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All new owners wish to buy a healthy, good-natured puppy. This should also be the main consideration of all breeders when planning a litter.

In Great Britain the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier is essentially a healthy and robust dog. In an effort to maintain this situation, the committee of the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of Great Britain encourages health testing of adults and puppies in the following testing schemes in order to achieve this aim.  

• Testing of eyes to check for PRA, retinal dysplasia and any other inherited eye disease.

• Testing of blood and urine to check for normal kidney function.

• In some lines, hearing tests are recommended..

• X-raying hips to check for hip dysplasia. The plates must be sent to the KC/BVA testing scheme to have the various points of the hip joints assessed and scored. 

Eye Testing
Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA)

PRA is an inherited condition which is present in many breeds. It is a progressive blindness which can develop at any age and thus is not necessarily evident in young dogs.

Testing of Wheatens began in 1978 and the Club holds testing sessions occasionally at fun days. So far in this country, there has only been one suspected case reported in an elderly dog in 1985. 

Retinal dysplasia (Retinal folds)

Retinal folds were first identified in the breed in 1994. These minute folds will not at any time impair the sight of the dog. Puppies must be tested before they leave the breeder (6-8) weeks as these folds often disappear as the puppy grows.

In some breeds, continued breeding from those identified with folds has led to further problems including detached retinas, etc. So as a precaution, it is advised that any puppy found to have folds should not be bred from. Breeders should ensure that such puppies are sold to pet homes.

For more detailed information on these two eye problems: click here

Regular testing as a pup, at age 5 and again at 8+ is recommended by the BVA eye panel to identify early development of any of the other eye problems found in dogs.

Blood Testing for normal kidney function

Renal dysplasia (RD)
In the 1960s a number of puppies and adult Wheatens died from kidney problems. Research into the problem at both Liverpool and Glasgow University Veterinary Schools established that this was a specific inherited kidney disease (renal dysplasia). 

New bloodlines have widened the genetic pool and careful selective breeding has meant that reports of RD are now rare. However breeders need to be aware that the gene responsible will still be in our bloodlines or brought in from other countries. 

As RD is a malformation of the kidney, this can be detected by a blood test as early as 7 weeks of age. Many breeders blood test their puppies just before these go to their new homes to ensure kidneys are working properly at that time. 

Blood testing of breeding stock to check for normal kidney function is required by the Club in order for a breeder use our ‘Puppies Available' list. 

Protein losing nephropathy (PLN) & protein losing enteropathy (PLE) 

PLN and PLE are serious health problems that are being increasingly seen in Wheatens around the world. PLE affects the gut and PLN the kidneys. The protein losing diseases, unlike renal dysplasia (RD), are not identifiable from birth, but are problems that develop later in a dog’s life. 

What triggers the onset is not yet fully understood. Research is being carried out in the US and there has been a breakthrough with the discovery of a predisposing gene for PLN which is very encouraging, though possibly not the whole answer. 

A small number of Wheatens in the mid ‘90s were identified with varying degrees of deafness. The Club established contact with specialists in the field and details of affected dogs were published. It appears to be an inherited problem traced back to one particular stud dog. With breeders’ awareness of the problem, there have been no further problems to date.

The hip dysplasia X-raying scheme is open to all breeds. Results from nearly 600 hundred Wheatens show that whilst hip dysplasia is present to a small degree, so far there are only a few cases of clinically affected dogs. For the future, continued X-raying of as many Wheatens as possible (particularly breeding stock) together with selective and sensible breeding should continue to keep the incidence of hip dysplasia in the breed to a minimum. 

For more information on hip dysplasia click here

We should make it clear that the Wheaten is essentially a healthy dog in this country. All of the above is advocated to ensure that it stays this way.