Scottish Terrier Health Issues


The Scottish Terrier is afflicted with a few heritable disorders of varying severity. Unfortunately, there is a blood test for only one of these. Responsible breeders do everything they can to reduce and eliminate these disorders from their breeding stock, but genes can re-combine in unexpected ways, even the best laid plans can go awry.


von Willebrand's Disease


The most serious life threatening disorder is a bleeding/clotting disorder called von Willebrand's Disease (vWD). For a Scottie to be a bleeder (i.e., have abnormally long, perhaps life-threatening non-clotting times), both parents must be carriers of the genetic disorder. About 5 percent of all Scotties are afflicted with this disorder. Until recently, there was no definitive test for this life-threatening disease. In 1996, a team of researchers at Michigan State University developed a definitive genetic test for Type III vWD in Scottish Terriers. ALL scotties that are to be bred MUST BE TESTED for this disorder to ensure that no carriers or affecteds be bred to anything other than a dog that has tested clear. If two clear dogs are bred together, it is a certainty (barring an individual random mutation) that the puppies will all be clear as well. All puppy buyers should demand to see the test results on the parents of the puppies they consider buying.


The test for vWD is non invasive and painless. DNA samples are collected using a soft brush on the inside of the cheek of the dog. The results of the test place the dog in one of three categories: clear, carrier, or affected. The test is 100% accurate. The tests are available only from VetGen, a spin-off organization of the MSU and University of Michigan. The cost is $135 per dog, and $5 for the sample collection kit. For an additional $15, the results can be registered with the OFA, who are administering a vWD registry for VetGen, 800-4-VETGEN.

Scottie Cramp


Scottish Terriers are affected with an inherited neurological disorder, commonly referred to as Scotty Cramp. It is not painful for the dog, but afflicted animals should not be bred. This disorder is characterized by occasional episodes of increased muscular cramping in which the dog has difficulty walking or standing. Scottish Terriers with cramp have no unusual health problems and live a normal life span. Given this, cramp is not as bad of an ailment as some other genetic disorders. Still, dogs displaying cramp should not be bred. Although Scottie Cramp is a permanent condition, it does not worsen with age. The vast majority of dogs affected with Scottie Cramp make perfectly wonderful companions, able to share virtually all activities with their families. Most do not need medication. However, owners may wish to limit exercise to below the threshold level for an incident of cramp.


While the disorder may arise as early as 6-8 weeks of age, it usually is not noticeable until an older age (6 months to a year. In mild cases, the dog learns to compensate for this cramping, making it extremely difficult for even experienced breeders or veterinarians to spot the disorder. Scotty cramp is an autosomal recessive inherited trait which affects males and females equally. Both the sire and dam must carry the gene in order for it to be transmitted to puppies. Not all puppies in a litter will exhibit signs of the disorder. Not all will be carriers. Some researchers believe that Scotty Cramp is also linked to desirable traits because some of the best (in appearance) Scotties have in the past exhibited the trait in mild forms. As a result, they believe it may be difficult to eliminate the disorder from our Scots without changing the appearance and temperament of the dog we all love. Some researchers estimate that all lines carry Scotty cramp and that as much as 90% of all Scotties are carriers.


Should your dog have cramp, you can minimize incidents by keeping the dog in a calm environment. Dogs with mild cramp need no other treatment. If severe cramping occurs, diazepam (valium) at .5 to 1.0 will diminish the effects. Additionally, Vitamin E at 125 IU/kg (1000 IU/Scottish Terrier) each day or by given .5 to 1.5 mg/kg of diazepam every 8 hours. A possible new treatment involves the use of serontonin-blockers (e.g. Prozac or zoloft). Check with your veterinarian regarding these drugs which have been shown effective for several types of behavioral disorders.

Canine Hip Dysplasia


Scotties like other dwarf-legged breeds can also have Canine Hip Dysplasia. Dysplasia literally means bad development. The hip joint of the dog is typically reported as normal at birth. After birth, something (genetic or environmental) initiates a bad fit between the socket (acetabulum) and the ball (head of the femur). Current thinking is that hip dysplasia is an inherited polygenetic (multiple genes) disorder. While it is possible to pick up the signs earlier, Dysplasia is usually observable between 15 and 35 months of age. In dysplastic dogs, the hip joint is weakened and is more subject to injury by normal activity such as jumping off a couch and rough housing with a playmate. The dog will often appear lame or have a hitch in its movement.

Subluxated Patella (Slipping Stifles)


As a child, many of us learned to "pop" our knuckles. Slipping stifles is similar. The stifle joint in the leg moves or pops in and out of place. When this occurs in a mild form, the dog appears to hop or have a hitch in his movement. In more severe cases it can as debilitating as any other dislocated bone. One way to check for slipping stifles is to place your Scottie on a table and carefully pulling the rear legs straight back. By placing your hand near the stifle joint (the knee in layman's terms), you can feel the joint move in and out of correct placement. A diagnosis can be confirmed with an x-ray.



This ailment usually manifests itself in young puppies around 7 months of age (the growth period). The dog will be playing vigorously when it turns and yelps and the problem begins. Like hip dysplasia, genetic factors as well as environmental factors are associated with this ailment. Some researchers believe that it is due to premature closure of the growth plates that results in a collapse of the femoral head. But the majority of researchers contend that since the growth plates are cartilage and blood supply can not travel through cartilage. Therefore, blood supply to the femoral head before 7 to 8 months of age is from the round ligament that crosses the joint space to the femoral head. Once the growth plate has closed, then blood travels through the femur head. thus, it is generally felt that the compromised blood supply through the round ligament is the case for collapse of the femoral and the visual manifestations of poor movement.

Cranio-Mandibular Osteopathy. (CMO)


Cranio-Mandibular Osteopathy is a bone disease that is being seeing more frequently in Scotties. It involves abnormal growth of the bone in the jaw of the afflicted puppy. CMO can be very painful. In severe cases, the puppy is unable to open its jaw at all and may die from malnutrition. CMO is diagnosed by X-ray. It usually appears among Scotties between 4-6 months of age. However, there are reported cases of CMO manifesting itself as late as one year of age. Treatment of the afflicted pup involves high-dose steroids and intensive nursing by the owner. Once growth has stopped, the Scottie no longer suffers any pain and can lead a normal, healthy life. However, any Scottie who has CMO or who is a carrier of CMO should be neutered or spayed. This disease is nasty and should not be perpetuated.

Other Health Issues


Many Scotties are susceptible to flea allergies and strep infections. Therefore it is extremely important to take every precaution possible to prevent a flea infestation before it begins. Of course, Scotties are just as susceptible as any other breed to viral and bacterial transmissible diseases, cancer, accident, gum disease, etc. Normal health care by a licensed veterinarian is very important to the Scot's health. There is current debate on the heritability of epilepsy, and hypothyroidism, diabetes, Cushing's Disease and other immune-mediated diseases. It seems likely that there is a genetic component to these problems, but the exact mode of inheritance is not known.