West Highland White Terrier Breed Information

West Highland White Terriers are amongst a group of breeds classed as ‘Category Two’ by The Kennel Club. These are breeds of dog that have been highlighted as having ‘points of concern’ – visible features which, if exaggerated, might potentially affect the breed in the future and cause health and welfare concerns.

West Highland White Terriers are a member of the ‘Terrier’ breed group. Dogs in the Terrier group were originally bred for hunting vermin. They are hardy, brave dogs bred to pursue the likes of foxes, badgers and rats (to name a few) above and below ground.

West Highland White Terriers, or ‘Westies’ as they’re more affectionately known, are happy, inquisitive dogs that are also sometimes known to be quite stubborn. For this reason, training can sometimes be more of a challenge and will require patience, but can be achieved using reward-based techniques. For more information on training your dog, take a look at our dog behaviour page where you can pick up plenty of tips to help you and your canine companion better understand each other. They need around an hour of exercise daily.

Westies are well suited to family life and get on very well with children, enjoying playtime wherever possible. They’ll need grooming once or twice a week, and clipping by a professional groomer periodically.

Breed-related health problems:

Owners are, understandably, upset when their dog develops a health problem linked to its breed. Often they wish they’d known what problems the breed was prone to have. The potential health problems that West Highland White Terriers are prone to include:

  • Skin disease/allergies
  • Inherited bone disorder of the jaw
  • Luxating patellas - the kneecaps slipping temporarily out of place.
  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca or ‘Dry eye – decreased tear production, leading to dry eye and damage to the cornea (surface of the eye).
  • Addison's Disease - a condition caused by an abnormally low production of hormones, such as cortisol, by the adrenal glands.
  • Legg-Perthes disease (Legg-Calvé-Perthes) – blood supply to the femoral head is depleted, causing destruction of the femoral head.
  • Westie Lung (Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis) – a disease which causes scarring and stiffness in the lungs.

For some conditions, there are screening programmes available through the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Kennel Club. The Canine Health Schemes allow breeders to screen for a range of inherited diseases, so it’s a good idea to check the parents of any puppy you’re looking to rehome have been screened under these schemes. We’d also recommend discussing the medical history of your potential puppy’s parents and grandparents, and think very carefully before taking on a dog with any of the health conditions listed above evident in the family line.

You can find out more about the Canine Health Schemes on the BVA's website.

Exercise requirements:

Westies need around an hour of exercise daily.

Estimated lifetime cost:

The likely lifetime costs for a West Highland White Terrier are based on estimates calculated using current market prices and include:

The list above does not include veterinary costs if your pet becomes sick or injured, so these average lifetime costs could be even higher.

Insure your West Highland White Terrier with PDSA:

1 in 3 pets need vet treatment each year and vet bills can come to hundreds of pounds. PDSA Pet Insurance can give you peace of mind when your pet is poorly, especially for breeds like West Highland White Terriers that are prone to certain conditions. PDSA Pet Insurance offers:

  • 5 Star Pet Insurance* - from the vet experts
  • 4 levels of cover to suit you
  • Monthly payment at no extra cost

*Defaqto 5 Star rating applies to our Plus and Premier policies only. Defaqto’s Star Ratings provide an independent assessment of the quality of financial products.

By insuring your West Highland White Terrier with PDSA you’ll also be helping to provide vet care to some of the UK’s neediest pets.

Energy levels
Easy to train
Exercise needed
Barking/likely to be vocal
Size Small
Average height 28 cm
Average weight 6.5-9.5 kg
Average lifespan Over 12 years
Minimum exercise (per day) 1 hour
Coat length Medium
Minimum cost (per month) £70

Not sure if the West Highland White Terrier is the right pet for you?