West Highland White Terriers under primary veterinary care in the UK in 2016: demography, mortality and disorders

The West Highland White Terrier (WHWT) is a relatively common breed in the UK, although Kennel Club registrations have declined in recent years. The VetCompass™ Programme collates de-identified clinical data from primary-care veterinary practices in the UK for epidemiological research. Using VetCompass clinical data, this study aimed to characterise the demography, longevity and common disorders of WHWTs under primary veterinary care in the UK.

WHWTs comprised 6605/905,544 (0.7%) dogs under veterinary care during 2016 from 886 clinics. Mean adult bodyweight was 9.6 kg (standard deviation [SD] 1.8 kg). Males (10.1 kg, SD 1.8 kg) were heavier than females (9.0 kg, SD 1.6 kg) (P < 0.001). Median age was 7.8 years (interquartile range [IQR] 4.3-11.1). Median longevity was 13.4 years (IQR 11.0-15.0). Males (13.8 years) outlived females (12.9 years) (P = 0.045). The most common grouped causes of death were lower respiratory tract (10.2, 95% CI: 5.5-16.7), neoplastic (10.2, 95% CI: 5.5-16.7) and spinal cord disorder (7.8, 95% CI: 3.8-13.9). Overall, 71.5% WHWTs had > 1 disorder recorded during 2016. The most prevalent specific disorders were periodontal disease (15.7, 95% CI: 14.1-17.3), otitis externa (10.6, 95% CI: 9.3-12.0), overgrown nails (7.2, 95% CI: 6.2-8.4), allergic skin disorder (6.5, 95% CI: 5.5-7.7) and obesity (6.1, 95% CI: 5.1-7.2). The most prevalent grouped disorders were cutaneous (22.7, 95% CI: 20.9-24.6), dental (17.8, 95% CI: 16.2-19.6) and aural (12.3, 95% CI: 11.0-13.8). The median age of dogs affected with the 27 most common disorders varied from 6.7 (pododermatitis) to 13.9 years for cataracts.

These findings highlight that, despite a recent decline in popularity, WHWTs are still relatively common in the UK. Dental disease, ear disease, overgrown nails, allergic skin disorder and obesity were identified as common health issues within the breed. Cutaneous disorders were the most common disorder group in the breed but showed a lower prevalence than might be expected. These results can be used by breeders, veterinary practitioners and owners as an evidence base to predict, prevent and manage key health and welfare issues for WHWTs.

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