Health issues commonly seen in the Airedale terrier

Health issues commonly seen in the Airedale terrier

Health & Safety

The Airedale terrier is also known as the “king of terriers,” and is the largest of all of the British terrier breeds. They originate from the area along the River Aire in Yorkshire, and have ancestry including the Otterhound, Welsh terrier, and likely some other terrier breeds too.

Initially used for hunting otters in the valleys around the River Aire, the Airedale is also commonly used as a police dog in some areaso, and the breed has also been trained on occasion as assistance dogs for blind people as well. However, the Airedale terrier is mainly kept today as a domestic pet, and they make excellent companions for all types of people, including first time dog owners.

Like all pedigree dogs, the Airedale terrier can be prone to some genetically inherited health problems, and in this article, we will look at the longevity of the breed and their potential health issues in more detail. Read on to learn more.

The average lifespan of the Airedale terrier

The average lifespan of the Airedale is around 11-12 years, which places them in the middle of the grouping for breeds of a similar size. According to the UK Kennel Club’s 2004 survey, the leading cause of death in the breed was cancer at 39.9%, old age at 14%, and urological conditions at 7%.

The breed as a whole is considered to be robust and hardy, however they are prone to some hereditary health problems, which we will look at here in more detail.

Hip dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is one of the most commonly found osteopathic conditions in pedigree dog breeds, and the Airedale is one of the breeds that is known to be affected by it to some degree. Hip dysplasia has a genetic element to it, and is caused a malformation of the hip joint in development, which usually manifests in dogs before they reach the age of two years old.

Some breed lines are particularly prone to hip dysplasia, and for dogs that this applies to, hip score testing of the potential parent dogs before making the decision to breed is recommended.


Airedales can be prone to a range of skin conditions, particularly dermatitis, which is common across all of the terrier breeds. The coat and skin of Airedales should be checked over regularly, as problems often go unnoticed due to the density of their coats.

Acral lick granulomas may develop if sore spots and itching lead to the dog obsessively licking their skin to the point that it breaks, and acute moist dermatitis, which leads to itchy, weeping skin in patches can also affect the breed.

A range of other dermatological conditions may manifest too, including allergies, particularly food allergies, or problems with the thyroid gland which manifest as skin conditions.

Gastric torsion or bloat

Many dog breeds that are both tall and deep chested can be affected by the condition known as bloat, which leads to a dangerous build-up of gas in the stomach, sometimes accompanied by a twisting of the stomach and a complete blockage. Bloat is often fast in onset and should be treated as an emergency, as without surgery it is often fatal.

Feeding little and often and preventing the dog from gulping their food can help to prevent bloat within the breed.

Cataracts and eye problems

Around 8% of all Airedale terriers will be affected by cataracts at some point in their lives, and generally the condition occurs as the dog reaches old age, although it can be seen in younger dogs too. Nuclear sclerosis can also affect the breed, but aside from these problems, the Airedale is not particularly prone to eye issues.

Cerebellar ataxia

Cerebellar ataxia is a hereditary brain condition that is caused by a recessive gene, and usually becomes symptomatic in puppies of between six and twelve weeks old. The condition leads to a range of obvious symptoms and problems, including poor balance and rapid eye movement, as well as problems with focusing.

Autoimmune haemolytic anaemia

Autoimmune haemolytic anaemia causes the dog’s autoimmune response to malfunction and begin to destroy its own red blood cells for no obvious reason. There is thought to be a genetic predisposition within the Airedale terrier breed pool for this condition, but it is thankfully relatively rare. The condition is treatable in some cases, but often proves fatal.

Heart disease

Finally, heart disease is a relatively common cause of death in old age for Airedales, and the breed has a particular propensity to heart murmurs. Heart murmurs are graded from one to four, and dogs with a lower level murmur often do not run into any problems due to the condition, although it can worsen with age. Any dog diagnosed with a murmur should be regularly monitored for signs of a worsening of the problem, and in some cases, surgical correction is possible.



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