HealthNutritionVet's Corner

How to Care for your Itchy Westie

Nobody wants to see their pet suffering – and West Highland White Terriers (Westies) are one of the breeds most frequently seen by dermatologists.

John Redbond, Manager of the Veterinary Nursing Dermatology Group & Administration Manager at Nextmune UK explains what Westie skin disease is, what you should look out for and how you can best help your dog.

What is Westie skin disease?

Many Westies experience allergic skin disease in response to certain environmental factors, or sometimes food triggers, which is then made worse by a secondary bacterial overgrowth. Your vet may call this infection ‘dysbiosis’ which is where, instead of a diverse number of organisms living on the skin surface of a healthy dog, there is an imbalance, due to a dramatic increase in one or two types of bacteria. If left untreated, this can even go on to become a skin infection. Many Westies seen by vets also suffer from ‘Malassezia dermatitis’, a yeast overgrowth which can also make them itchy and is difficult to control.  

What should I look out for?

Ear problems seen through head shaking, redness, rubbing and scratching of the ear flaps, as well as more wax than usual, could indicate an allergic Westie; other tell-tale signs include licking themselves, staining their fur a rusty red colour, particularly around the feet or ears, as well as a greasy coat.

Visit your vet as soon as you spot any of these signs.

What can I do to help my Westie?

Ensuring your pet’s diet is high in essential fatty acids, particularly omega-3 and omega-6 (for example fish oil, evening primrose oil) can help maintain their skin barrier function; studies show these supplements can help to control allergic skin disease and itching[1]. There are also commercial diets available which are specifically formulated to help itchy dogs, for example, vegetable-based foods can be effective for dogs with skin or gut issues, connected to food intolerance or sensitivity. Ask your vet for details.


What else can I do?

Regularly bathing your dog with a medicated shampoo can normalise the surface concentration of bacteria and yeast and will also help to wash away environmental surface allergens. Using an antiseptic spray or mousse in-between bath times can also give a more prolonged effect.

Ask your vet or vet nurse about the best products to use: look out for those that list chlorhexidine as an ingredient, for good anti-bacterial and anti-yeast activity.

Find out more about Nextmune UK’s range of topical skin and ear products at

Find out more about ‘Solo Vegetal’ Nextmune UK’s unique vegetable-based diet for dogs a at

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