Lovingly referred to as “Westies,” West Highland White Terriers are miniature bundles of boundless energy, loyalty, and intelligence. If you’re thinking of adding one of these irresistible plush toy-looking fur babies to your family, you may be wondering about their life expectancy. In general, Westies live for 13-15 years.
In this article, we cover the average lifespan of a Westie, including the different factors that can affect not just their life expectancy, but also their quality of life.
What’s the Average Lifespan of a West Highland White Terrier?
On average, Westies live for between 13 and 15 years. Statistically, male Westies live slightly longer than females, on average. Factors such as health issues, diet, and genetics can all play a role in a Westie’s life expectancy.
As with all pets, some—unfortunately—die younger, while others live for many years past their life expectancy. Some Westies are known to have lived for over 20 years.
According to a study conducted in 2019, lower respiratory tract disease and cancer were the most common cause of death in Westies in the UK 1.
Why Do Some Westies Live Longer Than Others?
Some factors, such as your dog’s diet and overall lifestyle, can—and should—be tailored to give them the healthiest and longest life possible, but West Highland White Terriers are susceptible to various health conditions, too.
There’s no way to determine how long exactly a Westie will live, but understanding the factors that can affect their lifespan should help you give them care that’s conducive to a happy, long life.
Good nutrition and a suitable diet are paramount to your Westie’s health, and therefore a long life. This breed is prone to obesity, so it’s important to stick to an adequate diet of high-quality dog food, and to avoid over-feeding on snacks and treats.
Obesity will put extra pressure on your Westie’s joints, as well as their heart. It often contributes to the worsening of metabolic and digestive disorders, as well as back problems, and heart disease.
Another factor to keep in mind is that Westies are predisposed to allergies, and some foods can worsen their condition. Hypoallergenic diets, grain-free foods, and foods that contain natural meat proteins may be good options for your Westie.
Remember, all dogs are individuals. If you have any questions about your Westie’s diet or nutrition, your vet should be able to help you plan a diet that’s specifically tailored to your pet.
2. Environment and Conditions
Like all dogs, West Highland Terriers need a safe, hygienic, and welcoming environment where they can thrive. An unhygienic home may cause your dog to get sick.
Your Westie, especially while they are still a puppy, may search all corners of your home out of pure curiosity, therefore it’s important to lock away household cleaning chemicals and toxic plants, hide away wires and cables, and keep any other potential household dangers away from them.
As a Terrier breed, Westies have a strong hunting instinct. If you’re taking them out, remember to keep your pet on a leash to stop them from hurling toward any squirrels or small, moving objects. Aside from keeping your environment safe, doing so can help to keep your beloved pet safe from accidentally running out into a road or other unforeseen danger.
According to a study carried out by the Royal Veterinary College, the average lifespan of a male Westie is 13.8 years.2 This is slightly longer than the average lifespan of a female Westie, which is 12.9 years.
This is in line with some other breeds where male dogs slightly outlive females.3 A more significant factor in lifespans, however, is whether your dog has been neutered or spayed.
Fixed dogs tend to have a longer lifespan than those that have not been neutered or spayed. A University of Georgia study found that neutered male dogs had a 13.8% longer life expectancy, while spayed female dogs’ lifespan was prolonged by 26.3%.4
Westies can be prone to several health conditions that are passed on genetically. The following diseases are common for this breed:
- Atopic Dermatitis
- Arthritis (usually in a knee)
- Hip dysplasia
- Pulmonary fibrosis
Epidermal dysplasia, also known as Westie Armadillo Syndrome, is a rare disease that Westies can sometimes inherit.
The National Breed Club recommends various health screenings for breeders of Westies, including a patella evaluation, hip evaluation, and ophthalmologist evaluation.
A West Highland White Terrier that receives excellent overall healthcare will have a stronger chance of living up to, or beyond, their life expectancy.
Vital vaccinations and boosters can prevent your Westie from catching nasty diseases including:
Getting your puppy spayed or neutered will also prolong their life, and good dental and oral hygiene will help to prevent periodontal disease.
Finally, regular check-ups with a vet will ensure that if any health issues do crop up, they can be identified and treated quickly.
The 3 Life Stages of a West Highland White Terrier
Unless you’re adopting an older Westie, you’ll probably meet your pet while they’re still a puppy. Westies are considered puppies up until they are around 6–9 months old.
This is a very important time in your dog’s life. They’ll begin to socialize, be house-trained, can be taught tricks, good behavior, impulse control, and simple commands.
By the time they are 1 year old, your Westie should have a good handle on expected behavior, and they’ll spend the next couple of years perfecting commands such as “sit,” “down,” and “stay.”
When your Westie reaches the age of 10, they’ll be considered a senior dog. At this age, your Westie may not be as energetic as they once were. They’ll need a diet that’s tailored to their age, and they may suffer from problems such as weakening eyesight and joint pain.
How to Tell Your West Highland Terrier’s Age
If you don’t know your dog’s age, there are a couple of signs that you can look out for to help you determine what stage of their life they may be at. A vet should be able to help by giving you a closer estimation.
Check Your Dog’s Teeth
The first way to check any dog’s age is by looking into its mouth. If your dog is younger than 6 months, it may not have all its adult teeth, yet.
Tartar and teeth staining generally build up over the years, and this can be a sign of an aging dog. However, if your dog’s teeth have been well looked after, this method might not be the most accurate.
As your Westie gets older, they’ll be less energetic than they once were. Older dogs tend to be slower to react and stiffer in their movements. If your dog has eyesight problems, this may also point to an advanced age.
West Highland White Terriers have an average lifespan of 13 to 15 years, with male Westies living slightly longer on average than females. Good healthcare and neutering or spaying will contribute to a longer life expectancy, while some inherited diseases and a bad diet can lead to sickness, and therefore a shorter lifespan.
If you’re the proud parent of a Westie, you can help them live a happy and full life by providing them with a clean, warm, and safe environment to live in, plenty of fresh water, and the correct amount of good-quality dog food. Take your pet for regular check-ups with your vet, and make sure they get all the love they deserve!
- How to Train a Westie: 6 Expert Tips and Advice
- 12 Common Westie Health Issues To Watch For (Vet Answer)