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Average Westie Lifespan: How Long They Live, Diseases, Care

Westie Lifespan

You might have come across differing reports regarding the lifespan of West Highland White Terriers. As a dog owner, you undoubtedly want your dog to remain by your side for many years. However, because there are several elements that affect your Westie’s longevity, you may not always be able to influence it. Let’s find out what the key factors are.

Table of Contents

What’s the Average West Highland Terrier’s Life Expectancy?

West Highland White Terriers have a life expectancy of 12-16 years. Males have an average lifespan of 13.8 years, while females’ life expectancy is 12.9 years. A healthy Westie with caring owners can live into their late teens, although they are prone to a variety of health issues.

Depending on the source, a typical Westie lifespan can range from 12 to 16 or even up to 18 years. Exceptions can live for 20 years or more.

Opinions and data differ, as expected, but we drew on a variety of reliable sources to arrive at our estimation.

  • The American Kennel Club states that Westie’s life expectancy is 13-15 years (source
  • The Kennel Club (UK organization) shows it as over 12 years (source)
  • PetMD website mentions 12 to 14 years (source)
  • And according to BMC’s recent research involving veterinary practices in the UK, the average lifespan was 13.4 years, with males living longer at 13.8 years and females at 12.9 years (source)
  • The oldest living Westie in the UK, Snowy, was recorded at 20 years old (source).

This range depends on several factors, including:

  • Overall health and condition
  • Genetics
  • The overall quality of care
  • Purpose and activities

Furthermore, there appears to be a fair amount of anecdotal evidence on the West Highland Terrier’s long lifespan. Speaking with other Westie owners over the years and reading on social media, many of them report their pets living to be 17 or older. According to a dedicated Facebook page, the oldest known Westie passed in November 2021 at the age of 24!

From personal experience, our Westie is now 14 years old, and despite being diagnosed with a heart condition a few months ago, he is doing well with regular medication.

The Lifespan of Westies vs Other Breeds of Dogs

West Highland White Terriers are considered a long-lived breed when compared to all other breeds, with an average age of 12 years. Small white terriers outperform larger breeds, especially when compared to larger dogs.

However, without a direct comparison, estimating the precise longevity of the West Highland White Terrier against other dogs is quite difficult.

The list below might offer you some ideas about the average ages of other canines.

  • Akita Inu – 10 to 12 years old
  • Border Collie – 13 to 16 years old
  • Boston Terriers – 13 to 15 years old
  • Boxers – 10 to 12 years old
  • Chihuahua – 10 to 18 years old
  • Great Dane – 5 to 8 years old
  • French Bulldogs – 10 to 12 years old
  • Irish Wolfhound – 6 to 10 years old
  • Jack Russel Terriers – 13 to 16 years old
  • Labrador Retrievers – 12 to 13 years old
  • Pug – 12 to 15 years old
  • Miniature Poodle – 12 to 15 years old
  • Rhodesian Ridgeback – 10 to 12 years old
  • German Shepherd – 9 to 13 years old
  • Yorkshire Terriers – 13 to 16 years old

Why do West Highland White Terriers Live for so Long?

Studies show that smaller dog breeds live longer than larger four-legged friends. The probable explanation lies in the excessively rapid growth or accelerated aging of the dog giants. In this regard, the Westie benefits from compact body size.

Moreover, larger breeds are more prone to disease than the West Highland Terrier. They are generally fairly hardy, despite the fact that they might suffer from hereditary diseases. This is also reflected in Westie’s life expectancy.

Westie Lifespan: Dog Years vs Human Years

It is commonly believed that seven years of our human lives are equal to one year in the life of a dog. When considering the ages of two distinct kinds of dogs, as well as various sizes of dogs, it would be hard to compare the ages correctly.

We may, however, use those as a reference to compare physical and mental responses to age and maturity, as well as changes in DNA. The table below illustrates canine years to human years and life stages for medium-sized dogs such as Westies:

Table showing medium-sized dogs’ life stages, ages, and equivalent human years

Factors Affecting West Highland Terrier’s Life Expectancy

Westies, like any other breed, are more susceptible to some health issues than others.

West Highland White Terriers, in general, have a moderate chance of health problems, some of which are breed-specific.

All of these health issues (covered in further detail below) can impact Westies’ longevity.

Not surprisingly, even factors like stress and anxiety might reduce the lifespan of dogs as well as their gender.

One study also highlighted that female Westies were more likely than males to be diagnosed with certain diseases, which may reflect the disparity in male and female life expectancy.

Genetics role in lifespan

Another important aspect determining your dog’s life expectancy is his genetics and lineage. This means, that if a dog comes from a good bloodline and none of his parents had major health problems, then there is a good chance that the dog will live a long life.

Understanding your dog’s breed, as well as typical illnesses they may have, and knowing how to spot them can help lengthen their life. If your dog is genetically susceptible to dental disorders, for instance, you may take them to the veterinarian on a routine basis to examine what’s going on in their mouths.

Benefits of a good breeder

Responsible and reputable breeders evaluate the parent animals on a regular basis and place a high priority on healthy pups. Dogs who do not conform to the breed standard, don’t have strong character, and display disorders or flaws that limit breeding are systematically eliminated from the breeding pool.

Thereby the risk of hereditary disease is reduced greatly. 

Westie puppies are often for sale by scammers at low costs, which is exactly why you may have to live with a sick dog in the future. Having to cover extortionate medical fees is just one of the problems. These unfortunate animals will endure a lot of pain and misery as a result of someone’s reckless breeding.

We created an article about how much you should anticipate paying for a Westie based on their age and where you get them from here.

Westie’s lifespan depends on the care he gets

Your Westie’s life expectancy is also affected by a variety of circumstances that owners can control, including the care you offer him.

The diet you choose for your Westie will have a significant influence on his health. Eating a balanced diet of grains, meat and vegetables will boost your dog’s immune system and make him less susceptible to health problems. The key to having a healthy life is to eat an age-appropriate, high-quality, and nutritious diet.


Castration is not actually essential for either male or female dogs from a medical standpoint. The process alters the hormonal balance, and any operation is, of course, inherently risky. Some owners, however, prefer to do so. For example, if a male and female share a household and no offspring are desired. However, if the main goal is to reduce undesired behavior or if the owner wants to minimize the hygienic effort during heat, neutering is not advocated.

However, whether castration can really increase life expectancy is debatable and has yet to be confirmed, despite the occasional claims. What is true, however, is that early neutering in bitches can substantially lower the chance of some forms of cancer (such as mammary tumors) and can help avoid uterus or ovarian disorders. To take advantage of this, castration should occur after the first heat.

Health Concerns and Typical Diseases

As noted previously, Westies are vulnerable to a variety of unique health conditions that can impact the breed, particularly those that are hereditary.

A recent survey conducted by VetCompass identified the following conditions as the most common amongst West Highland Terriers:

  • Gum disease
  • Ear infection
  • Overgrown nails
  • Allergic skin disorder
  • Obesity.

Other common problems are Perthes’ disease which impacts the hip joints, white shaker dog syndrome causing tremors, lung disease, lion-head disease, causing bony enlargements in the head, and also dry eye.

Signs of aging

Westies may be considered senior after the age of ten. Though every individual is unique, around this stage, they will most likely begin to slow down, require more sleep, and lose interest in some things that they enjoyed when they were younger.

Other signs of aging include a decline in their eyesight (cataracts are quite common), hearing loss, dental concerns, joint problems, and confusion.

We’ve seen some of these symptoms in our elderly Westie, who has been developing cataracts and heart murmurs for the last few years. He’s also suffered bad skin and tremors in the past.

How to Help Your Westie Live a Long, Happy Life

Knowing the most frequent Westie ailments and considering the findings of the VetCompass study, it appears that, aside from the main inherited disorders, there is a lot we can do as owners to prevent most illnesses and ensure they have a great quality of life.

We’ve had our adopted Westie for over 8 years now, and we believe the following elements have contributed to his contentment.

Regular vet checks

Regular vaccinations and deworming should be as important as checkups in health care.

This way, diseases, and problems can be discovered and addressed at an early stage. Even severe illnesses can be better managed, if not cured, in this manner.

Furthermore, tartar formation must be taken into account. Because this not only puts the teeth and gums at risk, but it can also place a strain on the heart. If it cannot be reduced by cleaning at home, it should be removed by a veterinarian.

General maintenance

It is extremely important to keep the Westie’s coat in top condition. This may entail visits to the grooming salon if you are unable to do it at home, as well as regular brushing to keep it in great shape. 

They can also be bathed on occasion, but not excessively since this might remove vital oils from the skin. 

Other essential checks you can perform include:

  • make sure your dog’s ears and eyes are clean, 
  • claws are trimmed, 
  • and your dog is free of parasites such as ticks and fleas. 


A species-appropriate diet tailored to the Westie’s age, activity level, and individual needs can considerably lengthen their life. 

Aside from picking nutritious meals, you need also consider the amount and richness.

Obesity reduces the West Highland White Terrier’s lifetime and raises the risk of diabetes, vascular and heart disease, and urinary stones. 

Excessive strain is also placed on the joints and the overall musculoskeletal system.


Whether the Westie spends his life on the couch or runs miles alongside your bike every day regardless of the weather conditions – both extremes can shorten life considerably.

It is better to pay attention to a balanced amount of exercise. How much is enough or too much is primarily down to the individual. However, there are still some rules to be observed.

  • Provide short exercise sessions to both puppies and senior West Highland White Terriers
  • Divide long hours of play and walks into breaks
  • Keep bike tours short, ride slowly, take breaks, and don’t set off when the temperature is above 20 °C
  • During the movement, pay attention to the dog and possible signs of overload
  • Avoid overheating in summer
  • Ensure adequate protection against the cold in winter.

It is much better to plan shorter but several exercise blocks than to keep the dog physically active for hours just once a week.

Environmental considerations

Dogs tend to have longer lives in the country than in the city. This might be due to increased air pollution, a higher chance of hazards, or stress. These may have an impact on our four-legged pets just as much as they do on us.

As a result, it is critical not to put too much pressure on the Westie and to provide him with plenty of opportunities to rest. Walking in the woods, parks, or the countryside is preferable to walking on busy roads full of pollutants.

Festivals, shopping arcades, and other large crowds are a tremendous burden for the West Highland White Terrier, no matter how much he wags his tail, and should thus be avoided to a large extent.

And the little terrier requires a safe retreat inside his own four walls as well. It should be quiet, at a comfortable temperature for the dog, and free of disruptions.

Of course, it is still important to keep him away from dangerous substances. No matter how long-lived the Westie is by nature, prolonged exposure to cigarette smoke, exhaust fumes, or chemicals can significantly limit his lifetime.

Plenty of attention and training

Last but not least, it is critical to spend time with and be gentle with your Westie. 

Positive training, affection, and stimulating activities can go a long way toward ensuring that they are not just physically but also mentally well.

At the same time, dogs tend to misbehave when their owners fail to teach them what’s expected of them in the right way.

Too much harsh discipline can be just as harmful in the long run as being too lax and allowing them to develop undesirable habits. Because Westies are known to be stubborn, it’s especially vital to establish certain ground rules from the start, but do so in a fun and rewarding way.

Final Thoughts

If properly cared for, a Westie can be your companion for a long time.

In general, provided no accidents or illnesses occur, the typical Westie will provide you with 12 to 16 years of quality companionship. Owners who pay attention to their dogs’ changing needs as they age may be able to keep their beloved pets until they are in their late teens.

It is important that an elderly Westie has adequate nutrition and is examined by a veterinarian to preserve their health.

Thanks for reading this article. Keep up to date with Westie Wisdom for more great posts about our canine friends.

Check out our Resources page where we put together a collection of products and links to organizations for Westie owners. We only recommend products that we believe will enhance your Westie’s quality of life.