Health Report 2012

The total global population, and hence gene pool, of the Skye Terrier is so small that the breed must be regarded as critically endangered.  It does therefore bring real hope for the future that participation in health matters has gained much in strength, both nationally and internationally, during 2011.  Year by year we are now finding out more about, and piece by piece building the picture of, the health situation in our beloved breed.

Cases of reported disease include one each of ectopic ureter, leukaemia, lymphoma and liver disease and two cases each of mammary tumours and other cancers.  The ages of reported deaths range from just under one year of age to a dog just reaching its 13th birthday.  Cases of Puppy Limp have also again been reported.

DNA Collection and Renal Disease

Eight litters were registered during the year, resulting in 44 puppies. Renal scans had been performed prior to mating and DNA submitted for six litters.

The DNA collection has grown to 300 samples, and many more are on their way to join them.  The Finnish Skye Terrier Club is totally committed to this effort as is the Skye Terrier fraternity in USA, where apart from contributions from individual breeders, swab kit distribution is planned at some breed club shows.  Collection of swab samples has also been made in mainland Europe and more will take place in Austria in connection with the World Show there.  Samples from Australia have already been added for quite some time. Full case histories have also been received from around the world.

The collection now holds 17 samples noted as suffering from probable inherited conditions, including two cases each of lymphoma and epilepsy.  Two more cases of Renal Dysplasia (RD) have been reported.  The DNA collection holds five samples for that condition and one more is awaited.  It is unfortunate, from a research point of view, that more validated case histories than actual DNA samples have been received for RD.  This is due to the fact that a number of dogs have sadly died without DNA being collected (some also before DNA collection had started). DNA from close relatives has however been secured.  The archive is steadily growing with case histories validated by laboratory and histopathology reports plus scan results and/or radiographs and also tissue samples.

Renal dysplasia is a hereditary condition in this breed, as in a number of others. Pedigree studies and incidence, e.g. sibling pairs or parent and offspring affected, support this.  It is not caused by dog food or toxins (as pollutants) therein. It is also congenital, i.e. the puppies are born with kidneys that will have structural abnormalities. The first case, which was, as far as we know, fully validated (including histopathology report), occurred in the early 1990s.  There have no doubt been cases much earlier than that, but diagnostic methods were not as good then. Dogs with RD may die at a young age but they may also live to the age of six or older. Affected dogs can therefore be, and indeed have been, bred from.  That is why it is so important to at least try and find out if a dog is affected or not prior to breeding.  It is the only thing we can do in the absence of a DNA test.

The scanning initiative was suggested, voted in favour of and hence started in 2010 based on consultation with veterinary surgeons and three different factors: two new cases of RD had been reported; findings of polycystic kidneys had been reported in related litters; and quite recent research had shown that RD can be detected from an early age before clinical symptoms appear with the use of ultrasonic scan:

“The fact that ultrasonographic changes could be detected in the dogs before development of secondary inflammatory or degenerative lesions is encouraging, and ultrasound may be a useful method for screening dogs in breeding programs for renal dysplasia”  Seiler, G.S., et al. Vet Radiol Ultrasound. 2010 Jul-Aug; 51(4): 453 – 457

The gene pool naturally diminishes with each generation since only around ten percent of the puppies bred go on to breeding.  The rest become pets and their genetic input is therefore lost.  The smaller the gene pool becomes, the greater the risk that two Carrier dogs are mated together, since it is estimated that one in five dogs will carry the mutation.  The only way forward must then surely be to, combined with the scanning program, have all cases fully investigated with post mortems and pathology reports and to submit this, and a DNA sample (if not already in store), to the case archive and AHT.  The development of a DNA test depends on full cooperation.

A cheque for £250 has been sent to the AHT as donation for UK swab kits.

The Skye Terrier Health Research Fund has yet again received generous donations, both directly and through fund raising in the form of stall, raffle and tombola’s.  An impressive sum of £1064 and 50 pence was added to the research account.  Many thanks to all those who take the future health of our wonderful breed seriously by supporting the fund.


Maud Hawkes BSc (Hons) Animal Science

Please do not hesitate to contact me via email:,

Tel: 01623 812856, if you want to discuss or report any health matters in confidentiality, or if you require swab kits!