A white tornado in a dog's body, the West Highland White Terrier is a one dog variety show: playmate, clown, adventurer and sometimes, even lap dog.
The West Highland White's ancestors worked on Scottish farms, ridding the barns and countryside of rodents, fox, badger and other small mammals. At a time when most people spurned white dogs as weak, they weren't always the pick of the litter. But in the late 1800s, after the Laird of Poltalloch mistook one of his red terriers for a fox and shot it when on a hunt, he decided to breed white terriers to prevent such mistaken identity again.
The white color also made for a stylish look, and when Westies came to America they became fashionable almost immediately. They've worked as models and mascots, companions and fashion accents.
The Westie's heart is that of a adventurer. He'll tackle toys in place of varmints, and without toys, he may even tackle your prized possessions. So keep him supplied with toys---and make sure they're terrier-proof!
Very young Westie puppies should eat a puppy food designed for small dogs. When they are extremely young, they should be fed small amounts often---more than larger dogs---because tiny puppies can't store glucose efficiently. They can develop hypoglycemia if they are active and have gone without food for too long. Puppy food for small dogs combats hypoglycemia because it is high in protein, fat and complex carbohydrates. Because Westies aren't tiny, simply small, they quickly outgrow the danger. But many still appreciate the smaller kibble size!
Some Westies can develop knee problems. If you see your dog skipping for a step or two, he may have a condition your veterinarian needs to check. He may also eventually develop arthritic changes in his knees. To combat this, add a glucosamine-chondroitin supplement to his diet as soon as he shows any signs of hopping or lameness.
Westies are plagued with skin and coat problems. Begin your battle against them with the basics: good nutrition and good parasite control. Add fatty acids supplements and vitamins to help skin and coat health. Wash the coat regularly using a colloidial oatmeal shampoo. You may wish to spray a moisturizing spray on the coat between baths. Of course, consult your veterinarian if your Westie is still scratching. He may need a special diet or other treatment.
If your Westie's coat and skin are healthy, you may opt to use a whitening shampoo instead of an anti-itch one.
Westies may also develop ear infections, especially if they have other skin problems. Check the ears regularly for dark secretions. Apply an ear cleanser weekly. Such cleansers change the pH of the ear canal to make it less hospitable to fungus and yeast, and also have a bacteria-killing and ear drying effect. Any time you must apply ear medication, use the ear cleanser first to remove thick secretions that would block the medication from reaching the surface of the canal. But never put any cleanser or medication in a severely infected or painful ear because of the possibility of a ruptured ear drum.
Brush the teeth daily.
Clip the nails every two weeks or so using a medium-duty dog nail clipper.
Westies are perpetually young at heart, but sometimes age-related physical changes, such as arthritis, can slow them down. Besides any intervention recommended by your veterinarian, a soft cushion to lie on and glucosamine chondroitin supplements added to the diet can help soothe aching joints, and keep him as young in body as he is in spirit.