mascot for Black & White (a brand of Scotch whisky), and on the packaging of Cesar brand dog food.

West Highland Terriers have bright, deep-set eyes; these tend to be dark, with a "piercing" look. Their ears are generally small, pointed, and erect.

They typically weigh from 15 to 20 pounds (7.5–10 kilograms) and their average height is 11 inches (28 centimetres) at the withers. The Kennel Club has recommended that their tails, typically "carrot-shaped", should never be docked. The tail should be between 5-6 inches.

They also have deep chests, muscular limbs, a huge skull, a short and a closely fitted jaw with "scissors" bite (lower canines locked in front of upper canines, upper incisors locked over lower incisors). 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 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.

Their paws are slightly webbed and thickly padded.

Westies are prone to allergies and dry skin issues, and bathing too frequently may aggravate these problems. Washing once a month or on a longer interval will generally not cause issues. However, frequent brushings are needed to keep the coat clean and oils evenly distributed throughout the coat. Washing with a detergent-free, baby-oriented, or another soft skin shampoo will help keep a Westie's skin hydrated. Weekly washing of the inside of the ears with cotton balls will prevent oil and wax build-up and ear infections.

Like most other dogs, these terriers generally require hours of sleep out of every 24. Westies will usually conform to the sleep patterns of their human companions, and take several naps during the day as well, to accrue their needed sleep. Since they are independent, they can withstand moderate periods of time being alone.

West Highland White Terrier puppies may be affected by a disease known as craniomandibular osteopathy, known colloquially as "Lion Jaw". The disease has a genetic component: it is an autosomal recessive condition i.e. for a puppy to be affected by the disease, both the parents must be 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.

Craniomandibular osteopathy is a non-neoplastic proliferative disease of the ventral mandibular ramus, occipital base of the skull and tympanic bullae, characterised 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.


West Highland White Terrier
Other names: Poltalloch Terrier, Roseneath Terrier, White Roseneath Terrier
Nicknames: Westie (or Westy)
Country of origin: Scotland

Craniomandibular 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 c. 3-6 months of age, and regresses spontaneously by c. 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, localisation and pain sensitivity of the affected puppy. In extreme cases, euthanasia may be required.

Westies are descended from Cairn Terriers, who occasionally whelped white puppies naturally, and Scottish Terriers; who also occasionally produced white offspring. White offspring from other terriers such as the Bedlington Terrier and Dandie Dinmont Terrier were occasionally introduced to the bloodline for desired characteristics, but this practice generally stopped in the 1850s.

Some sources credit Colonel Edward Donald Malcolm and his kin of Poltalloch, in the Argyll region of western Scotland as an originator of this breed in the 1800s. Other sources credit the 8th Duke of Argyll (Chieftain of Clan Campbell) as an originator of the breed. However, there may have been some cooperation between the two gentlemen. It may have taken as long as a hundred years of selective breeding to produce all the desired qualities. Their white coat made them highly visible when hunting on the Scottish moors and easily distinguished them from their game (this was an extremely important factor because hunters sometimes mistook brown dogs for foxes, and shot them). They also possess a sturdy frame.

Originally the breed was known as the Poltalloch Terrier (after the name of Malcolm's home); they were also known as the Roseneath Terrier (after the name of Argyll's home; see Rosneath), White Roseneath Terrier, and at the end of the 19th century, briefly as a white variety of the Scottish Terrier.

Westies are bred for hunting. Their prey is usually small animals such as rabbits, squirrels and mice, but they were also used to hunt foxes and badgers. Young females are known as the weakest of hunting Westies.