Conditions Affecting the Breed
This section provides information relating to some of the known conditions affecting the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier. Some of these conditions are hereditary, but this is by no means the case for all of them.
The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of GB have produced a Health Booklet, which provides detailed information regarding some of these conditions such as: –
* Renal Dysplasia (RD)
* Protein Losing Nephropathy (PLN)
* Protein Losing Enteropathy (PLE)
* Canine Degenerative Myelopathy (DM)
The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of GB Health Booklet also provides information on the Physiology of the Kidney, Inhertitance of Recessive Genes, Useful Contacts and Post Mortem Requirements. The Health Booklet can be downloaded in a new page, by clicking on the following link – SCWT Health Booklet
Please read the sections below for a brief overview of each of the conditions – though it is recommended that you read the Health Booklet for more detailed information on each.
You will also find information below about conditions which can effect the breed including Canine Thyroid Disease, and also issues relating to the Eyes and Hips of SCWTs.
Renal Dysplasia (RD)
Renal Dysplasia (RD) is recognised as an inherited disease in Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers.
RD is a congenital or neonatal disease, which causes mal-development of the kidneys either during the time the puppies are in the mother’s womb, or in early life.
Increased water consumption and urination, decreased appetite, vomiting, may be prone to frequent urinary infections are all symptoms of the disease. The kidneys themselves appear small when seen on an ultrasound examination.
Veterinary advice is essential. Early and appropriate treatment, as well as dietary support, can help affected animals lead a relatively normal, though shortened, life. It is important that fresh clean water should be available at all times and that the animal is not placed under any undue stress, e.g. extremes of temperature, over-excitement, excessive exertion.
Please read the more detailed information about this condition that can be found in the SCWT Health Booklet – see the link at the top of this section.
Protein Losing Diseases
There are two protein losing diseases that can affect Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers. These are Protein Losing Nephropathy (PLN) and Protein Losing Enteropathy (PLE), and these can be hereditary in Wheaten Terriers, although environmental factors can also play a part.
Annual testing is VERY IMPORTANT because if the diseases are caught in the early stages it may ensure a better outcome for your Wheaten. Unfortunately there is no cure but by continued monitoring, using drug and food management and will enable longer life.
Protein Losing Nephropathy (PLN) – can be a late onset disease and the damage to the kidney may not show until the end stages of the disease. It is a condition in which large plasma proteins are lost from the blood into the urine.
Glomerulonephritis is the general term for PLN syndrome.
This can be any of a group of infectious, inflammatory or cancerous diseases causing a reaction from the body’s immune system and the formation of immune complexes, which affect the most important components of renal tissue, glomeruli and adjacent structures.
Wheatens affected with PLN have a defect in one of the components of the glomeruli filtration mechanism in the basement membrane. This defect is a slit or hole big enough to allow large molecules such as blood proteins (e.g. albumin) to escape into the urine.
Urinalysis testing is very important as protein loss can be detected via urine, in some cases years before any changes to blood results occur.
There is a genetic test PLN-Associated Variant Gene Test. If this produces an ‘at risk’ result for your Wheaten, please refer to Testing on this website for more information.
Protein Losing Enteropathy (PLE) – Wheaten Terriers with PLE lose protein excessively into the intestine and this can represent a number of abnormalities, which result in the loss of plasma proteins from the gastrointestinal tract. The loss of the healthy mucosal layer allows the leakage of vital protein-rich fluids and is a hallmark of PLE.
Mechanisms for gastrointestinal protein loss include lymphatic obstruction, mucosal disease with erosions, or ulcerations. Malabsorption and allergies may also play a part.
At the present time, there is no genetic test for PLE, but research is ongoing.
Please read the more detailed information about these conditions that can be found in the SCWT Health Booklet – see the link that can be found at the top of this section.
Degenerative Myelopathy (DM) or Failing Back Legs – is thought to have a genetic component, although at the present time, it is not known if it is hereditary in the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier.
DM is a non-painful degenerative disease of the spinal cord which typically affects dogs over 8 years of age. Initial signs are often slight, such as muscle weakness, or trembling in a hind leg, or wear on the nails of one or both hind feet. This is followed by progressive deterioration in the dog’s ability to coordinate the use of its back legs, leading to eventual paralysis.
Weakness and atrophy in the muscles often leads to faecal and urinary incontinence: the dog cannot stand unaided to go outside and loss of sensation impairs the brain’s ability to receive the messages that the dog ‘needs to go’.
The disease will eventually progress and affect the front legs although this can take several years.
There is a Genetic Test for DM. If this produces an ‘at risk’ result, please refer to Testing on this website for more information.
Please read more detailed information about this condition that can be found in the SCWT Health Booklet – see the link that can be found at the top of this section.
On 4th October 2017, members of the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of GB Health Team attended the Kennel Club’s Breed Health Coordinators’ symposium, where DM was one of the topics being discussed. A copy of the report on this discussion topic has been produced by the Health Team, and was also reproduced in the Club’s 2017 Winter Bulletin. This report can also be downloaded at the following link – DEGENERATIVE MYELOPATHY
Eye testing is recommended, especially for breeding stock, and Breeders usually test their litter of puppies at about 6 to 8 weeks old. An eye testing certificate is current for one year.
Ophthalmic Vets perform this test. If you would like to know more about the eye tests themselves information can be found on the BVA website using the following link – BVA Eye Scheme . You will also find a list of up and coming eye testing sessions on this link. The BVA update this list every couple of months.
The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of GB occasionally hold BVA eye testing sessions at some Fun Days. (Please check the Events section of website for details of any sessions being held by the Club.) Testing sessions are also advertised by Dog Societies and Clubs and are often open to all breeds.
The following conditions have very occasionally been found in Wheaten Terriers. Therefore, breeders and owners should be constantly vigilant.
RETINAL FOLDS – The small ‘folds’ are found on the retina at about 5 weeks of age to approximately 4 months. It is important for breeders to eye test their puppies between the ages of 6 to 8 weeks. The folds can ‘flatten out’ and may not be detected later than this. It is recommended by the Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of GB that any puppy diagnosed as having ‘folds’ should not be bred from.
PERSISTENT PUPILLARY MEMBRANES (PPM) – These are remnants of a foetal structure called the pupillary membrane. This membrane covers the pupil before the puppy is born. Normally the pupillary membrane is partially present and continues to disappear as the puppy develops.
Absorption may not be complete when the puppy’s eyes first open at about 10-14 days old and a small web like structure can be seen across the pupil. This usually disappears by the time the puppy is 4-5 weeks of age. In some breeds these strands never disappear and become PPM. PPM’s seem to be insignificant in the Wheaten Terrier and do not appear to affect their eye sight.
PROGRESSIVE RETINAL ATROPHY (PRA) – is the name given to a group of hereditary retinal diseases in dogs. There are several classifications of the disease according to the age of onset of the diseases and the types of retinal pathology which occur. PRA is not painful but the loss of sight is permanent.
Wheaten Terriers have occasionally been reported with PRA. In breeds that have been investigated in sufficient detail, the mode of inheritance appears to be simple autosomal recessive.
PRA affects the retina (the ‘film’ in the camera). It occurs in both eyes simultaneously and results in the degeneration of the rod and cone cells in the retina.
Owners may notice their dog bump into objects, especially in a dimly lit room. This progresses to night blindness and usually within months, with a loss of daylight vision as well. Night blindness is first noticed because the rods (the cells which allow vision in reduced light) degenerate before the cones (the cells which allow vision in bright light). The dog will frequently have dilated pupils and the owner may notice increased shininess at the back of the eye.
Dogs with PRA can develop cataracts later as the disease progresses.
Most dogs adjust well to vision loss, they are usually happy as long as their routine is stable. It is more difficult for them if their surroundings become unfamiliar.
MICROPTHALMIA – This condition is apparent in pups once their eyes have opened. It can be mild or severe. A defect early in development results in the smaller than normal eye (microphthalmia). Affected dogs have prominent third eyelids and small eyes which appear recessed in the eye socket (enophthalmos). This is often associated with other eye abnormalities, including defects of the cornea, anterior chamber, lens and/or retina. At worse puppies can be blind, or may have cataracts which may be progressive, resulting in worsening vision.
Microphthalmia is also seen with coloboma – a cleft in a portion of the eye.
Breeding advice – Parents, normal eyed siblings, and affected dogs should not be bred from. Professor Paula Henthorn, who is the Professor of Medical Genetics at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, has put together a document for Breeders, which provides information on this condition and is designed to help with their breeding decisions. This document can be downloaded by clicking on the following link – Microphthalmia in SCWT- Information to Help You Make Breeding Decisions
Research – The Finnish Kerry Blue and Wheaten Terrier Club have published an article written by Veterinary Ophthalmologist, Marjukka Sarkanen, and have given permission to reproduce part of the text (see below). The article is in Finnish but there are images of Wheaten puppies with this condition. Click here to go to the document which will open in a new page.
This following is a translation of the document, but has the second and third pages omitted, since they mainly contain specific information on how Finnish breeders should act if they should have a litter with this problem.
From the Breeding Committee of the Finland Kerry Blue and Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier Club (www.kerryvehna.net/)
“…. Ocular anomalies and Microphthalmia found and reported in a Finnish SCWT litter. The puppies’ eyes seemed abnormal and the eyeballs small (see pictures). They were checked by an eye-specialist, who diagnosed the puppies with various ocular anomalies, e.g. microphthalmia, coloboma and PPM’s (Persistent Pupillary Membrane).
The puppies were practically blind, and had to be put to sleep. The breeder of the litter passed the information to the Breeding Committee. Blood samples taken from the sick puppies, their siblings and parents were sent to the Canine Genetic Studies group led by Prof. Hannes Lohi (www.koirangeenit.fi).
There have been rumours of similar litters in Canada, Sweden and The Netherlands. In Finland, this was the first litter brought to the attention of the Breeding Committee. In 1995, a research article published in The Netherlands reported a similar syndrome in two closely related SCWT litters (Van der Woerdt, A. Stades, F.C. Linde-Sipman, J.S van der Boeve, M.H. 1995. “Multiple ocular anomalies in two related litters of Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers” Veterinary and Comparative Ophthalmology.
The Finnish Breeding Committee strongly recommends that all puppies should have their eyes examined, even if there are no abnormalities visible…”
Your Vet may recommend visiting a Specialist Veterinary Ophthalmologist.
Further Reading about Microphthalmia can be found at http://discoveryspace.upei.ca/cidd/disorder/microphthalmia-ocular-dysgenesis
Hip Dysplasia is a term which describes developmental and other abnormalities involving the hip joint.
Genetically it is complex, and it can also be caused by environmental factors; an injury, or if a puppy is exercised too much, too soon, and allowed to run up and down stairs and jump of beds and/or furniture etc.
To perform a hip X-ray, a Vet usually anaesthetises the dog so that there is no movement during the procedure. Some Vets are now performing hip scoring using sedation rather than full anaesthetic.
In the UK, the X-ray is sent to the British Veterinary Association (BVA), where specialists examine each hip and give it a number (score). The panel meet regularly, but the score result can take up to 8-12 weeks before notification is returned to the submitting Vet.
Please note the following:
• Hip scoring is only required once in a dog’s lifetime.
• Hip scoring should only be undertaken on dogs over the age of 12 months, there is no upper age limit.
• Hip scoring should be undertaken if you are using your Wheaten Terrier for breeding.
• To check if the dog is in good health, the Vet may also undertake a blood and urine test prior to this procedure.
• If a bitch is to be scored, it is thought by many that this is best undertaken as near to the mid-point between her seasons, otherwise the change in hormone levels could possibly result in a higher score.
The minimum best score per hip is zero, the maximum is 53. This gives a total range of 0-106 for both hips. The Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier breed mean score in the UK is approximately 13.
Information for Other countries
There are different methods for scoring hips, so you need to check with your own Breed Club and/or Kennel Club for full details.
The Table below gives an approximate correlation between different schemes
Canine Thyroid Disease
In May 2015, Dr Jean Dodds presented a seminar on Canine Thyroid Disease at Stoneleigh. In her presentation, Dr Dodds explained –
*what the disease is,
*some of the triggers which may cause the disease,
*the research being carried out at the time.
The attached document was written up by one of those attending the seminar, Louise Atyeo, and is written from the perspective of someone who had a personal interest in this disease. This article was originally published in a Club Bulletin. We are grateful to Louise for allowing us to now share this through the Club website.
Please click on the following link to download the article. This link will open in a new page – Seminar on Canine Thyroid Disease by Dr Jean Dodds