Soft coated wheaten terrier hereditary health and longevity

Soft coated wheaten terrier hereditary health and longevity

Breed Facts

The soft-coated wheaten terrier is an Irish dog breed that has a very low shedding, single layered coat, making them a popular choice among dog lovers who tend to be prone to canine allergies. They are medium sized, standing between 17-19” tall at the withers and weighing up to 45lb, with males of the breed tending to be slightly larger than females.

Their coats can be seen in either white, black or dark brown on the topcoat, with the underlying denser fur being the light wheaten colour that gives the breed their name. The undercoat of the puppy tends to be darker, growing out to a pure white colour before they finally grow in their eventual wheaten adult coat. Their fur has a soft, fine texture more similar to human hair than to fur, and like the poodle, their fur grows continually and does not tend to shed within the home. This means that the breed requires occasional trimming and baths to keep it in good condition, as well as daily brushing and combing to remove mats.

The breed is widely reputed to be an excellent pet and companion, being clever, keen to please and eminently trainable, with kind, tolerant natures that makes them good with children. If you are considering buying or adopting a soft-coated wheaten terrier to join your family, it is important to do plenty of research before committing to a purchase, including finding out as much as possible about the breed’s hereditary health and average longevity, which we will cover in more detail in this article.

Soft-coated wheaten terrier longevity

The average lifespan of the soft-coated wheaten terrier is 10.5-12.5 years, which reflects a reasonable amount of variance across the board. 12 years is considered to be the average lifespan for all dog breeds of a similar size and build, and so the soft-coated wheaten terrier falls within the average to slightly low end of the rankings overall.

Genetic diversity

The coefficient of inbreeding statistic for the soft-coated wheaten terrier is 7.3%, which is rather higher than the 6.25% or lower that is the accepted ideal for pedigree dog breeds. This indicates that the soft-coated wheaten terrier is subjected to a degree of inbreeding in order to keep their breed lines viable, but this is not as high as some other pedigree dog breeds.


The shape and build of the dog itself is considered to be well balanced and robust, and not generally likely to pose a problem for the dog in and of itself. However, the fur of the dog needs to be taken care of to keep it from knotting and tangling, requiring daily combing and brushing out.

The hair on the face of the soft-coated wheaten terrier grows particularly long, and this will usually need to be trimmed in order to keep it from obscuring the dog’s vision.

Health testing for the soft-coated wheaten terrier

The British Veterinary Association, The Kennel Club and breed clubs that represent the interests of the soft-coated wheaten terrier recommend pre-breeding health screening for a range of hereditary health conditions, which can be passed on from the parent dogs to their subsequent litters.

Currently, the following health schemes are in place:

  • Hip score testing, with the breed’s mean hip score being 11.6. Potential parent dogs of the breed should receive a hip score below this figure in order to be considered a good candidates for breeding, and to improve the hip health of the breed as a whole.
  • DNA testing is offered for degenerative myelopathy, a condition of the spinal cord that leads to loss of feeling, paralysis and weakness in the dog’s hindquarters.
  • Blood testing for kidney function is recommended prior to breeding, and in the subsequent litters before they go to their new homes.

Other health issues

Aside from the testable conditions listed above, the soft-coated wheaten terrier tends to be a generally healthy breed, which is not prone to developing a wide range of minor ills and general health problems. However, like all dog breeds, there are a few potential problems that can affect the breed, but for which no pre-breeding health screening is currently offered.

The most common general conditions across the breed include:

  • Atopy, a hypersensitivity to certain protein particles, including pollen.
  • Renal disease, a kidney condition that causes protein-losing enteropathy.
  • Lymphangiectasia, a type of inflammatory condition of the bowel that again results in protein-losing enteropathy and chronic diarrhoea.
  • Various types of cancers, although these are much more common in maturity and old age than in younger dogs.
  • Hypoadrenocorticism, or Addison’s disease, an adrenal gland condition that can cause weight loss, depression and listlessness, due to an underproduction of the body’s necessary corticosteroids.
  • Multi-ocular defects, or a range of problematic eye conditions may also affect the breed.
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