Canine black skin disease in Westies

west hilend wite terrier 8 image by Olga Barbakadze from

Westies are small, charming dogs. Their 30 cm (12 inch) tall bodies can pack a very big personality, while their fuzzy coats can hide some serious skin problems. Once such condition is black skin disease, a hereditary disease that strikes Westies quite often.

This disease affects a dog's physical appearance but does not appear to have any serious health repercussions.

West Highland white terriers

West Highland white terriers (nicknamed Westies) are bright and tenacious, with stubborn personalities. They have dense double coats that require consistent bathing and grooming. This is especially true given the breed's tendency toward skin conditions and allergies.

Skin problems

Skin conditions are the most common health concern in Westies. Skin conditions are usually aspects of allergies passed down through bloodlines. Westies are prone to genetic allergies to grains, pollen and fresh-cut grass.

Black skin disease

Black skin disease, or alopecia X, is one of the specific skin disorders common to Westies. This disease is caused by a genetic hormone imbalance and is thought to be most common in males.


Skin problems in Westies present as irritated, reddened skin that can be itchy or weeping, depending on the allergy and dog's personal reaction. Black skin disease presents as hyperpigmentation that leads to darker skin and patterned hair loss. Black skin disease doesn't normally cause itching but may be permanent in some cases.


Because black skin disease doesn't seem to bother Westies, cause discomfort or affect the dog's health, the website "PetWave" recommends that owners ignore the issue. Controlling a Westie's lifestyle to restrict stress and obesity may alleviate the condition, though these techniques are unproven. The cause of black skin disease is unknown, so it's difficult for veterinary medicine to present a specific "cure" for the disorder.