What to Know About West Highland White Terriers

Medically Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on April 21, 2022
7 min read

The West Highland white terrier is also called the Westy or Westie. They are a Scottish dog breed that has a white coat and a rounded appearance. 

The Westie has been around for 300 years and is one of the most popular terriers. 

The breed reaches a height of 10 inches to 11 inches, has a compact body, and dark eyes. While the Westie might have the appearance of a charming little dog, it's very courageous, wise, and strong. 

The most distinct characteristic of the West Highland white terrier is the white double coat. While it may seem fluffy and soft, the skin has a hard texture. The breed's tail is shaped like a carrot, which gives it a plush-toy-like appearance coupled with the thick coat. 


The West Highland white terrier only has a white coat with no markings or other colors. The coat has a moderate shedding level and requires regular grooming. 

The West Highlight White Terrier's life expectancy is 13 years to 15 years. However, the breed is prone to some diseases that may lower life expectancy. 

They weigh 15 pounds to 20 pounds.


The West Highland white terrier traits include openness to strangers. Although the dog is active and makes friends easily, they do not like rough handling. Westies are also good with children as they are very playful. However, they're not as friendly with other dogs, so you might want to put them on a leash at the dog park if they're not trained properly. 

They make good watchdogs since they're protective and were once used to hunting rats and other rodents. Due to their high adaptability, Westies can go along with their owners' routines without a problem. 


The Westie has an energetic and playful personality. They are relatively easy to train and have high energy levels. Since they have watchdog traits, they are ready to bark at strangers or unusual appearances. 

They also have high mental stimulation needs since they're an intelligent breed. 

One of the notable West Highland white terrier traits is that they learn things quickly, but they also get bored very soon. You should be ready to keep your pet busy, or they'll come up with their ideas. Naturally, Westies bark a lot. You should train to make them stop barking on command. 

The West Highland white terrier care includes grooming, exercise, training, and nutrition. The dog doesn't need excessive pampering. 


You must regularly groom the Westie to keep their coat in good shape. However, if you want your pet's coat always to stand out, you can pluck or strip dead hair from it regularly. It's the traditional way to groom the breed's coat. 

If you don't want to do it yourself, a dog groomer can clip your pet's coat to keep it neat. Take your dog to a groomer every month or every six weeks, depending on how their coat looks. 

You should also comb and brush their coat at home. Don't bathe your Westie too often. Since they have a hard coat, a bath can mess up their hair's appearance and make it hard to manage. 

Meanwhile, brush their teeth daily to keep them clean. Consider also taking them to a veterinarian every year for a thorough dental exam. 

Your Westie also needs the following every year: 

  • Ophthalmologist evaluation 
  • Hip evaluation 
  • Patella Evaluation 

Regular visits to the vet can also prevent any parasite infestation from getting worse. Fleas, ear mites, and ticks can infest a Westie's ears and skin. Moreover, heartworms, whipworms, roundworms, and hookworms can also enter a Westie's system through contaminated water or soil. 

Get your pet checked regularly for parasites since some of them can also spread to your family and cause immense discomfort to your dog. A vet will likely recommend preventive medications. Preventative medication for heartworms, for instance, can be administered year-round.


Westies make good walking partners since they like to be active. They have a watchful nature, so they will chase things that move, such as cars. It's best to keep your Westie on a leash when you take them outside. 

The breed can also take part in other activities, such as canine sports, as they are very energetic and intelligent. You can also play games with your dog to give them their regular exercise. 


The West Highland white terrier care also includes feeding them good food. The breed can live on dog food, both homemade and store-bought. If you want to make dog food at home, consult a vet first. Make sure your Westie's diet is appropriate for their age.  

Westies are prone to getting obese. You should watch your pet's calorie intake to prevent obesity as it can cause other health problems. When training your Westie, you can give them treats as positive reinforcement. However, limit the treats to just 10% of your pet's daily caloric intake. 

Don't give too many treats as they make your dog overweight. Generally, it's safer not to give human foods to your Westie, but if you want your pet to share your food, it's best to ask your vet for approval beforehand. 

The West Highland white terrier is susceptible to some health issues. Unfortunately, many of these problems are severe and may lower the West Highland white terrier life expectancy. 


Allergies affect all terriers. The West Highland white terrier is prone to allergies and other skin diseases. One of these conditions is Westie Armadillo Syndrome or epidermal dysplasia. 

In this condition, the dog's head, belly, and feet become very itchy and inflamed. The condition is very painful and affects younger Westies. It spreads to the rest of the body slowly and can cause hair loss.

If you notice these symptoms in your Westie, you should take them to a vet. The doctor will prescribe shampoos and medicines.

Eye Problems

Like some other breeds, Westies are also at risk of eye problems, such as dry eye. In this condition, the eye does not produce the watery portion of tears or enough tears altogether. As a result, the eye becomes dry and painful. 

If your dog has dry eyes, they will blink a lot or keep their eyes shut tight. They may also squint a lot and have yellow discharge around the eye area. In many cases, hyperpigmentation and scarring occur on the cornea. 

If there is excessive scarring, your dog may suffer from vision problems. Usually, Westies have piercing eyes that are very dark in appearance, but if your dog has dry eyes, their eyes will look dull and lusterless.  

Patellar Luxation 

Patellar luxation is a common health disorder in the Westies. In this condition, the patella (or, the kneecap) can move from its correct position. It can also return to its normal placement after being displaced. Either movement can cause damage. 

The condition first presents in younger dogs. Thus, if your pup had patellar luxation, they’re also likely to have it when they grow old.

If your dog has patellar luxation, it may have a limp. Its legs may shake excessively. As the disease progresses, the lameness progresses. The vet will recommend a course of action based on your pet's condition to correct patellar luxation. 

Shaker Syndrome 

In Shaker Syndrome, the dog has tremors in its body and head. Breeds like the West Highland white terrier, Poodle, and Maltese are prone to getting the Shaker Syndrome. 

If your dog is affected, they will develop the condition at an early age, typically before age two. The tremors display as involuntary and rhythmic movements. It will appear as if your dog is shaking. 

Depending on your dog's specific condition, the tremor may be specific to one part of the body or involve the whole body. The tremor may be mild or severe. If your dog has severe tremors, the condition will make it difficult for them to walk or eat. 

If you notice these symptoms in your Westie, take them to a vet. The vet will likely prescribe prednisone as a treatment. It's a steroid that suppresses your Westie's immune system. 

The West Highland white terrier personality makes it a good house dog since the breed is friendly around kids.

Westies don't drool much but tend to bark a lot. Traditionally, Westies hunted rodents on farms. The West Highland white terrier temperament is very watchful, which means the dog will bark at passers-by and cars. Make sure there's a fence around your house if your Westie likes playing in the yard. 

Some West Highland white terriers also like to dig. If your pet likes that, you might want to supervise them when they go into the yard or provide them with an appropriate digging spot. Since Westies are known to be stubborn, you should use reward-based training with games, tricks, and foods. 

The West Highland white terrier has a rich history. Back in the day, rodents were common in Britain. They carried and spread diseases around the country, also infesting grain stores. The breeders developed different terries to find and dispose of rats. These terriers were known as earth dogs. 

Experts believe that different Scottish terriers, such as the Cairn, Dandie Dinmont, Skype, and West Highland come from the same family. There's no exact information about the breeding of the first-ever West Highland white terrier. 

In the 1700s, Edward Donald Malcolm from the Malcolm clan bred little white dogs on their property. The family bred these dogs for over a century. At that time, the dogs were called the Poltalloch Terriers after the name of the clan's estate. Another name for the breed was Roseneath Terrier. 

The dog that we now know as the West Highland white terrier made an appearance at the dog show for the first time in 1896. Since then, Westies have become favorites due to their companionship traits. 

A whiskey brand, White Scotch Whiskey, uses a picture of the Westie as their branding logo today. Apart from this, Westies still do well in dog shows due to their agility and intelligence.