The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier is basically a healthy dog. Given proper care and nourishment, he should live a long and active life. The average life expectancy is 12-15 years.
The SCWTCA Code of Ethics requires that the breeder supply new owners with the puppy's health records and instructions for routine health care. Some Wheatens will also have to be seen by veterinarians for non-routine care. Generally, the reasons for such care are not serious or life-threatening. But there are some unusual conditions which may afflict Wheatens, and it is important for potential Wheaten owners and their veterinarians to be aware of them.
A general health survey of the breed was conducted in 1991 by Drs. Theresa Fossum and Margaret Slater of Texas A&M University. 335 dogs were surveyed. 93% (313) of all owners reported that, overall, their dog's health was good. 119 dogs (35%) were seen by veterinarians for non-routine health care. The most common reasons for seeking veterinary care were diarrhea (24 dogs, 12 of which also had vomiting), skin problems (15), cancer (11), teeth and throat problems (9), and musculoskeletal problems (9).
Possible Genetic ProblemsAll breeds of dogs are susceptible to inherited disease. Two genetically-transmitted conditions which have been observed in Wheatens are protein-losing nephropathy (PLN) and protein-losing enteropathy (PLE). PLN involves the loss of protein through the kidneys; in the 1991 survey, there were 2 definite and 3 possible cases of PLN. PLE involves the loss of protein through the intestinal tract; the survey found 4 definite and 5 possible cases of PLE. Symptoms of PLN and PLE include weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea and ascites; diagnosis is complex and should be made in consultation with a specialist. These conditions are serious and often fatal; treatment should follow a specialist's recommendations. PLN and PLE are sometimes seen in the same dog, and most researchers believe the two conditions are related.
Renal dysplasia (RD) has been a problem among Wheatens in some European countries, and there have been cases of the disease in the U.S. RD involves congenital malformation or abnormal development of the kidneys, it is generally seen before 2 years of age. Symptoms include polydipsia and polyuria. No cases of RD were reported in the 1991 survey.
Other genetic diseases which may be seen in Wheatens are canine hip dysplasia (CHD)) and progressive retinal atrophy (PRA). No cases of CHD or PRA were reported in the survey.
Health ResearchThe Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America sponsors research on PLN, PLE and RD at three veterinary schools: North Carolina State University, the University of Pennsylvania,and Texas A&M University. Research projects include clinical and genetic studies, test breedings, histopathology and epidemiology. Consultations on diagnosis and treatment are available to veterinarians. For more information please contact the SCWTCA Health Coordinator.
BreedingThe SCWTCA Code of Ethics forbids the breeding of any dog with a known genetic defect. However, the genetic mode of inheritance of PLN, PLE and RD is unknown, and it is impossible at present to identify which dogs will be affected or be carriers of the diseases. The SCWTCA Health Committee recommends that close relatives of dogs affected with PLN, PLE or RD not be bred and that excessive in-breeding be avoided. The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Open Registry has been established to provide medical and genetic information to breeders.
Health TestingThe SCWTCA Code of Ethics requires that all breeding stock be X-rayed for signs of hip dysplasia and certified clear by the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA). It also requires that eyes be tested and found clear of disease by a Board Certified Veterinary Opthamologist (ACVO); this test should be repeated every two years. The Code of Ethics further requires all breeding stock to be tested and found clear of Brucellosis and other communicable disease.
Blood and urine tests (Chemscreen, CBC, Urine protein/creatinine ratio, Urinalysis) cannot identify carriers or predict whether a dog will develop PLN or PLE. But such tests can determine whether or not a dog is now clear of signs of disease and establish baseline values for future comparison. Thus, the SCWTCA Health Committee recommends that all breeding stock have blood and urine tested annually for signs of PLN or PLE and that stud dog owners require current test results on incoming bitches. It further recommends that dogs not used for breeding should have blood and urine screened at regular intervals.
Spaying/NeuteringSCWTCA strongly believes that all dogs not used for breeding should be spayed or neutered. This procedure is an essential part of responsible pet ownership. It will ensure that your Wheaten does not contribute to the tragic overpopulation of dogs in this country. It will also help reduce certain behavior problems and will eliminate the risk of some diseases. There is no truth to the myths that bitches should experience one heat cycle or have one litter before being spayed. It is also untrue that spaying or neutering will cause weight gain.
This report has been prepared by the Health Committee of the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America, Inc. as a guide for prospective Wheaten owners. It is not intended to be a complete discussion of health problems in the breed.