Hereditary Issues in Westies

Unfortunately the popularity of the Westie has encouraged widespread indiscriminate breeding for profit which has resulted in some diseases, once rare, becoming much more prevalent. We have listed the more common diseases here.

C.M.O. (Craniomandibular osteopathy, sometimes called 'lion jaw')

This is a condition found in the terrier breeds indigenous to Scotland and appears to be inherited. It is a painful condition usually occurring between 4 and 7 months of age which affects the lower jaw. The disease is an extraordinary growth in the cells of the bone where the mandible joins the skull and usually affects both sides of the jaw. It goes through stages of growth and rest and can only be confirmed by an X-Ray. Cortisone is commonly used to control swelling but homoeopathic remedies have been used with excellent results.

Dry Eye (Keratoconjunctivitis)

This occurs as a result of a decreased production of tears causing the eye to become inflamed. Both eyes are usually affected, but not necessarily at the same time. First signs are excessive tackiness around the eyes which may become partly closed due to lack of lubrication. Certain factors are known to cause the condition, e.g. the use of certain drugs over a long period of time. There seems to be a genetic factor involved. Treatment consists of lubrication several times a day throughout the dog's lifetime, or surgery where the saliva gland is diverted from the corner of the mouth to the corner of the eye, the saliva providing a lubricant for the eye.

Legge-Perthes Disease

This affects terriers indigenous to Scotland as well as humans (not necessarily indigenous to Scotland!). This usually starts between 4 and 10 months, and is caused by a degeneration of the hip joint due to lack of blood supply to the head of the femur. Pain and lameness results and treatment consists of keeping the puppy on drugs to reduce inflammation until the bone re-calcifies. Occasionally surgery is necessary to remove a piece of bone, or even a total hip replacement, with excellent results. There is a genetic link again here although environmental factors can do much to create a problem. Care must be taken to avoid knocks or injuries, or over-exercise when the dog is young which could result in a lack of blood supply to the hip joint.

When submitting your Application to Adopt Form

One of the questions we ask on your form is:

"Would you be prepared to adopt a dog with an ongoing medical or skin problem?"

Westies have always been susceptible to idiopathic skin problems, but in recent years the rise in incidence has been extraordinary. At the time of writing around 70% of Westies coming to us have a skin problem to a greater or lesser degree. Some Westies may have skin problems that are difficult and expensive to treat, whilst others appear to be seasonal and quite manageable. It is important to realise that even if your Westie does not have a skin problem when it comes to you it does not mean that it will not develop one in the future, at any age.

Sometimes a change in diet, or reducing the dog's stress can make a huge difference, but it usually needs veterinary intervention which can sometimes prove costly. Over recent years, indifferent breeding has undoubtedly contributed largely to the problem, as has dietary insensitivity to proprietary pet foods (including one that hints that it is the ideal food to feed your Westie!).

Your Westie should be examined daily for possible skin problems, which must be identified and treated professionally in the early stages before it develops into a major problem which could go out of control.

Responsible breeding can do much to prevent these problems in the West Highland White Terrier.

Adoption preparation

All potential adopters are rigorously home checked by registered volunteers to establish their general suitability for ownership of a rescue dog and are then specifically matched to appropriate dogs. We do not have a store of dogs needing homes for adopters to choose from! Our priority is to focus on the needs of the dogs, which may not coincide with the wishes of the humans who would like a Westie.

Our aim is to ensure that dogs are placed in permanent homes to avoid future trauma and disruption. Some of the dogs coming into our care have experienced neglect and often require extreme patience and special care to regain their trust in humans.

Please consider carefully whether you could care for such a dog.

Once adopted, full back-up and support is given to the new carers. They are also required to make an undertaking, that should they become unable to care for the Westie at any stage, the dog will be returned to Westie ReHoming.

As a registered charity we ask for an adoption donation to help towards the cost of running Westie ReHoming.

Although we frequently use the term ‘rescue’ when referring to our organisation there is a good reason why, after much deliberation, it was not included in our title. There is a popular misconception that most of the dogs that come into our care are neglected, unloved, unwanted or abused in some way, and we would like to dispel that myth here and now.

Most of the dogs that come to us do so because their owners realise that they can no longer give them the quality of life that they deserve. This involves tremendous sacrifice and heartache on the owner’s part and one can only feel respect and admiration that they choose to put the dog’s needs before their own.

Adoption Process

We recommend that you read "The Rescue Dog" by Gwen Bailey to help you to understand a little more of what you may be taking on and the level of commitment that will be involved before making a decision.

Please pay a visit to her web site at to find out how to purchase her books.

  1. Fill in and send off an Application to Adopt Form. See below for how to do this.
  2. Please be patient. We regret that we do not have the time or resources to acknowledge every application immediately. Occasionally we may need to ring you to clarify some of your answers/comments on the form. Some applications we receive are unrealistic at best, but if we feel strongly about your application we will inform you that one of our volunteers will be contacting you to arrange a Home Visit. This is nothing to worry about, and if any problems should arise during the Visit, we will work with you to resolve any obstacles to your becoming an Adopter.
  3. Our volunteer will contact you directly to arrange a mutually suitable time to visit. This Home Visit does not guarantee that there is currently a Westie available which would suit your particular environment and family situation, but it is another step along the way towards adopting your own Westie - as we often remind people, our priority is to focus on the needs of the dogs, which may not coincide with the wishes of the humans who would like a Westie.
  4. We will inform you as soon as a suitable dog becomes available. As we said, please be patient until the right dog comes along - but above all let us know immediately if you have decided not to proceed with an adoption from us, or if you obtain a dog from another source. This is MOST important! We need to remove you from our list straight away, so that a dog is not assigned to your name.
  5. We will arrange a suitable date and time for you to collect the dog. If certain improvements have become necessary to ensure the safety and security of the Westie in your home, and a return visit has not been arranged and carried out, we will need to check that those improvements have been addressed before we release the dog into your care.
  6. You will then be required to fill out an Adoption Form & Declaration, which is a legally-binding document setting out what we require to guarantee the dog's future health, security and happiness with you. We will ask you to sign this in the presence of our representative, who will make sure you understand every point of the Declaration.

If you would like to request an "application to adopt" form please email your request to and we will email one back to you.