The Westie dog, short for the West Highland White Terrier, is a small dog that is originally from Scotland. These dogs are confident and fun-loving animals that are just looking for a good time.
More often than not, they are purebreds but if you’re on the lookout for one, you might be able to find one in a shelter. They have a coarse outer coat and a smooth inner coat.
They are lively in nature and do a great job making the humans around them laugh. They are intelligent dogs that fit well with families of all sizes and houses.
Westie Lifespan and Health
Typically, these dogs live for 12 to 16 years on average when in good health. These are generally healthy dogs but they are prone to some minor and a few major health issues.
If you are getting a Westie from a breeder, make sure you look for health clearances for the dog’s parents. These clearances are important to make sure what health conditions your puppy has been tested for.
Some of these health issues have an impact on their lifespan. Here’s how these conditions play out.
Some Westies are prone to a condition on the skull bones called craniomandibular osteopathy. This causes the skull to enlarge irregularly when in a growing puppy.
You might notice the symptoms when they are four to eight months old and it is believed to be a hereditary problem. Symptoms include swollen jaw, fluctuating fever every fortnight and excessive drooling.
To help them, you can get pain relievers and anti-inflammatories but there is no treatment for this condition. Make sure they eat well even though they might not be inclined to because their jaws hurt. Getting a feeding tube is not a bad idea.
You will also notice that the irregular growth of bones stops when they are a year old. Some dogs end up with permanent jaw issues and struggle to eat.
The lens of your dog’s eye will be affected in this condition and cause poor vision. Their vision will be cloudy and surgery can be helpful.
This usually happens due to age, as it does in humans but juvenile cataract is also a good possibility.
This is a problem when the head of your dog’s femur bone located on the leg does not get enough blood. Since this bone is linked to the pelvis, the latter starts to fall apart.
If your Westie has this syndrome, you will notice some limping and leg muscle atrophy when they are four to six months old. Surgery can fix this problem.
This is a condition that causes malady scars in tissues that support your dog’s air sac and lungs. That is why it is also referred to as Westie lung disease.
If your dog has pulmonary fibrosis, their oxygen will not pass from their lungs to the blood because the organ loses its elasticity. While this condition plays out differently in different dogs, you might notice rapid breathing, a crackling sound from the lungs, lack of stamina and trouble breathing in your dog.
This is a particularly dangerous disease as it might cause heart failure. The prognosis is not great because many dogs go years without showing any symptoms at all.
Unfortunately, there is no cure for this condition and even prevention is quite tough. What you can do is limit the amount of exercise they do and make sure they are as far away from respiratory infections as possible.
You must also watch their weight like a hawk and if you have an overweight Westie, do whatever you can to help them shed those extra pounds. Bronchodilators and keeping the temperature in the house low have also proven to be helpful.
Your best hope is to diagnose the disease before there are out of control lesions.
This is not uncommon in small dogs and is often referred to as slipped stifles. This is a health condition where the patella or the kneecap—typically of the hind legs—is dislocated and moves out of place.
In many dogs, this is crippling and causes a lot of pain but they manage to have a somewhat normal life.
Related: How Long Do Westies Sleep?
How to Care for a Senior Westie Dog
Westies live quite a long life when they are taken good care of. But with the health issues they are prone to, there are a few things you must do as the human responsible for their well-being.
And you should pay even more attention when your Westie gets to be a certain age. There are a few ways to figure out when the time comes and your dog is really getting up there.
The easiest, of course, is to consider their age by calculating it properly. A Westie is considered old when they are in their seventh year. That is a good time to take them in for more vet visits and make changes to their diet. It is important to give them more vitamins and minerals so that they are active and energetic.
Older Westie dogs are likely to have problems hearing. If it gets serious you can opt for surgery but that is not always the answer. You can start using gestures with your hands for commands instead of words so that communication becomes easier. But before all of that, it is a good idea to get their ear canals checked as often as possible.
Senior dogs also have trouble with their eyesight because they are prone to cataract issues. Their vision starts getting hazy and a layer starts to cover their eyes. If you go to a vet, surgery is something they might suggest but sometimes, it can be difficult.
Gum diseases are another area to care for. Make sure the grooming is in place right from an early age so that when they get older, you don’t have to get them into a new routine of oral health.
Brush their teeth to avoid tartar development and if you see inflamed gums, check if you need to look into tooth extraction before your puppy starts to feel the pain. Change their diet to something that is easy to chew and digest.
Stiff joints are another problem Westies tend to encounter. As they get older, you need to make sure that they have a strong bone structure and exercise is key to that.
Osteoarthritis is a possibility in older dogs and it can be avoided with moderate workout sessions. Make sure their food includes ingredients that will strengthen their joints and bones in general. If they are already experiencing pain stiffness talk to your vet about mild medication to ease the pain.
One of the things about old age is that dogs tend to become less active. They spend a lot of time relaxing, which is great. But it also means they might gain or lose weight.
If they are getting thinner or larger, you need to make sure their diet has enough calories so that they have energy but not gain fat and they get enough exercise so that the lethargy doesn’t take over.
If your Westie is losing weight, it might be time to switch to senior dog food. Hard kibble goes out the window and soft food becomes preferable. Notice their needs and maybe get some canned food or raw food that suits their requirements.
Taking care of their fur is also crucial. Make sure they are sleeping inside when the weather changes. Their coat must be combed and shaped every three months or so. When it comes to shaping, clipping is a better option.
A lot of dogs have the same routine for a long time. They sleep in the same place and have the same toys. Their exercise routine also remains pretty much unchanged for a long time. They are used to the same people and nothing is wrong with that.
But if there is a big change in any of these areas of interest, your dog will find it difficult to cope as they grow old. This is true even for those times when you leave them at a kennel when you are on a vacation.
They don’t do well with change and that is an emotionally stressful time for older dogs. One of the ways in which that can be handled is to get another pet to keep them company. But talk to a specialist before deciding on the course of action because these dogs can be very stubborn.
No matter the age of a dog, regular visits to the vet is always a good idea. It is a great opportunity to get to know the anatomy of your pet and make changes that suit their lifestyle.
You also get to diagnose impending problems before they get worse. But as they grow old, it is a good idea to delve deeper and let the vet analyze their stool and blood samples so that you are on top of their healthcare needs.
Senior dogs also have trouble dealing with injuries just like humans or any other beings. You want to make sure that any irregularity or pain they are suffering is taken care of medically.
So, an extra trip to the vet’s office will actually pay off.
Food is another critical part of taking good care of an older Westie. As the late Brittany Murphy’s character said in Uptown Girls, “fundamentals are the building blocks to success”.
When your dog reaches a certain age, the pace with which they eat goes through a change. That needs to be addressed with a change in ingredients to include more vitamins and minerals that will take care of their teeth, bones and joints.
Figure out if it is raw food or canned food or switching to brands that specialize in senior dog food and give them the nutrition they need to live a happy and healthy life.
Related: How Much Do Westies Cost?
Once you know the life expectancy and the possible health problems, it actually gets easier to manage a senior dog of any breed. A good veterinarian who is attentive to your dog’s mental health and food that promotes healthy eyes, ears and overall health is the best way to make sure your aging Westie is doing okay.