The Cairn Terrier is, by definition, an "active, game, and hardy" small terrier. They are long-lived dogs, with a life span averaging 13 - 14 years of age. The cairn terrier is basically a healthy breed; however, since pure-bred dogs on the average have 3 - 5 genetic faults, the Cairn is not without its health issues.
The CTCA has conducted several health surveys; the most recent was conducted in 2010. The results of these surveys have allowed breeders to concentrate on eliminating genetic problems in the breed. The CTCA has formed the Health Related Concerns Committee and established the Foundation, both committed to improving the health of the Cairn. To date, much work has been done - an award-winning manual for breeders has been developed - Genetic Anomalies of the Cairn Terrier - published in September 1994 and winner of the Dog Writers Association of America Maxwell Medallion in February 1995. The manual is now in the process of being updated. The CTCA Foundation funds research to improve the health of the breed. Many health education programs have been developed and health clinics have been supported all over the country.
Due to advances in canine medicine, health problems are being treated, prevented, and/or avoided by careful breeding. The following problems do occur occasionally in the Cairn Terrier. The CTCA and conscientious breeders, however, are working towards the elimination of these problems.
Globoid Cell Leukodystrophy (GCL)
OFA Eye Certification Registry
* For best results, download large PDFs to your desktop before opening.
Allergies can be broken down into inhalant, contact, or food allergy origins. Flea allergies, grass allergies, and environmental toxin induced allergies are the most common causes of skin conditions in Cairns. Allergies can be chronic or seasonal. They can be minor or severe in occurrence. They tend to become worse with age. Treatment is much better than in bygone days. Environmental controls, antihistamine treatment, and desensitization injections have made huge strides in the last few years.
Glucocorticoids should be used only as a last resort due to serious side effects. Diagnosis and treatment of chronic or severe cases by a Board Licensed Veterinary Dermatologist is recommended.
The lens of the eye is clear and is located behind the pupil. The job of the lens is to focus light into the retina. When the lens becomes unhealthy, it turns white or opaque. Cataracts are generally considered a common old age change, but a juvenile form also occurs. Juvenile cataracts are inherited and are not usually present at birth, although this condition can present itself at any age- months to years. Juvenile cataracts affect different areas of the lens depending upon the breed of dog. They do not always result in the lens becoming completely opaque. Complete cataracts result in blindness that can only be corrected by cataract surgery. Yearly CERF examinations are an important tool in diagnosing this condition. Proper treatment can be hastened by early diagnosis.
Also known as lion jaw, it is a non-cancerous bone proliferation occurring mainly on the lower jaw, maxilla and, on occasion, the long bones of the legs. It is generally a self-resolving problem that corrects as the bone remodels during the growth stage. Diagnosis is by X-ray. Onset of symptoms generally occurs at about 4 months and resolves at about 1 year of age. Symptoms tend to occur in episodes that can be mild (off food for a day or two), or more serious (unable to open mouth and very painful). Treatment to reduce these symptoms include the use of aspirin or steroids. This disease is inherited by a single autosomal recessively passed gene. The GDC maintains an open registry on Craniomandibular Osteopathy (CMO) in Cairn Terriers. Research to develop a DNA marker test to identify carrier, clear and affected CMO animals has been funded cooperatively by the Cairn, Scottish and West Highland White Terrier Clubs in conjunction with the American Kennel Club Health Foundation. The research work began in 1998.
Cryptorchidism is the failure of one or both of the testicles to descend into the scrotum. Normal descent is often complete by 6 to 8 weeks of age but may be delayed to as late as 6 months of age. The undescended testicle may be found within the abdominal cavity, in the inguinal canal or under the skin next to the penis. The condition is considered hereditary in most breeds. There is not complete agreement on the mode of inheritance. Because of the increased incidence of cancer in retained testicles, cryptorchid dogs should always be neutered. A neutered cryptorchid dog should have no other expected health risks due to this condition.
Also known as Krabbe's disease. It is a degenerative disease of the white matter of the brain and spinal cord. Affected puppies die at a very early age or have to be euthanized. Mode of inheritance is by a single autosomal recessively passed gene. There is now a test available that can identify carriers of this disease. Breeders can use this test to eliminate GCL in Cairns. Animals to be bred should be tested and the results registered with the OFA.
A variety of heart defects can occur in every breed of pure-bred dogs. A careful examination of puppies by a veterinarian at 6 weeks of age is recommended since most congenital heart problems can be detected this way. There is no predominant heart disease identified with Cairns, though various murmurs do occur.
It is characterized as an underproduction of hormone by the thyroid gland. It occurs in many breeds, including Cairns. Diagnosis is done by a blood test for complete thyroid activity. Symptoms include poor haircoat, infertility, lethargy, and cold intolerance. Treatment with synthetic hormones is very successful in controlling this condition. Blood tests to evaluate dosage is important on a yearly basis.
Legg-Perthes is an aseptic necrosis of the femoral head (meaning bone death, not due to infection). This disease occurs in many small breeds of dogs, including Cairn Terriers. It may necessitate corrective surgery. Diagnosis is by X-ray. This condition can be registered with the GDC in Cairns.
Dr. Allison Starr of the Clemson University Canine Genetic Laboratory is conducting research on Legg-Perthes and would like samples from normal and affected cairn terriers. If you would like more information on this disease and/or would like to participate in this program, go to the following site: www.westiefoundation.org/currentresearch/dna-lcp.htm
This is a problem in many small breeds of dogs, including Cairns. In this disorder, the knee cap slips out of the trochlear groove. Testing, funded by the CTCA Foundation, has proven it to be an inherited disorder in Cairns. Diagnosis is by X-ray and palpation exam. The condition is also on the GDC Registry for Cairns. The severity of the condition is quite variable. It can occur in one back leg, or both. Grade 1 cases can be very mild, with minor gaiting anomalies. Mild cases will do such things as: pick up a leg for a few steps when moving over irregular ground (gravel or long grass), lope or gallop rather than trot. They are often straight in the stifle and have no "drive" to their rear movement. Grade 3 and 4 cases, are less common and do require surgical correction. This condition does weaken the integrity of the joint, predisposing to arthritis and traumatic injury. The GDC does have a Registry for Luxating Patellae in Cairns.
(Formerly referred to as Pigmentary Glaucoma.)
Awareness of this condition in the United States is a fairly recent thing, as the first known cases were diagnosed in 1984. It is an inherited condition that occurs predominantly in Cairns, although there are some unconfirmed reports of a similar condition in other breeds. The condition generally affects both eyes. Onset of the more obvious changes is between 7 to 12 years of age, which make this a vital time to closely watch each eye for small spots or patches of very dark pigmentation within the sclera (white part of the eye). Visits to the veterinarian when Cairns are this age should include an examination of the anterior chambers of the eyes for pigment deposits as well. The pigment deposits accumulate and decrease the eyes' ability to drain fluid out of the anterior chamber. This fluid accumulation leads to an increase in pressure in the eye which is known as a secondary glaucoma. If the elevated pressure goes undiagnosed and/or untreated, the dog will not only go blind but also suffer from pain, because an increased pressure in the eye can be very painful. Because of this, it is often required to remove the eye due to pain caused by pressure build up.If caught early, the damage that glaucoma causes can be slowed, and vision maintained longer by use of medications. It is important that all Cairns be checked regularly for the early signs of Ocular Melanosis (pigmented scleral patches and thickened iris roots) especially those dogs who are related to dogs who have or, who are suspected to have, Ocular Melanosis. This is also a condition that is part of the GDC Registry.
EYE REGISTRY UPDATE--As of November 1, 2012 the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) will be endorsing the OFA Eye Certification Registry (OFA ECR) as its recommended canine eye registry. Diplomates of the Veterinary College may submit eye registrations for either the OFA ECR or the CERF programs. Exam protocols will be exactly the same for both registries. Diplomates are in the process of receiving the new OFA ECR forms. It is hoped that the new OFA ECR registry will contribute to making OFA an even more complete resource of canine health screening results.
More details can be found at www.acvo.org and www.offa.org
PSVA and MVD occur in many small dog breeds and they are related abnormalities.
They both are an abnormal flow of blood between the liver and the body. In PSVA
the portal vein that carries blood from the intestines to the liver is
affected. In MVD abnormally miniaturized portal veins can be found in the liver
itself. MVD causes microscopic shunting in the liver but affected dogs may not
have any symptoms, be ill or require medical or dietary treatment. Rarely, some
MVD dogs have a problem with drug metabolism (e.g. antihistamines, certain
Since the liver is responsible for detoxifying the body, metabolizing nutrients and eliminating drugs, blood bypassing the liver can cause many symptoms. Indications of possible PSVA include, but are not limited to, excessive thirst and urination, head pressing, lethargy, diarrhea or vomiting, seizures, eating abnormal substances, elevated (paired) bile acid results, low cholesterol, small red blood cells, behavioral changes such as confusion, circling and head pressing, anorexia, hypoglycemia, drug and anesthesia intolerance, unthriftiness and poor growth. Most dogs with PSVA will also have ammonia biurate crystals in their urine. It is important to note that not all dogs with PSVA or MVD have symptoms or are ill. Protein C analysis can help differentiate between PSVA and MVD. Signs of PSVA usually appear before two years of age, but later onset has been recorded.
Pursuing a dog without symptoms that has high bile acids (greater than 25) and a normal Protein C can result in costly and invasive testing and thus some MVD dogs are subjected to rigorous evaluations that may not be needed or useful. If an animal has a confirmed PSVA, corrective surgery can be helpful in the long-term management of these animals. Best outcomes are realized in hospitals with an experienced surgical, medical and nursing staff team. Dietary manipulation is also important in maintaining dogs with PSVA.
Mode of inheritance has not been established but a research project is being conducted at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine by Sharon Center, D.V.M, DACVIM, professor of Internal Medicine. This is funded in part by the CTCA Foundation, other breed clubs and the AKC Canine Health Foundation.
Also known as PRA. Sometimes referred to as "night blindness", which is a misnomer because the blindness caused by this disease is eventually total. In the early stages, the dog's vision is impaired at night and eventually becomes worse in daylight and dim light conditions. Ultimately, the dog becomes completely blind as both eyes are affected. This condition is an inherited one with both parents being carriers. Diagnosis of PRA can be detected by a CERF exam. This condition exists in quite a number of breeds, including Cairns. PRA is a condition that can be registered with the GDC.
RENAL DYSPLASIA IN THE CAIRN TERRIER submitted by Dr. Margret Casal, DMV,PhD,Dipl. ECAR.
Renal dysplasia is an inherited disease characterized by abnormal development of the kidney, which takes place before the puppies are born. This results in incomplete or unorganized development of the kidney tissues, which can lead to a decrease in kidney function with associated clinical diseases and possibly death at an early age. Clinical signs may include polyuria (increased urination) and polydypsia (increased drinking) as well as vomiting, lethargy, loss of appetite, and weight loss. (Editorâ€™s Note: Dr. Casal has recently published her research findings on imaging and renal dysplasia indicating that ultrasound imaging correlated with histopathologic changes in the disease. Also note that longevity and symptoms can vary in individual dogs. Renal aplasia is a condition in which there is only one kidney present.)
Seizures can be the result of the disease Epilepsy, or can be a sign of many different problems. Epilepsy can usually be controlled by medication. Specific diagnosis of the cause of seizure symptoms is critical to successful treatment. Seizures can start early in life or be sudden onset in adult dogs of varying age. There are a myriad of reasons for a dog to suffer seizures. Seizure episodes that occur over an extended period of time are likely to be genetic in origin.
This is a bleeding disease characterized by excessive bleeding time due to delayed clotting. There is a rather low occurrence of this disorder in Cairns. There is a blood test available, which identifies carriers, affected and clear animals, though the test is sensitive to a number of criteria and hormone levels that affect scores. Research is underway to develop a DNA test that will be much more effective in giving absolute information so this disease can also be eliminated from the Cairn gene pool.
Scottie Cramp Affects Cairns: New Research into Scottie
A MESSAGE FROM DR. OLBY, VETERINARY NEUROLOGIST
Most Scottish Terrier owners and breeders are very aware of the common disorder in Scottish Terriers called ‘Scottie Cramp’. This is an episodic genetic disorder that causes dramatic spasticity of the muscles (‘cramping’) with excitement and exercise, as described by the STCA in their web page on genetic health issues (http://clubs.akc.org/stca/geneticissues.htm). SCOTTIE CRAMP ALSO AFFECTS CAIRNS. We are starting the first phase of trying to identify the genetic cause of this disease. The AKC Canine Health Foundation, together with the STCA Health Committee has funded a project to collect DNA from affected and normal Scottish terriers and we plan to submit a grant to perform the genetic analysis once we have enough samples in hand. CAIRN TERRIERS WILL ALSO BE STUDIED. We have attached detailed instructions on how to contact us, how to videotape an episode and the protocol for obtaining a blood sample for us.
The research team includes Dr. Natasha Olby, a veterinary neurologist and Associate Professor at North Carolina State University College of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Ganokon Urkasemsin, a veterinarian who is now completing her PhD in Dr. Olby’s laboratory, working exclusively of genetic diseases of Scottish Terriers, and Tonya Harris, a technician who works in Dr. Olby’s laboratory. The laboratory telephone number is 919 513 7235. More information on how to include cairns is attached in the “complete package” link below:
For further information on these and other conditions, please contact the following:
The Cairn Terrier Club of America has been a leader within the pure-bred dog community in working to improve their breed and eliminate genetic diseases. Many other breed clubs have looked to the CTCA for help and direction on this subject. Our efforts will continue. An update of the health survey is planned.
It is recommended that when obtaining a Cairn, the breeder be scrutinized, not just the dog. An ethical producer of a breed of dog will be one who educates him/herself as to what the current health issues are in the breed and how they can improve their quality of animals. A "good" breeder cares about their dogs and the breed and will work to produce the best that can be. Health and temperament should be their most important goal. They will be assessing your ability to be a responsible owner and trying to pair you with a dog that will suit your particular home environment.
Cairns are hardy, active, and loving dogs that can be a great joy to those who are "owned by them". An old adage says, "the only thing better than having a Cairn, is to have two Cairns."