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Health of Scotties

Scotties are fortunate to have few serious genetic problems compared to other pure bred dogs. The most common health issue facing Scotties are the consequences of being overweight due to over eating and too little exercise!


Some genetic problems seen occasionally are

Cranio-MandibularHeartworm ControlScottie Cramp

Cushings DiseaseHereditary Health ProblemsVon Willebrands Disease

Demodectic MangeParasitesVaccinations

 EpilepsyYour New Puppy

If you want to know more about Scottie health, the Scottish Terrier Club of America has a great site at

Heartworm Control

You will also need to commence heartworm control. I suggest you speak to your vet before you get your new puppy to decide which control to use. There are a lot of choices on the market and there is even a yearly injection available now that could be given at the time of the yearly vaccination. However these are not suitable for a young puppy so you would need to use a monthly heartworm control till puppy has his first injection. As the weight gain is quite marked in the 1st year of life and the injection is weight dependant the most economical approach would be to have monthly control for the first 12 months then go onto yearly which is very cost effective. They are all very effective you need to find which method would suit you best.

Parasites and Cane Toads

Paralysis ticks are among the most dangerous parasites that can affect your pet. It is estimated that more than 20,000 domestic animals are paralysed by this tick in Australia each year and unfortunately, many die.  Please check with your local vet to find out if ticks are a problem where you live. Also keep in mind if you walk your dog in bushland be it reserves or weekend hikes always check your dog daily for ticks. Often the first symptom is loss of coordination in the hind legs, however the animal may have a change in voice or may retch, cough or vomit. Speak to your vet as they often have pamphlets on ticks to educate yourself. Frontline can be used on young puppies in spray packs, after 3 months Frontline top spot can be used every 2 weeks. Nothing is 100 % affective so you need to always check your dog daily. Keeping in mind most ticks (about 90%) are found on the head neck and shoulders. Do not forget to look in ears and folds around the mouth and corner of the eyes they are easily missed in these positions.

Fleas should not become a problem these days there are many preparations and a talk with your vet should help you find one suitable for you. If your dog has fleas remember to worm him as dogs with fleas also are likely to have tapeworms.

When you take your puppy in for his 12 weeks vaccination this is a good time to cover all of these points. I suggest you write the questions down you wish to ask your vet before your visit. That way you won’t forget anything.

Cane toads are very toxic for dogs and I believe they are spreading south. If you live in a cane toad area don’t let your dogs out at night without supervision. Remember Scotties are bred to hunt and they are very good at it. If you are not to quick on your feet take them out on a lead as they can hear a rustle and be on it in seconds. Toads spray a poison that is deadly. If your dog does get a toad rinse the mouth out immediately with a hose pointing outwards. The gums go a bright red and they foam at the mouth, you need to get the toxin rinsed out as quickly as possible. Then get to the vet as soon as possible.


Scottish Terriers, like all dogs are subject to hereditary and acquired health problems. Scotties are fortunate to have few serious genetic problems compared to other pure bred dogs. Responsible breeders work to eliminate these problems from the Scottish Terrier gene pool. I shall list the most common genetic problems we see in Scotties.

Demodectic Mange

This dermatitis is caused by the mite Demodex Canis growing rapidly in the hair follicles. This massive build up of mites causes bacterial infection and severe skin inflammation. The mites are on all dogs, but if the dogs immune system is suppressed the numbers can rapidly increase.
In Scotties, the writer, who has been running a grooming salon for 20 years, has seen cases that have been very difficult to detect. Some breeds seem to get a lot of hair loss, Scotties don’t.

Von Willebrands Disease
VWD is an inherited bleeding disorder of man and dogs. In fact, it is the most common bleeding disorder, and has been detected in over 54 breeds. Genetic testing and selective breeding has reduced the incidence of vWD and its consequences. The disease is due to a deficiency of the large protein in the blood called Von Willebrand factor. Von Willebrand factor is part of an overall blood clotting, or coagulation system, which consists of protein called coagulation factor and cells, called platelets, that circulate in the bloodstream. This System acts in the body to seal off damage to the injured blood vessels by the formation of a blood clot. Therefore if vWF is deficient the platelets cannot stick properly to the vessel wall. An inadequate platelet plug forms and the damage to the vessel is not sealed off properly. The result is excessive blood loss from that vessel. A simple DNA test detects VWD and is now available from Vetgen , Gentest and others.  There is a lot of information on this site including how we can test in Australia.

However as far as buying a puppy is concerned as long as the sire and dam are tested clear there is no need to test the puppies as they will be clear by parentage. I am sure most breeders would be only too happy to hand that information on to the new owner upon purchase for the record. 
The other point that should be made is that as long as one parent is clear, there can not be any puppies with vWD in that litter, and this being the case as long as they are sold as pets and desexed it would not be a problem. However breeders buying a puppy from this combination would need to test the puppy before mating as the puppies could be carriers.

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Scottie Cramp

Scottie Cramp is rarely seen today. Affected dogs are perfectly normal until the animal’s level of excitement or stress increases. This results in short term loss of muscle control and coordination.  When the Scottie rests, he quickly recovers as if nothing had occurred. It is present from birth, but often takes the eye of an experienced breeder to detect. It is a permanent condition but does not worsen with age. Affected dogs are normal at rest but as the animals level of stress increases his gait begins to change. The forelegs move out to the side and forward rather than straight forward, called winging. The spine may arch and the rear legs over flex. If the excitement continues the dog begins a goose-stepping gait, if he runs he may fall over. Severely affected dogs may find the ability to run or walk inhibited, this is not a seizure. There is no loss of consciousness. In layman’s terms, the signal from the brain to his various muscles are not transmitting correctly. His muscles are not cramping and he does not feel any pain. He temporarily looses his coordination in his movements.


Cranio-Mandibular osteopathy is an inherited disorder causing abnormal bone growth of the bone of the lower jaw. This is primarily a problem of the West Highland White Terrier, Cairn Terrier and Scottish Terrier. It occurs in young dogs of 4 months and older. They usually present with difficulty in eating or pain on handling the skull. It is quite common to find the affected cases have an elevated temperature. The clinical diagnosis is confirmed by radiographic examination when lesions can be seen on the mandible, tympanic bulla and cranial vault. Treatment is conservative using anti- inflammatory drugs to control the discomfort. The condition can be episodic but providing the dogs are satisfactory at 12 months they are likely to remain so for the rest of their lives.

Cushings Disease

Cushing’s  Disease : ( Hyperadrenocorticism) This disease is caused by an excess of the hormone called cortisol. There are three main causes, a tumour on the pituitary gland or on the Adrenal gland or over prescribed corticosteroids to treat skin problems. Your Scottie should be checked if he is drinking large amounts of water and urinating frequently, losing coat, his muscles are losing muscle tone and he develops a pot belly. To diagnose Cushings, the method is to perform a complete blood count and chemistry panel. If the liver enzymes and the cholesterol levels are elevated these results along with clinical signs indicate Cushings.


In recent times there are increased reports of seizures in Scottish Terriers, as in many other breeds. While some of the increase may be due to environment, epilepsy has definitely increased in the gene pool of Scottish Terriers. These seizures can be caused by low blood sugar, heat stroke, poison (as before in the dog eating poisonous plants ), brain tumour or nutritional deficiency.

If the cause is unknown it is called Idiopathic Epilepsy. This is characterised by recurring seizures with no apparent cause. This type of epilepsy is not usually seen until a dog is over 6 months of age and up to the age of 5 years. The treatment if required is usually Phenobarbitol. Dilantin or sometimes Primidone. Dogs who have infrequent seizures don’t require any treatment.

The seizure is a transitory disturbance of the brain function and is the clinical manifestation of a paroxysmal cerebral disorder. Acquired epilepsy may result in onset of seizures at any age. Seizures may not occur for as long as four years after the initial cerebral insult that resulted in development of a seizure focus.

Your New Scottish Terrier Puppy. 


When you pick your puppy up at 8 weeks he will have been vaccinated at 6 weeks and wormed every 2 weeks. You will need to have him vaccinated at 12 weeks and 16 weeks with C5 to ensure he does not become a victim of distemper, hepatitis, parvovirus or kennel cough. You will also need to worm him every 2 weeks till he is 3 months then monthly till he is 6 months old. Then it becomes three monthly. Ask your breeder what they have been using to worm the puppies.

In New South Wales, the puppies must also be Microchipped before leaving the breeder.  


So you have bought a Scottish Terrier puppy and you are bringing it into a new home away from its mother and litter mates. What an exciting time for you and the puppy, a new family member to make welcome, safe and secure in the love of a new family.

Remember when the puppy comes home he is very small and uneducated compared to an adult Scottish Terrier and he can fit into places adult Scotties can’t. He is also teething and babies are very mouthy at this age. Every thing goes into his mouth, so he is not selective, I mean everything. So I am going to put into point form things to watch for, from my own experience.

1     Make sure he has a safe and secure place to sleep as he will sleep a lot in the first few weeks.  Especially if he is going into a home with children he needs a place where he knows he is safe with a few of his toys and a comfortable bed and a bowl of fresh drinking water. Some people have a playpen for a few months,  which is very useful as you can take it anywhere and keep the puppy contained when necessary.

2       Children should only be with the puppy under adult supervision especially if friends are visiting as they all get very excited and puppies are wriggly little things and easily dropped. So if children nurse the puppy it is best they are sitting on the ground as if they drop the puppy it does not have far to fall. Children need to be taught to be gentle and respect the puppy’s space.

3       Make sure all electrical cords are out of harm’s way. I once had a puppy chew through an electric cord on a fan. They are so quick and quiet when they are into mischief. (similar to children ).

4       Make sure all poisons are out of puppy’s reach. Snail pellets for example are very attractive to puppies and lethal. If they follow you into the shed be aware of what is being stored in there. A trap for the unwary is lead poisoning, so if you are renovating an old home and have old paint being sanded before repainting make sure puppy is out of harms way, remembering it can be in the ground if you are doing an exterior. ( your own health could suffer also) Cockroach baits under fridges and in cupboards is another, they can squeeze into places that will amaze you!

5       If you have a swimming pool remember even if it has a fence small puppies can often fit in between the fencing or under it. Drowning is the most silent of deaths and very quick. I believe there is an alarm on the market now that emits a high pitch alarm if puppy falls in the pool, however prevention is better than cure. Ornamental ponds present the same problem.  A puppy purchased from me,  drowned at 16 weeks the day before his final shots were due in the neighbours fish pond. Which brings me to the point of checking all the boundaries of the yard the puppy will be in to make sure its secure and there are no little places a small puppy could escape from, not forgetting digging under the fence unlikely as it may be.

6       Look at the plants in the back yard where the puppy will be running and make sure you do not have any poisonous plants where puppy can chew them. They will grow out of this fairly quickly but you need to be aware of this trap. I once heard of a puppy that was suffering from epilepsy and the cause was a plant he was chewing in the back yard. When the plant was removed he regained his health.

7       One trap often overlooked especially these days, with landscaping lending itself to natural bush settings and the use of small rocks or gravel becoming popular, is the puppy chewing and swallowing rocks. Needless to say this can cause problems even death they usually grow out of this but just as a toddler they are exploring their new environment and trying everything out.

8       Finally, make sure the toys you buy for the puppy to play with are safe toys. That there are no small pieces they can chew off and swallow. Squeakers can be dislodged and swallowed so pups should be supervised when they play with them. Plastic toys that become chewed should be thrown away before puppies can eat the crumbling plastic. The vet usually stocks some safe strong sturdy toys.


Author Maxine Drew

Clanscot Kennels, Queensland 


If you want to know more about Scottie health, the Scottish Terrier Club of America has a great site at

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