Itching problems can have a range of causes, including infection, thyroid problems, allergies and fleas. West Highland white terriers, also known as Westies, are genetically predisposed to a number of skin problems. If your Westie is suffering from itching, hair loss, black, oily or crusty skin, musty odour and ear infections, you may have to become a detective to discover the source of the problem and find a solution that improves your dog's health and well-being.
Have your veterinarian do a general examination. Make sure your Westie is free of mange and fleas. If either is present, follow your vet's treatment instructions carefully. Treat your home also to prevent reinfestation.
Have your dog's blood tested. A general blood panel will tell the vet is there is a problem with your dog's thyroid that is causing the itching. If so, your vet will prescribe medication to regulate the thyroid.
Consider skin tests for allergies. If other causes have been ruled out, consider doing tests to find specific allergies. If allergies are found, your vet will recommend an elimination diet, which can systematically eliminate those dietary elements that are causing the itching problem. The vet may also prescribe steroid medications or antihistamines.
Have your vet check for malassezia. Malassezia is a yeast-like fungus that is commonly found on dogs. Westies, however, have a problem fighting this particular fungus, and it can cause severe and chronic skin problems for them. The growth of the fungus is affected by high humidity, increased skin oils, immune deficiencies, and flea or food allergies. It is not contagious. The infection is diagnosed by taking a swab or scratching from an infected area and looking at it under a microscope. It can be treated either topically or by an oral medication called ketoconazole. Often, both methods are used. An anti-yeast shampoo also is recommended. This infection is not helped by prednisone medications. Ketoconazole can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. These side effects can be helped by dividing the medication into smaller doses, or starting with a stomach-coating medicine before taking the ketoconazole
Follow your vet's instructions for bathing your pet. The vet may prescribe a prescription shampoo or an over-the-counter medicated shampoo such as Selsun Blue to reduce the itching. Leave on for 10-15 minutes, then rinse thoroughly several times.
Use a vinegar soak to help itching. Fill tube with lukewarm water. Add 1 to 2 cups Epson salts. Soak dog for 10 minutes. Rinse thoroughly. Empty and refill the tub with lukewarm water. Add 1 to 2 cups real apple cider vinegar (not apple-flavoured). Wet dog with solution and soak for 10 minutes. Do not rinse.
Neem Tree Products and tea tree oil also are used to help itching.
West Highland white breed experts warn against excessive shampooing of this breed's coat. Follow your veterinarian's instructions carefully.