Caring for Your Faithful CompanionScottish Terrier: What a Unique Breed!
Your dog is special! She’s your best friend, companion, and a source of unconditional love. Chances are that you chose her because you likeScottish Terriers and you expectedher to have certain traits that would fit your lifestyle:
Confident and self-reliant
Good watchdog with a loud bark
Highly intelligent, playful, and energetic
Alert, curious, and busy
Loving and loyal to her owners
Agile, sturdy, and muscular
However, no dog is perfect! You may have also noticed these characteristics:
Does not tolerate harsh reprimands or negative-reinforcement training
Likely to attack other small animals, including cats
Suspicious of strangers
Needs a lot of activity and mental stimulation to avoid boredom vices
Likes to dig
Determined and has a mind of her own
Is it all worth it? Of course! She’s full of personality, and you love her for it! Scottish Terriers are charming and playful dogs that enjoy ball games. She is self-assured and opinionated. With a patient and consistent leader, she makes a devoted and affectionate companion.
The Scottish Terrier originated in Scotland and was virtually unknown outside of their homeland until the late 1870s. Scotties were bred for vermin control on farms and for hunting badgers or foxes. They are the only dog breed that has lived in the White House alongside three Presidents. Scotties are hardy terriers, spirited and feisty. They are not recommended for homes with small children or with other animals. The Scottish Terrier is a generally healthy breed with an average lifespan of 12-15 years.
Your Scottish Terrier’s Health
We know that because you care so much about your dog, you want to take good care of her. That is why we have summarized the health concerns we will be discussing with you over the life of your Scottie. By knowing about health concerns specific to Scottish Terriers, we can tailor a preventive health plan to watch for and hopefully prevent some predictable risks.
Many diseases and health conditions are genetic, meaning they are related to your pet’s breed. There is a general consensus among canine genetic researchers and veterinary practitioners that the conditions we’ve described herein have a significant rate of incidence and/or impact in this breed.That does not mean your dog will have these problems; it just means that she is more at risk than other dogs. We will describe the most common issues seen inScottish Terriersto give you an idea of what may come up in her future. Of course, we can’t cover every possibility here, so always check with us if you notice any unusual signs or symptoms.
This guide contains general health information important to all canines as well as the most important genetic predispositions for Scottish Terriers. This information helps you and us together plan for your pet’s unique medical needs. At the end of the booklet, we have also included a description of what you can do at home to keep your Diehard looking and feeling her best. You will know what to watch for, and we will all feel better knowing that we’re taking the best possible care of your pal.
General Health Information for your Scottish Terrier
Dental disease is the most common chronic problem in pets, affecting 80% of all dogs by age two. And unfortunately, your Scottish Terrier is more likely than other dogs to have problems with her teeth. It starts with tartar build-up on the teeth and progresses to infection of the gums and roots of the teeth. If we don’t prevent or treat dental disease, your buddy will lose her teeth and be in danger of damaging her kidneys, liver, heart, and joints. In fact, your Scottie’s life span may be cut short by one to three years! We’ll clean your dog’s teeth regularly and let you know what you can do at home to keep those pearly whites clean.
Scottish Terriers are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections—the same ones that all dogs can get—such as parvo, rabies, and distemper. Many of these infections are preventable through vaccination, which we will recommend based on the diseases we see in our area, herage, and other factors.
Obesity can be a significant health problem in Scottish Terriers. It is a serious disease that may causeor worsen joint problems, metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain and heart disease. Though it’s tempting to give your pal food when she looks at you with those soulful eyes, you can “love her to death” with leftover people food and doggie treats. Instead, give her a hug, brush her fur or teeth, play a game with her, or perhaps take her for a walk. She’ll feel better, and so will you!
All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Diehard’s body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest herskin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into hersystem in a number of ways: drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or a family member and are a serious concern for everyone. For your canine friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even death, so it’s important that we test for them on a regular basis. We’ll also recommend preventive medication as necessary to keep her healthy.
Spay or Neuter
One of the best things you can do for your Scottie is to have her spayed (neutered for males). In females, this means we surgically remove the ovaries and usually the uterus, and in males, it means we surgically remove the testicles. Spaying or neutering decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted puppies. Performing this surgery also gives us a chance, while your pet is under anesthesia, to identify and address some of the diseases your dog is likely to develop. For example, if your pet needs hip X-rays or a puppy tooth extracted, this would be a good time. This is convenient for you and easy for your friend. Routine blood testing prior to surgery also helps us to identify and take precautions for common problems that increase anesthetic or surgical risk. Don’t worry; we’ll discuss the specific problems we will be looking for when the time arrives.
Genetic Predispositions for Scottish Terriers
Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s )
Cushing’s Disease is a malfunction of the adrenal glands causing them to produce too much steroid hormone. This is a common problem in dogs, and your Diehard is more likely than other dogs to be affected. The condition usually develops slowly, and the early signs are easily missed. Symptoms include drinking and urinating more than normal, increased appetite and reduced activity level. Later, a potbelly, thin skin, and hair loss are characteristic. Treatment usually includes oral medications, and requires close coordination with us to ensure correct dosing.
Not many things have as dramatic an impact on your dog’s quality of life as the proper functioning of his eyes. Unfortunately, Scottish Terriers can inherit or develop a number of different eye conditions, some of which may cause blindness if not treated right away, and most of which can be extremely painful! We will evaluate his eyes at every examination to look for any signs of concern.
Cataracts are a common cause of blindness in older Scotties. We’ll watch for the lenses of his eyes to become more opaque—meaning they look cloudy instead of clear—when we examine him. Many dogs adjust well to losing their vision and get along just fine. Surgery to remove cataracts and restore sight may also be an option.
Distichiasis is a condition caused by extra hairs that grow inside of the eyelid and rub on the surface of the eye. This is one of the most commonly inherited diseases in dogs, and your Scottie is more likely than other dogs to develop this painful condition. If untreated, these abnormal hairs can cause corneal ulcers and chronic eye pain. Several treatment options are available, and the prognosis is good once the hairs have been permanently removed.
Sometimes small strands of tissue that were meant to disappear soon after birth remain attached to the iris. When this happens, it’s called Persistent Pupillary Membrane, and your Scottish Terrier is more likely to have this condition than other dogs. Fortunately, these tissue bits usually don’t hurt or impede vision, but occasionally they can cause problems.
There are several types of inherited bleeding disorders which occur in dogs. They range in severity from very mild to very severe. Many times a pet seems normal until a serious injury occurs or surgery is performed, and then severe bleeding can result. Von Willebrand’s disease is a blood clotting disorder frequently found in Scottish Terriers. We’ll conduct diagnostic testing for blood clotting time or a specific DNA blood test for Von Willebrand’s disease or other similar disorders to check for this problem before we perform surgery.
In humans, an allergy to pollen, mold, or dust makes people sneeze and their eyes itch. In dogs, rather than sneeze, allergies make their skin itchy. We call this skin allergy “atopy”, and Scotties often have it. Commonly, the feet, belly, folds of the skin, and ears are most affected. Symptoms typically start between the ages of one and three and can get worse every year. Licking the paws, rubbing the face, and frequent ear infections are the most common signs. The good news is that there are many treatment options available for this condition.
Cancer is a leading cause of death in older dogs. Your Diehard will likely live longer than many other breeds and therefore is more prone to get cancer in his golden years. Many cancers are cured by surgically removing them, and some types are treatable with chemotherapy. Early detection is critical! We’ll perform periodic diagnostic tests and look for lumps and bumps when we examine your pet.
Lymphoma or lymphosarcoma is a type of cancer that afflicts Scottish Terriers more than other breeds. This disease makes the body form abnormal lymphocytes, which are a type of white blood cell. Because white blood cells can be found throughout the body, this cancer can show up almost anywhere. Lymphoma is a very treatable form of cancer, with an excellent success rate in dogs receiving chemotherapy. Treatment can be costly, however, and is a lifelong commitment. Luckily, lymphoma is one of the few types of cancer that can often be found with a blood test, so we may recommend a complete blood count twice yearly. Watch for swollen glands (ask us, we’ll show you where to look), weight loss, or labored breathing at home and be sure to call us if you notice any unusual symptoms.
Mast cell tumors are a particularly nasty type of skin cancer found more often in Scottish Terriers, and the sooner they are surgically removed the better. Trouble is, they often look just like other kinds of skin lumps and lesions, some of which are harmful, and others not. All suspicious lumps should be tested and any questionable lump should be surgically removed as soon as possible. Many cancers are cured by surgically removing them, so early detection and removal is critical.
Breeds with a large head and small pelvis are more prone to difficulties during the birthing process. Her pelvis is just too small to pass puppies and a C-section is often required for her health and that of her puppies. If you are interested in breeding your Diehard, speak with us first. We can help you make an informed decision based on body conformation of both sire and dam.
Bladder or Kidney Stones
There are a few different types of stones that can form in the kidney or in the bladder, and Scottish Terriers are more likely to develop them than other breeds. We’ll periodically test his urine for telltale signs indicating the presence of kidney and bladder stones; they are painful! If your buddy has blood in his urine, can’t urinate, or is straining to urinate, it is a medical emergency. Call us immediately!
Bone and Joint Problems
Sometimes your Scottie’s kneecap (patella) may slip out of place (called patellar luxation ). You might notice that he runs along and suddenly picks up a back leg and skips or hops for a few strides. Then he kicks his leg out sideways to pop the kneecap back in place, and he’s fine again. If the problem is mild and involves only one leg, your friend may not require much treatment beyond arthritis medication. When symptoms are severe, surgery may be needed to realign the kneecap to keep it from popping out of place.
You’ve probably heard of hip dysplasia, an inherited disease that causes the hip joints to form improperly and leads to arthritis: it is common in Scottish Terriers. You may notice that he has lameness in his hind legs or has difficulty getting up from lying down. We can treat the arthritis — the sooner the better — to avoid discomfort and pain. We’ll take X-rays of your dog’s joints to identify the disease as early as possible. Surgery is sometimes considered in severe and life-limiting cases of hip dysplasia. Keep in mind that overweight dogs may develop arthritis years earlier than those of normal weight, causing undue pain and suffering.
There are three types of seizures in dogs: reactive, secondary, and primary. Reactive seizures are caused by the brain’s reaction to a metabolic problem like low blood sugar, organ failure, or a toxin. Secondary seizures are the result of a brain tumor, stroke, or trauma. If no other cause can be found, the disease is called primary, or idiopathic epilepsy. This problem is often an inherited condition, with Scottish Terriers commonly afflicted. If your friend is prone to seizures, they will usually begin between six months and three years of age. An initial diagnostic workup may help find the cause. Lifelong medication is usually necessary to help keep seizures under control, with periodic blood testing required to monitor side effects and effectiveness. If your dog has a seizure: Carefully prevent him from injuring himself, but don’t try to control his mouth or tongue. It won’t help him, and he may bite you accidentally! Note the length of the seizure, and call us or an emergency hospital.
Scotty Cramp is a condition primarily seen in Scottish Terriers, but also seen in the Cesky Terrier. Affected puppies or young dogs show symptoms after exercise or excitement. It is not apparently painful, but it does cause arching of the spine and a stiff-legged gait lasting several minutes. Medications may provide some relief, but there is no specific cure for this problem. Because it is passed genetically, responsible breeders recommend that affected Scotties should not be used as breeding animals. We don’t want to pass this on to future generations!
Hyperphosphatemia describes an elevated level of an enzyme called alkaline phosphatase, or ALP, in the bloodstream. Affected Scottish Terriers usually have no signs of illness, although microscopic examination of their livers can reveal abnormalities within the liver cells. There are other diseases that are more serious and can cause this enzyme to be elevated. As long as those other problems are investigated and ruled out no treatment is necessary.
Taking Care of Your Scottish Terrier at Home
Much of what you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is common sense, just like it is for people. Watch her diet, make sure she gets plenty of exercise, regularly brush her teeth and coat, and call us or a pet emergency hospital when something seems unusual (see “What to Watch For” below). Be sure to adhere to the schedule of examinations and vaccinations that we recommend for her. This is when we’ll give her the necessary “check-ups” and test for diseases and conditions that are common in Scotties. Another very important step in caring for your pet is signing up for pet health insurance. There will certainly be medical tests and procedures she will need throughout her life and pet health insurance will help you cover those costs.
Routine Care, Diet, and Exercise
Build her routine care into your schedule to help your Diehard live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine.
Supervise your pet as you would a toddler. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block off rooms as necessary. This will keep her out of trouble and away from objects she shouldn’t put in her mouth.
Brush her coat as needed, at least weekly. Twice a year stripping or clipping is also required for her wiry double coat.
Scottish Terriers generally have good teeth, and you can keep them perfect by brushing them at least twice a week!
Clean her ears weekly, even as a puppy. Don’t worry—we’ll show you how!
She is well suited to apartment life as long as she is given daily walks and frequent play sessions.
She is an athletic dog that excels at dog sports like agility and Earthdog.
She has a strong chase instinct, so she needs to be leash walked and a fenced yard is a must.
Keep your dog’s diet consistent and don’t give her people food.
Feed a high-quality diet appropriate for her age.
Exercise your dog regularly, but don’t overdo it at first.
What to Watch For
Any abnormal symptom could be a sign of serious disease, or it could just be a minor or temporary problem. The important thing is to be able to tell when to seek veterinary help, and how urgently. Many diseases cause dogs to have a characteristic combination of symptoms, which together can be a clear signal that your Scottish Terrier needs help.
Give us a call for an appointment if you notice any of these types of signs:
Change in appetite or water consumption
Tartar build-up, bad breath, red gums, or broken teeth
Itchy skin (scratching, chewing, or licking), hair loss
Lethargy, mental dullness, or excessive sleeping
Fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral changes
Lumps or bumps – regardless of size
Seek medical care immediately if you notice any of these types of signs:
Scratching or shaking the head, tender ears, or ear discharge
Inability or straining to urinate; discolored urine
Cloudiness, redness, itching, or any other abnormality involving the eyes
Drinks and urinates more, eats more, potbelly, poor haircoat
Leg stiffness, reluctance to rise, sit, use stairs, run, jump, or “bunny hopping”
Any abnormal shaking, trembling, or excessive involuntary tremors
Pain when opening the mouth or chewing
Partners in Health Care
DNA testing is a rapidly advancing field with new tests constantly emerging to help in the diagnosis of inherited diseases before they can become a problem for your friend. For the most up-to-date information on DNA and other screening tests available for your pal, visit www.Genesis4Pets.com.
Your Scottie counts on you to take good care of her, and we look forward to working with you to ensure that she lives a long and healthy life. Our goal is to provide the best health care possible: health care that’s based on her breed, lifestyle, and age. Please contact us when you have questions or concerns.
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Gough A, Thomas A. Breed Predispositions to Disease in Dogs and Cats. 2nd Edition. Wiley-Blackwell; 2010.
Crook A, Dawson S, Cote E, MacDonald S, Berry J. Canine Inherited Disorders Database [Internet]. University of Prince Edward Island. 2011. [cited 2013 Apr 11]. Available from: http://ic.upei.ca/cidd/breed/scottish-terrier
Breed Specific Health Concerns [Internet]. American Kennel Club Canine Health Foundation, Inc. [cited 2013 Apr 11]. Available from: http://www.akcchf.org/canine-health/breed-specific-concerns/?breed=scottish-terrier