Scottish terrier hereditary health and longevity

Scottish terrier hereditary health and longevity

The Scottish terrier or “Scottie dog” is a small, compact and sturdy little dog of the terrier type, with a distinctive glossy coat and a long beard. They can be seen in either black, white or brindle colours, with black being the most common. If you are wondering why the Scottish terrier has suddenly received a lot of media attention recently and is being highlighted across various different dog related websites, the answer is simple: A Scottish terrier named Knopa took the prestigious Best in Show title at the Crufts dog show 2015.

Winning Crufts always serves to generate a lot of interest in the breed that takes home the cup, and the Scottish terrier is no different! Based on trends from previous years, it is highly likely that interest in breeding and owning Scottish terriers will grow exponentially within the coming year, as the breed is now very firmly in the spotlight!

The Scottish terrier is classed as a small dog breed from the terrier group, and they stand up to 9.8” tall at the withers, and can weigh up to 22lb. Males tend to be slightly heavier than females, but there is not a huge amount of variation across the breed.

If you are interested in the Scottish terrier and wish to find out more about the breed, one of the most important aspects to look at after temperament is the general health of the dog, and if they are prone to any breed-specific health problems. We will look at these factors in more detail within this article.

Scottish terrier longevity

The average lifespan of the Scottish terrier is 11-13 years, which places the breed right in the middle of the average range across the board for all breeds of a similar size and build.

Genetic diversity

The coefficient of inbreeding statistic for the Scottish terrier is 6.6%, which is just a touch higher than the 6.25% or less that is considered to be the ideal for pedigree dog breeds. In some cases, inbreeding is necessary in order to continue to produce good quality breeding stock, but ideally, inbreeding should be kept to a minimum. Inbreeding in the dog world can lead to a range of problems including higher rates of foetal mortality, smaller litter sizes, and the inheritance of hereditary health problems.

Scottish terrier breeders are advised to reduce the coefficient of inbreeding statistic for their own dogs where possible.


  • The coat of the Scottish terrier requires regular brushing and grooming to keep it in good condition, and if the coat is not kept clean and tidy, it can soon begin to harbour dirt and debris that may lead to skin problems.
  • The build of the Scottie is short and low to the ground, which means that they cannot run flat out with ease.
  • The head of the Scottish terrier is large in relation to the rest of the body, which may pose a problem when delivering a litter. Around 60% of Scottish terriers require delivery by caesarean section to account for this.

Health testing for the Scottish terrier

The Kennel Club and the British Veterinary Association monitor the health and hereditary health of all pedigree dog breeds, in order to identify any specific problems and work to breed them out of future generations. Breeders of Scottish terriers are advised to test their potential parent dogs for Von Willebrand’s disease, which is a blood clotting disorder that can affect both sexes.

Test results should also be made available to potential buyers of puppies of the breed.

Other health issues

While Von Willebrand’s disease is the only condition for which pre-breeding health testing is recommended, there are also a reasonable number of other health conditions that may afflict the Scottie dog too, which may have a hereditary element to them. While this list is fairly long, by no means all or most dogs of the breed are likely to be plagued with problems, and finding out about the health of any given dog’s ancestors can help to ascertain the potential health of their future puppies.

Identified problems that may affect the Scottish terrier include:

  • Cushing’s disease, or hyperadrenocorticism, a condition caused by the body’s overproduction of corticosteroids.
  • A condition known as “Scottie cramp,” which is a neurological condition that can be exacerbated by exercise or excitement.
  • Haemophilia, a blood clotting disorder.
  • Cataracts of the eyes.
  • Lens luxation, a displacement of the lens of the eye.
  • Cerebellar abiotrophy, a degenerative condition that affects coordination and movement.
  • Myasthenia gravis, a neuromuscular disorder that is an autoimmune disease.
  • Atopy, a hypersensitivity to certain protein particles, including pollen.
  • Demodicosis, a condition caused by Demodetic mange mites.
  • Dilated cardiomyopathy of the heart, leading to heart failure.
  • Various types of cancers, including melanoma, nasal cancer, bladder cancer and cutaneous lymphoma.
  • Craniomandibular osteopathy, a condition that causes the abnormal development of the facial bones.
  • Malassezia dermatitis.
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