Scratch Dog or Not – Are West Highland Terriers Hypoallergenic?

The good news for those wanting to purchase or adopt a Westie is, the possibility of runny nose, watery eyes, hives and sneezing is greatly reduced with these adorable little dogs.


Don't be fooled by cute Westie images though, they are a small dog with a big personality, they can be yappy and like all terriers are strong-willed. But for those who want a cheerful, alert, active low-shedding dog, they can make a great choice and here's why:

Is It True, Are West Highland Terrier Dogs Hypoallergenic?

Westies are ranked #7 by the AMA (American Medical Association) in a list of low dander dogs so can generally live in homes where there is low to moderate allergies or asthma so the good news is YES, the West Highland Terrier is classed as a small hypoallergenic breed.

What does hypoallergenic actually mean?

This question crops up in almost every discussion about allergy sufferers and is not limited to hypoallergenic dog breeds. Everything that is described as Hypoallergenic means it has a lower or reduced chance of causing an allergic reaction. It does not mean that there is no chance of a fit of the sneezes or developing a rash. Allergies vary as do reactions to various breeds and even different dogs within the breed so use caution before bringing any animal into your home environment.

3 Reasons Why the West Highland White Terrier Is a Choice Breed Among Allergy Sufferers

  • The distinctive white double coat of the Westie consists of a soft undercoat and a coarse straight top coat. While they do not produce much dander, they do shed slightly although this can be kept under control with a daily brushing.
  • Everything is relative and as these dogs are pint-sized, the smaller surface area allergens have, to linger.
  • West Highland Whites like most terriers are tough independent little dogs so while they love a cuddle are not constantly demanding attention by licking like some of the other small hypoallergenic breeds and as saliva can be the main trigger of an allergic reaction this is a definite bonus.

West Highland Terriers and allergies - What should I do?

Although Westies are winners for people suffering from allergies reactions can sometimes occur and the last thing you want is your new best friend setting of a coughing fit or bout of allergic misery. This may result in you not being able to keep the dog which will result in you, your family and the dog being extremely upset.

To ensure a West Highland Terrier would be compatible with your lifestyle and be an allergy-free addition to your home you could try:

  • Discussing with your chosen breeder some controlled access visits with the puppy of your choice if they are local.
  • If they are further afield you could post a piece of cloth, ask them to wipe your chosen puppy with it and return it to see if it provokes a reaction. It is still advisable to visit though not only for the sake of your allergies but to ensure the pup is being brought up in a clean healthy environment and not a puppy mill.

5 Ways to Reduce the Risk of an Allergic Reaction from Your Pooch

  • To control your West Highland Terrier shedding, bathe them regularly with a mild hypoallergenic shampoo, as well as keeping allergen particles at bay it will keep your pet's coat in top condition, white and bright.
  • Clean every day, vacuuming and wiping surfaces with a damp cloth will prevent the build-up of allergens
  • Wash your four-legged friend's bedding weekly on a hot cycle to keep it allergen-free.
  • check
    Also wash toys regularly saliva is one of the main causes of dog allergies so get rid of the slobber.
  • check
    Designate a toilet area for your dog away from the house, urine can also cause a reaction so the farther you stay away from the pee the better.

All about the West Highland White Terrier - Origin of the Breed

This wonderful wee dog has a shared history with other Scottish Terriers including the Skye Terrier, Cairn Terrier, Dandie Dinmont, and Scottish Terrier which were all used for hunting foxes, otters, badgers and the like and controlling vermin.

White terriers were often the offspring of Scottish and Cairn Terriers and a few families in the western isles preserved these dogs.

Towards the end of the 19th century the 16th Laird of Poltalloch, Edward Malcolm mistakenly shot his favorite brown terrier mistaking it for a fox and vowed there and then to develop the white strain of the breed. They became known as the Poltalloch Terrier and also the Roseneath Terrier. He did not however want the breed credited to him and it was later renamed the West Highland Terrier.

They were first imported to the US around 1906 being recognized by the AKC initially as the Roseneath Terrier in 1908 which officially changed to their current name in 1909. Their good looks, cuteness and cheeky personalities meant they immediately became popular remaining so to this day.

General Appearance

There is no mistaking the Westie, compact sturdy little dogs they should have a straight back and short muscular legs. The accepted height for a pedigree West Highland Terrier is 10-12 inches for males and 9-11 inches for females. Males usually weigh around 15-22lbs with females lighter at 13-16lbs. They have almond shaped eyes set wide apart with an endearing expression and their ears should be wide-set, triangular in shape, tapering to a distinct point. Their double coat has a soft tight undercoat and a harsh topcoat around 2 inches long, it comes in one color and one color only: White.


Where to begin? words like tenacious, nosy, affectionate and friendly are all used to describe the hypoallergenic West Highland Terrier. A typical terrier they have a big personality in a relatively small body. They are, definitely not a lap dog and require plenty of walks and inter-active play sessions. They are lively, inquisitive and make great travelling companions.

As with all terriers they can forget who is in charge and need consistent training from an early age to produce a well-rounded adult otherwise behavioral problems can become an issue with this breed guarding food, toys and furniture needs to be nipped in the bud because they will snap.

The Westie will usually get on OK with other dogs and cats too if brought up with them but don't forget they were bred to hunt and the instinct still remains so it is best to keep them away from small furries. They make excellent little watchdogs and can be yappy if not trained. They get on well with older children but are not recommended for younger ones, as again like most terriers they are less tolerant of pulling and squeezing than other breeds and can be possessive.

With the right owner, a West Highland Terrier makes a great companion, he is adaptable, outgoing, clever, a right little busybody and of course a great choice for those wanting a small hypoallergenic dog breed.

Source: Pupjournal


The West Highland White Terrier is a robust little dog that has an average lifespan of around 12-14 years but like all breeds they can be prone to certain health issues, these include:

  • Pulmonary Fibrosis (Westie lung disease)
  • Patellar Luxation• Juvenile Cataracts
  • Allergies/Skin Problems
  • Legg-Calve-Perthes disease
  • White Shaker Dog Syndrome
  • Deafness
  • Liver Shunt
  • Krabbe Disease
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency

While some of these problems are relatively rare they can and do occur. A recent study found the 66% of Westies suffer from skin problems before the age of 3 years old. Bringing a West Highland Terrier into your home may mean having to deal with more than just your own allergies.

Of course, the priority is finding the allergen responsible for the problem and eliminating or reducing exposure. Dogs like humans can be allergic to numerous proteins such as flea saliva, food stuffs, pollen, household chemicals.

Medications can be prescribed to control the itching and as an important factor id diet it is usually recommended to switch to a hypoallergenic dog food, it is also important to keep up to date with flea control and use a mild hypoallergenic shampoo when bathing your pooch.


Small energetic dogs like the West Highland Terrier require more calories per scoop so need special food formulated for small breeds to provide the nutrients they need. You will also need to take into consideration, the activity level, age and any health issues your dog may have. As mentioned above there is an above average chance your four-legged friend will suffer from allergies so it is also advisable to buy hypoallergenic dog food which does not include the following ingredients:

  • Wheat
  • Artificial Colors/Preservatives
  • Yeast
  • Soy
  • Beef
  • Corn
  • Fillers
  • Meat/Poultry by products

The best foods contain human grade ingredients and an adult West Highland Terrier should be fed 1/2 cup of dried kibble twice daily and avoid giving food from the table no matter how pleading the expression. A good diet with healthy snacks and treats will ensure your Westie lives a long, healthy active life.

Source: Pinterest

Finding A Good West Highland Terrier Breeder

A good West Highland Terrier breeder will concentrate on 3 main things health, temperament and breed standard in order to produce the best puppies possible. That is why it is important to do your research to find a responsible breeder and not buy from backyard breeders and puppy mills whose #1 priority is cash.

A great place to start in your search when looking for West Highland Terrier puppies is the West Highland White Terrier Club of America (WHWTCA) who have a list of breeders and while being on the list is no guarantee of a great West Highland White Terrier breeder it enables you to make contact and ask questions. The WHWTCA also has a list of regional events. Go along, not only will you find out if spending time among the breed will be sniffle-free but you will make contacts and get recommendations of good breeders in the area and there is no better endorsement than word of mouth.

You can also join Westie groups and forums online which will give you more information about living with these cheeky little dogs, how other allergy sufferers have fared and again recommendations for reputable breeders. Once you have a shortlist be sure to visit 2 or 3 breeders before selecting the right one for you.​

3 Red Flags to Look Out for When Searching a West Highland White Terrier Breeder

  • Avoid breeders selling West Highland White Terrier puppies, that have multiple breeds on site. A good breeder may have a couple of breeds they love but it is unlikely to be 5 or 6.
  • Don't buy from breeders who constantly have puppies available most good breeders have only a few litters a year and usually have a waiting list you can go on. so be prepared to wait a while for that perfect pup.
  • Never buy from a breeder that cannot provide references, good breeders keep in touch with buyers to see how their puppies are progressing and should be happy to provide you with their details.

Adopting a Westie from a Rescue or Shelter

Before buying a West Highland puppy you need to ask yourself:

  • Have I got the time, patience and skills needed to train this breed?
  • Am I at home most of the time?
  • Is my home puppy-proof?
  • check
    Can I provide the exercise and mental stimulation Westie's require?
  • check
    Do I really want to pay top dollar for a pedigree puppy?

If you have answered no to any of these, it might be worth considering adopting an adult dog.

The West Highland Terrier is ranked the 41st most popular dog in the US and it is quite common to see them in shelters. Unfortunately, many of these are mixed breeds and while a cross with a Maltese or Bichon Frise might be suitable for an allergy sufferer a cross with a heavy shedding breed like a Corgi would be a recipe for disaster and with many rescue dogs there is no way of knowing.

You could discuss your medical issues with the shelter and arrange a few visits to see if your chosen pooch triggers any symptoms, but the best option would be to contact a breed specific rescue. They usually have much better knowledge of the dogs in their care and work hard to match the right dog to the right owner. Many are looking for volunteers to foster their rescues so you might even be able to try before you buy so to speak.

How Much Will a West Highland White Terrier Set You Back?

There is an old saying that proclaims "You get what you pay for" and this can be true when purchasing a Westie. There will probably be puppies for sale in the classifieds and on the internet for a couple of hundred bucks, however, what will you receive for this bargain price?

A Bargain Puppy:

More than likely no registration papers, meaning the breeder is unlikely to comply with the AKC's breeding regulations, the mother may be too young or subjected to having numerous litters. You are also unlikely to get the results of any health screening because they won't have bothered, which could potentially cost you thousands of dollars in vet's bills.

You will have a highland puppy that has been bred purely for cash with no consideration to health or temperament. There will be no sale contract, no guarantees, no knowledge and no back up should you encounter any problems.

No wonder then, a quality puppy from a reputable breeder will set you back anything from $500-$2000 depending on where you live, the sex of the dog and how many champions they can boast in their pedigree.

Adopting is a much cheaper option; the fees can range from $75-$250 a relatively small price to pay and you will get the satisfaction of giving an unwanted dog their forever home.

Source: Petful

It's a Wrap

For those wondering "are terriers hypoallergenic?" The good news is many are and the the hypoallergenic West Highland White Terrier is a great choice for people suffering from mild to moderate allergies but the can be a handful if you don't know what you're doing.

They are into everything, a veritable nosy parker and will happily alert you to every sight and sound that occurs in the neighborhood. They are busy dogs and need regular exercise as well as consistent training and mental stimulation to prevent behavioral problems. Like all terriers give them an inch and they will take a mile.

Cheerful, active, independent and friendly this small hypoallergenic dog will melt your heart and most likely dig up your flower beds. With their stunning looks and large personality is it any wonder that many pet allergy sufferers have found a Westie to be their Bestie.

John Devlin

Husband, father and avid dog lover. Currently the proud owner of George a pedigree Golden Retriever that barely leaves my side. However, cute this sounds a little break from the dog hairs every now and then would be nice!

Leave a Reply

Notify of