West Highland White Terrier allergies and remedies

Westie allergies

Are allergies common in Westies

Many Westie owners complain of their dog suffering from allergies. The West Highland White Terrier is a breed that can be quite prone to allergies. The majority of Westies will develop some allergies as they age. Certainly not all Westies, but a large percentage.

Some Westies can have minimal symptoms, but others really suffer from all sorts of issues. Skin and coat problems are at the top of the list, followed by gastrointestinal distress.

Constant licking of the paws, rubbing of the face and scratching of the ears are tell-tale signs that a Westie is having a allergic reaction. 

While solving allergies can be a bit tricky and does take some time and effort. In some cases, this can be done from home but there will be when your Westie will need professional veterinary care. This may be to ascertain the triggers and for providing treatment.

Types of allergies in Westies

If your Westie is suffering from allergies they may show mild to extreme signs of despair and distress. These can be broken down into 3 categories and they each have their own most common triggers. The three categories are;

  •  External: Your Westies skin may show a reaction. This can range from slight itching to more extreme symptoms such as relentless itching. This may cause your dog to scratch until they lose fur. Sores can develop which can quickly become infected. Fur loss may also occur directly from the allergen itself.
  •  Internal: This type of allergy may cause symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. If your dog is vomiting or has diarrhea it is best to have them checked out by a veterinarian. The most likely cause will be something that was ingested.
  • Inhaled: The symptoms will be of a respiratory nature. That may include coughing, sneezing, wheezing and sometimes choking sounds. This can range from mild to quite severe. In severe situations, your dog with this type of allergic response can sometimes literally be struggling to be able to breathe.  Contact your vet immediately if this is the case.

External allergies – symptoms and treatment

External allergies on your dog’s skin may be due to environmental triggers such as certain plants and grasses or dust, diet-related. For more on dealing with common skin problems see here.

Causes and treatments are as follows –

Atopic dermatitis 

Atopic dermatitis is a genetically-predisposed inflammatory and itchy allergic skin disease that results  from an exaggerated immune system response. It causes mild to severe itching which, as a result of scratching or rubbing, often leads to further skin damage, irritation, infection and discomfort.

This is an extremely common skin issue for Westies affecting probably a quarter to a third of all Westies.


Fleas biting a dog will cause itching. Some dogs ate extremely sensitive to fleas and just a few fleas can cause real discomfort. Other dogs can be absolutely covered in fleas and not be that bothered. Fleas on a dog who is allergic to the saliva of a flea will cause terrible itching and can lead to serious symptoms.

Fleas can be easy to get rid of if you use a quality flea treatment. To really hit the problem on the head, I recommend taking a three-pronged attack.

  • Bath your dog with a flea shampoo to kill fleas they are carrying. View flea and tick shampoo on Amazon
  • Treat with a flea treatment to prevent fleas from returning. View flea medications on Amazon.
  • Flea bomb the house to remove fleas living in the environment. If your dog is protected by a flea treatment, the fleas will probably start biting the humans in the home. View flea fogger on Amazon


A Westie may have a reaction to a chemical you are using. This can be the cleaning solution on your carpeting, the detergent used to clean your bed sheets or their dog bed, the shampoo that is used to groom them. It can be any powder or fluid that they come into contact with.

A chemical-related allergy can be tricky to identify unless you have introduced a new product to the home. You may need to experiment to determine the cause by removing one potential cause at a time. Symptoms of chemical-related allergies can linger for about 7 days before you notice an improvement.

Plant and Grass allergies

Many dogs are allergic to certain types of plants and grass varieties. Wandering Dew is a very common variety of grass that a lot of dogs have issues with.

Generally, the most obvious signs of this kind of issue are your dog will lick excessively at the bottom of their paws. The fur under the pads will be red as the result of saliva staining. It is not uncommon to see a Westie with red staining on their white coat.

This type of allergy can be difficult to deal with especially if the offending plant or grass is in your own backyard. Some people put booties on their dogs when they go outside to prevent this.

Food and Diet-related

Some dogs can get itchy and inflamed skin as a result of certain ingredients in dog food. Red meat allergies can be quite common while other dogs may be allergic to chicken. Often it is not the ingredients in the food causing the allergy, but the additives such as preservatives and in particular food coloring. Grains in a lot of dog food have been found to cause allergies also. Grain-free dog food has become popular for this reason.

When trying to fix a diet or food allergy, it is a case of elimination. If you recently changed your dog’s brand of dog food, it may pay to switch back to the food you were using. When changing your dog’s diet, don’t do a complete change straight away. Feed 10% of the new food for the first day or two and slowly increase over a week until they are eating 100% of the new food.

Internal allergies – symptoms and treatment

Internal allergies may cause symptoms of vomiting and diarrhea. If your Westie is getting sick in this way, it is best to have them checked out by their veterinarian. Most likely, the cause will be something that was ingested.
Internal allergies can cause weight loss, malnutrition, and dehydration to your Westie. Other symptoms such as itching and respiratory issues can develop as well.

Food and Diet-related

Sometimes a dog gets become allergic to an ingredient in their food even if they have been eating that for some time. Many dogs are allergic to grains in dog food and additives such as preservatives, artificial flavoring, and food coloring.

Your veterinarian may prescribe a hypoallergenic dog food or you may offer a simple homemade diet of plain, cooked white chicken breast and plain, white rice. For more on feeding chicken and rice to your Westie see here. To work out what in the diet is causing the reaction is a process of elimination over time.

You can start off with a simple chicken and rice diet or food provided by your vet. Over time add extras and monitor to see if your dog has any problems, This will show which ingredient your dog is actually allergic to.

Respiratory allergies – symptoms and solutions

Respiratory allergies will include symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, wheezing and sometimes choking sounds. This can range from mild to quite severe. Dogs with this type of allergic response can sometimes literally be struggling to be able to breathe.

In many cases, secondary symptoms like severe itching may also occur.  This may lead to areas of bright red skin with intense itching known as Hotspots. A Westie may try to relieve the itching by licking, biting or scratching excessively and to the point of ripping out fur.
With many dogs, there may also be irritated puffy eyes and/or gum and interior mouth tissue may become red and slightly swollen.

Causes of respiratory allergies

Respiratory allergies may be caused by cigarette smoke, certain plants and grasses, inhaled chemical vapors, dust mites, and pollen. Pollen allergies will be seasonal generally limited to Springtime.

Bathing your Westie to remove allergens from their coat and skin may help. Using an Airconditioning unit HEPA filters will help remove allergens from the air.

Additional treatments your vet may suggest

When dealing with any of their allergies it is a case of elimination to pinpoint the cause. It is important to consult with your vet to help with this process.

There are supplements and medications for your Westie allergies that can relieve symptoms that your vet may suggest. These include –

  • An Omega fatty acid supplement.
  • Bathing with a very gentle hypo-allergenic or medicated dog shampoo. See below for our recommendation.
  • Prescribed medication. Your veterinarian will recommend which medication is best for your Westie. These may include anti-inflammatory medication, antihistamines, steroids, or antibiotics.

Best antifungal and antibacterial shampoo

Nootie Medicated Oatmeal Dog Shampoo

This shampoo is very concentrated and when you apply it forms a really thick and rich lather. It also works really well in treating yeast infections and cooling and soothing your dog’s skin It will also always leave your Westie smell really clean and fresh and leaves their coat beautiful and shiny.

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