westie dog at beach

West Highland White Terrier

A Complete Breed Guide for Westie Dogs

Last Updated September 2023

This article is written by Pet Circle veterinarian, Dr Maree Monaghan, BVSc (Hons)

The West Highland White Terrier or "Westie" is a well known and much loved pet. You may be familiar with Imelda - the gorgeous Westie who is the pin up girl for My Dog pet food. West Highland White Terriers stand out from the crowd with their shaggy white coat, dark intelligent eyes and endearing nature.


Facts about the Westie



Diet and Nutrition

Health Problems

Related Breeds

Further Reading

Facts about the West Highland White Terrier

west highland white terrier waiting
west highland white terrier looking out window
west highland white terrier in sunshine
Breed size: Place of origin: Other names:
Small Scotland Westie
Breed group: Energy level: Weight range:
Terrier Moderate 7 - 10kg
Life expectancy: Tendency to bark: Height range:
13 - 15 years Moderate 25 - 28cm at the shoulder
Drool factor: Coat length: Colours:
Low Medium White
Shedding factor: Overall grooming needs: Social needs:
Moderate Moderate High

Do West Highland White Terriers shed?

West Highland White Terriers have a double coat. The outer coat consists of harsh straight hair, about 5 cm long and the undercoat which is short and soft. This type of coat does not tend to shed a lot of hair and most Westies will stay tidy with a good brush once a week. Some Westies will require trimming around their eyes and muzzle with a pair of round nosed scissors if the hair becomes too long. Unless a Westie has a skin problem, it should not be washed too frequently as this may remove the natural oils from its coat.

How much do West Highland White Terriers cost?

The cost of a West Highland White Terrier will vary widely based on where the puppy comes from and pedigree of the parents. For a pedigree puppy, you can expect to pay between $4,000 and $6,000.

Are West Highland White Terriers good pets?

Westies make wonderful companions as they are intensely loyal and will easily adapt to a variety of different environments. They are an intelligent and independent breed and may appear to be a little stubborn, however patient and consistent training from an early age will ensure they become a happy and obedient member of your family for life.

Are West Highland White Terriers hypoallergenic?

West Highland White Terriers are a low shedding breed, however they are not considered to be hypoallergenic.

How long do West Highland White Terriers live?

The average life expectancy of West Highland White Terriers is 13 to 15 years

Do West Highland White Terriers bark?

West Highland White Terriers are an expressive breed and may bark excessively if their needs are not being met. Boredom and loneliness are common reasons for Westies to bark excessively. If you need to leave your Westie alone for long periods of time, it is best to provide them with some interactive toys to keep them amused. For more tips, take a read through Boredom Busters for Dogs.

How much do West Highland White Terriers weigh?

The average weight for a Westie ranges from 7 - 10 kg.

How do I know which Westie breeder to choose?

The golden rule when purchasing a puppy or dog is to do your research. Never purchase a puppy without inspecting the breeder's premises and asking them the 10 Breeder Checklist Questions. Responsible breeders are proud to show prospective parents their kennels and will have tested their breeding stock for inheritable diseases. If you are looking for an adult Westie, you may be able to adopt one through a shelter or rescue organisation.

West Highland White Terrier History

As their name suggests, the West Highland White Terrier has its origins in the rugged West Highlands of Scotland. Many different types of terriers were bred throughout the United Kingdom to rid farms and the surrounding countryside of rodents, foxes and other small mammals. The Malcolm Clan of Poltalloch Estate in Scotland is credited with selectively breeding only white terriers in the 1700's to help distinguish them from their prey. This led to these white terriers being known as Poltalloch Terriers. The Duke of Argyll was a strong supporter of these white terriers and they were also known as Roseneath Terriers after his estate in Scotland. The name, West Highland White Terrier, was adopted around 1900 when these dogs started to appear at dog shows.

West Highland White Terrier Personality

west highland white standing up on back legs

With their irresistible good looks and constantly wagging, carrot shaped tail, it is no wonder these Terriers are extremely popular pets throughout the world. Don't let their charming exterior fool you though as Westies are true terriers and are active, courageous and independent hunting dogs. They can be prone to chase anything that moves, bark at everything that moves and excavate your lovely garden. These traits can be easily managed by consistent and appropriate training from a young age. Ensuring your Westie has enough exercise and environmental enrichment to stop them getting bored will curb these undesirable traits. West Highland White Terriers love attention and being part of the family, although they may become over aroused by the quick movements of very small children. Like all dogs, must be supervised around small children and pets.

West Highland White Terrier Diet and Nutrition

west highland white terrier on lead looking at water

West Highland White Terrier Puppies

Like all small breed puppies, Westies pups require a premium, complete and balanced diet. They mature early and have a short, intense growth period when compared to medium and large breed pups.

Best Food for West Highland White Terrier Puppies

Our Vet Squad recommends the following premium diets for Westie puppies as they provide all the essential nutrients to ensure your pup will thrive. Premium diets contain consistent, highly digestible ingredients and often contain additional beneficial ingredients such as omega fatty acids and antioxidants for skin, coat and immune health.

Shop All Small Breed Puppy Food Now

Bringing your new West Highland White Terrier puppy home

The arrival of a new puppy in the home is an exciting time although it can be a little overwhelming for your new pup. Socialisation in the first 12 weeks of a puppy's life is crucial to ensure they become a confident and well-behaved adult. Exposing them in a positive way to new people, animals, environments, sounds and situations will help to prevent fear and anxiety in later life. We recommend puppy preschools as a great way to introduce these new things in a safe way.

These first few weeks will also involve organising your puppy's vaccinations, parasite control, toilet training and crate training. For detailed tips and advice in these areas and more, take a look through our New Puppy Guide. Our Puppy Training Guide will give you the information you need to combat any undesirable behaviours like digging and chewing.

Best foods for Adult West Highland White Terriers

Westies are prone to skin allergies, so we recommend feeding a premium diet with high levels of omega fatty acids to support skin barrier function. Topical products such as Aloveen Leave in Conditioner can help to keep the skin and hair coat nourished and in top condition.

Advance Adult Terriers Ocean Fish

Made with fish as the protein source, this super premium, Australian made, dry dog food is complete and balanced to support the unique nutritional requirements of small Terrier breeds.

Hills Science Diet Small Paws

This premium dry food contains an exclusive blend of omega 6 fatty acids, vitamin E and other nutrients to support healthy skin and a shiny coat as well as optimal levels of calcium and high quality proteins to support bone and muscle strength.

Royal Canin Mini Dermacomfort

Royal Canin Mini Dermacomfort is enriched with an exclusive nutrient complex that helps to support the skin's barrier role, as well as omega 3 and 6 fatty acids widely known to promote healthy skin and a shiny coat.

West Highland White Terrier Health Problems

west highland white terrier lying on grass in sunshine

Westies are a generally hardy breed however, they can suffer from a number of inherited conditions and other diseases.


The most common health concern seen in West Highland White Terriers is skin problems. Westies have a high incidence of skin allergies and atopic dermatitis which need to be managed throughout their lifetime. Treatments include medication, special diets and desensitisation injections.

Ear Infections

Skin allergies frequently lead to ear infections because the lining of the ear canals is the same as the skin on the body. In the warm, moist environment of the ear canal bacteria, fungus and yeast can overgrow causing painful infections. Ear infections require tests to determine which pathogens are causing the disease and to decide which antibiotics and/or antifungal medications are appropriate for treating the infection.

White Dog Shaker Syndrome

This condition is seen most commonly in small-breed white dogs like the West Highland White Terrier. It causes full body tremors which usually start suddenly at one to two years of age. These tremors can be made worse by stress or excitement. The exact cause is unknown however, it may be due to a problem with the immune system. The good news is that this condition can be treated and most dogs' tremors stop within one to two weeks of beginning treatment although the treatment needs to be continued for life.

Craniomandibular Osteopathy (Westie Jaw)

This is an inherited disease in West Highland White Terriers and, unfortunately, there is no test to identify dogs that carry the gene responsible. Conscientious breeders are aware of this problem and will not breed dogs that are suspected to have this condition in their bloodline. Craniomandibular Osteopathy causes the bones of the skull, particularly the lower jaw, to overgrow. The first sign of this is often a pup that is a messy eater due to being unable to open and close their mouth properly. The overgrowth of the bone occurs on and off during the dog's first year of life and then slows down or stops completely. There is no cure for this condition and treatment consists of providing relief for the pain and swelling.

Cruciate Disease

Cruciate ligaments are responsible for keeping the knee joint (the 'stifle') stable, and problems with these ligaments are very common in most breeds of dogs. Westies are one of the breeds that is more likely to suffer from rupture of the cranial cruciate ligament and it is thought there may be a genetic component to this. When the cruciate ligament breaks, the dog will suddenly become lame on the affected hindleg and may not want to carry weight on it at all and the knee may become swollen. Cruciate ligament rupture can be managed in some small dogs without the need for surgery, however, in the majority of cases, surgery is required to stop the pain and decrease the instability of the knee joint. Injury to the cruciate ligament will predispose to arthritis in the affected joint.

Canine Idiopathic Pulmonary Lung Disease (Westie Lung)

This lung disease occurs in middle aged to senior Westies and the symptoms of decreased ability to exercise, rapid and/or laboured breathing and coughing are often put down to old age. Affected dog's lungs gradually become thickened (fibrosed) which results in a decreased amount of oxygen in the blood. Diagnosis of this disease is usually made by clinical signs, abnormal lung sounds, measurement of the oxygen and carbon dioxide levels in the blood and chest X-rays. Sadly there is no cure for this disease and treatment with medications to reduce inflammation, dilate the airways and clear mucus from the lungs is aimed at making breathing easier for affected dogs. Recently research has been undertaken to determine if there is a genetic cause for this disease and hopefully develop a test to screen dogs for Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis.

Related Breeds

Westies are part of the Terrier group of dogs, along with breeds such as the Cairn Terrier, Scottish Terrier and the Skye Terrier.

Cairn Terrier

The Cairn Terrier also originated in Scotland and is recognized as one of Scotland's earliest working dogs. The name Cairn comes from the word for a pile of rocks that were often used as road markers or memorials. Rats, mice and other small mammals that used these cairns as shelters were flushed out by these feisty little terriers. A female Cairn Terrier called Terry went on to become famous as Dorothy’s faithful companion Toto in the movie The Wizard of Oz.

Scottish Terrier

The Scottish Terrier has an unmistakable appearance with its pointed ears, shaggy eyebrows and impressive beard. They are well known for being a playing piece in the board game Monopoly and for gracing the necks of Black and White Whiskey bottles with their cousin the Westie. Most people are familiar with black Scotties, however they also come in wheaten and various shades of brindle. They are a reserved and dignified little dog that is intensely loyal and faithful to their family.

Skye Terrier

One of the least well known of Scotland's terriers is the Skye Terrier which originated on the remote Isle of Skye. These terriers are twice as long as they are high and usually have distinctive "bat wing" style ears although they can also have drop ears. Like most terriers, they have a double coat with a short woolly undercoat, however, their topcoat is long and lies flat.

Dandie Dinmont Terrier

This diminutive terrier is also much longer than it is high and sports an adorable silky topknot of hair on the top of their head. The Dandie Dinmont is named after a character in Sir Walter Scott's novel "Guy Mannering" and was virtually unknown outside the Scottish Borders until this book was published. The numbers of Dandie Dinmonts has sadly declined and, in 2006, the breed was named as one of the rarest dog breeds native to the British Isles.

Further Reading

dog paws on open book

Complete Beginner's Guide To Puppy Care

How To Spot A Good Pet Food

Does Your Dog Have a Food Allergy?

What's in Your Pet's Food?

How to read the label on a bag of pet food

Shop All Dog Supplies Now


Australian National Kennel Council Limited, Breed Standard West Highland White Terrier

Davies Veterinary Specialist UK Fact Sheet Cranial Cruciate Ligament Failure

Corcoran, B MVB, Dip Pharm, PhD, MRCVS: Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis of the West Highland White Terrier, World Small Animal Veterinary Association World Congress Proceedings, 2004