The Diehard is dying

Finlay wearing his "belly band"
Finlay wearing his “belly band”

I am reminded daily of the short life-span of Scottish Terriers, as I look at Finlay, my beloved boy, diagnosed with TCC at 10 years of age. 10 years, I hear some of you say, is a good age for Scotties. And yes, I’ve also heard and read that I’m “lucky” that my Scottie has reached the age of 10. But today’s Scottish Terrier’s once legendary genetic toughness is so compromised he is the National Institute of Health bladder cancer research subject.

It is neither bad luck, nor accident, nor an act of god responsible for today’s Scottish Terrier carrying more than 20 times the genetic load for bladder cancer than other dogs and longevity shorter than large-size breeds; it is the consequence of a shallow breed standard that neither measures nor monitors genetic fitness and a century of human decisions by both breeders and buyers to bet our dogs’ future on ‘barbie-dog’ logic that if you breed Scotties to be handsome, they’re sure to be healthy.

Responsible breeders claim that they love their Scotties as much as anyone and Joseph Harvill goes on to say that “breeders love Scotties truly and when they do, it’s for the same reasons pet folks are crazy about these dogs.” But his caveat over this claim and he re-iterates that “I don’t doubt that they love these dogs, they just don’t breed like they do.”

We’re all to blame in one way or another. Breeding arbitrarily defined champions for the artificial world of the show-ring must stop. Perpetuating the closed studbook and line breeding of the past 109 years can make our dogs extinct; it cannot make them genetically fit. Without change our Scottish Terriers will not only suffer, they will disappear.

It’s not enough to be told that “there is a problem”. We know that. We’re burying them. We need to know why and how health problems now tearing our dogs and hearts can exist in dogs whose genes and lives we control through selective breeding; we deserve to know what real change is in place to assure “well-bred” will mean health and longevity tomorrow.

Our scotties hopes for tomorrow will come from the bottom up, one hopelessly enchanted individual at a time.

I’d like to say that the above paragraphs are all my own words, but I’ve once again been able to select hard-hitting comments highlighting the plight of our beloved Scottish Terriers, courtesy Great Scots Magazine. I’ve attached two pdf’s here so that you can read this two part article in it’s entirety and start today “making a difference” for Scottish Terriers.

Supporting Articles

The Big Truth – part one, Great Scots Magazine, 1st Quarter 2013 Vol 18 no 1 pp12-17 (6 page pdf –  may take time to load)

The Big Truth – part two, Great Scots Magazine, 1st Quarter 2013 Vol 18 no 1 pp18-22 and 44 (6 page pdf – may take time to load)

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16 thoughts on “The Diehard is dying

  1. When we purchased our Maggie, it was on a whim because our previous dog had expired at the age of around 15 or 16 years old. I knew little of the breed other than when I was a child, remembering someone from my grandparents camping group who owned a Scottie named Mr. Mac. I was so taken by that little dog that all these years later, I decided that this should be our next dog.

    My wife located a black female available from a breeder that lived within a couple hundred miles, traded e-mails, looked at a picture and decided that was our dog without doing a great deal of research. Needless to say we had inadvertantly stumbled upon the breed of dog both of us would come to love and respect.

    The first lesson was on how NOT to choose a breeder. Within months we were at the vet with severe issues of diarrhea and foot pad dermititis. Eventually diagnosed as food allergies, we got her on a limited ingrediant diet and things began to subside.

    That’s when we learned about reputable and not so reputable breeders. From that point on, our breeder didn’t want to hear about Maggie. She essentially told us not to contact her anymore. In other words, she didn’t want to know.

    I began to look at the breed and discoved much of what’s written here. I was devistated to know that our Maggie was the result of irrisponsible breeding and was likely to not live as long as the other dog breeds we’ve owned. In fact, Maggie passed away at 8 yrs and 10 months. The breeder has no idea of the illnesses and issues of Maggie because she didn’t want to know. This breeder publishes her pedigree online with champions listed throughout. The breeder is also a member of the Scottish Terrier Club of America, which research states is a criteria for locating a “reputable” breeder. In fact, if we had followed all the AKC recommendations for locating a breeder, this one would have been at the top.

    The advice we wouldn’t have recieved was to look closely at the pedigree to see if the breeder was practicing close line breeding, which she was and, last I checked still continues to do. From what I’m looking at there does not appear to be enough genetic variety in her pedigree’s to avoid breeding undesirable traits into her dogs. They may be fine looking Scottish Terriers and be nearly perfect fits for the breed standards but, inside they’re a higher risk for undesirable genetic traits one can’t see with the naked eye.

    It most developed countries there are standards against marrying to close in family relations. There should be similar standards for dog breeds as well. I believe it’s starting to take hold in that several of the breeders we looked at have gone outside their home country to aquire breeding stock. Of course this results in higher prices but, that’s the price that must be paid to restore the health of our beloved breed. With luck we’re not to late. Unfortunately, there’s still more than enough breeders who are profit driven that the genetic issues plagueing our breed won’t end soon. Breeders MUST follow up on their pups and remove from breeding stock those dogs passing on the most undesirable traits. Otherwise the diehard may die out.

    1. Doug, I applaud your comments. Now is the time to start really making amends for what we’ve done over the last 100 years. Although really it should have been much much sooner. Lets hope that our Scotties of tomorrow will be healthier than those beloved ones that are currently our best friends and companions. Thank you for your continued support.

  2. We are Scottie breeders in Germany, our breeding stock is based on stock from a famous US kennel. We are breeding since 25 years and we ARE line-breeding (our foundational breeder line-bred for 40 yrs!).
    So that’s in total 50+ yrs. of line-breeding.
    But look at the age of our dogs: 12+ is the average, we even bred dogs that lived 14 and 16 years. Of course, they eventually died from an illness (they rarely just fall asleep), some of them with TCC. But they all reached a good age!
    So what I am saying: don’t always blame line-breeding for all health issues.
    In our case, I believe that we breed a line with a very good life expectancy – and we have success in dog shows as well!

  3. Put our Scottie ‘Higgens’ down today after a gallant 3 month battle against bladder and liver cancer, he managed 12,5 feisty years of pure Scottie livelihood. The cancer was severe and his deterioration very rapid. Both his parents ‘Kendall & Fergie’ attained 11 years a piece and succomed to stomache and heart conditions respectively. A breed of great stature, character, attitude, feistiness, courageous, loyal to family, always your best friend. Recommend new owners research their ailments timeously to lessen the inevitable, most are treatable. A great companion.

    1. We Lost our 6 1/2 year old Scottie a week ago to Stomach Cancer. We are devastated. We have had 3 Scotties that lived 6 1/2 yrs, 7yrs and 10 1/2.
      The other 2 both had Lyphoma and, the oldest developed bladder cancer but died of Lyphoma. I Love Scotties and, I feed them FlintRiver Ranch dog food, don’t spray herbicides in the back yard.
      Something is seriously wrong with this need health! I Love Scotties and, have not given up on them. You really have to monitor their health closely.

  4. Our Scottish terrier is 10. Her sister from the same litter passed @8 years of liver cancer and lymphoma. Our 10 year old has had a bad odor and licking her paws extensively..her vet said her liver enzymes and kidney functions are elevated and pancreatitis.but she’s eating and drinking ok..how do I know if she’s in pain..and do vets presvribe pain meds ?

  5. We had two different wonderful Scotties, totally unrelated, years apart, who each died of a sudden and deadly hemangiosarcoma, at age 7 and age 8. This was once quite rare in Scotties, and is apparently more and more common according to our vet. We were devastated both times.

  6. My 14 1/2 yr old Scottie was allowed to leave this world today. When she was age 8, I was told her liver readings were so horrific that she would die from liver cancer within the year. Had two Vets & a Vet Internist & a Vet college argue for two years whether she did or did not have Cushing or pseudo Cushing. Didn’t have either. Four years ago she developed pancreatitis & I was told she would pass within the year from pancreatic cancer. Two years ago she had melanoma cancer on her foot. Right big toe was amputated. Reports were that she would die from another cancer within the year. Seven months ago I was told she was in end stages of renal failure & would die within a few days to a month. And yet her will to live has kept her going. Horrible food allergies most of her life but home cooking mattered.

  7. I lost my one Scottie 12/28/15, then my other one 6/20/17. All together I have lost 4 to cancer. I tried to do my best for them, but this terrible disease is taking all of our Scotties. I now have a 1&1/2 yr old Scottie and he is my world, but there is no guarantee. He’s still a pup, but I’m so afraid of losing him. There has to be answers somewhere.

  8. Although l have made comments about losing my Angus, l have never told the whole story. Dear Scottie Family as we have grown together l realize as much as we love our babies, other breeds have broken hearted pawrents. My breed is the Great Dane. I loved ,showed and bred this miniature horse with much pride and joy. However, being deeply involved in the breed, l started to realize that all was what it appeared to be. Of course with the size of a Dane, poor temperament was under control as long as the Dane was not a perfect example of the standard. Faulty memory came into play at that time. I line bred my Dutch as his lineage boasted of best of breed wins for every generation at specialties. Good health was throughout his bloodline and each one l met was sweeter and dumber than the other. No cancer, no bloat, other than a fluke would l worry about this line. I was deathly afraid of cancer and bloat and without a past in this area. I was secure that the sorrow of losing a Dane was rare. He was bred twice and what litters! Because l was the newbie, l acquiesced to the breeder l bought Dutch. First litter produced 4 champs. Beautiful conformation, personalities enough to make you cry. 2nd litter, a bitch l knew little about, was not good. Structure problems, personality problems and a history of bloat. Long story short, my beautiful brindle, followed in his mom’s footsteps and was put down at 4. That was my last Dane and l adopted a little Scottie at 6 months with severe skin allergies who was about to be put down. I can still see him the first meeting and that began our 12 year bond. Sweet, funny, bold, everything l would love, Especially not worrying about the deadly problems of my danes. Ignorance was bliss as l knew nothing bad other than skin allergies and some other nagging problems. This l could handle. His previous owners bought him at a flea market. We spent 12 glorious years together before l lost him.
    I have never recovered. We had no time after he was diagnosed. The reason l am writing this long memoire is to let the Scottie family know, no matter how careful you are, or how you try to do everything right, losing these wonderful children will not stop until you have everyone get on board the responsible breeding train. You are being vigilant, but it takes much more. Don’t be tempted by a once in a lifetime breeding if you have not weeded out every question possible as to the health and longevity of the litter. When you decide to breed do your research and throw out your wallet, ego and pride and do what is best for the breed. If all the pieces are there, not most, but all and if you are a true friend to the breed you profess to love, your line, will evolve into a healthy Scottie breed with longevity, personality, a true example of what a Scottie should be to be enjoyed for a much longer time.

  9. We lost our much loved Scottie, Gus, on October 3, 2017. He had been diagnosed with bladder cancer in July 2016 at the Michigan State University vet school. Gus was our third Scottie and his litter mates had remained in our extended family. So we knew how the other ones were doing health wise.
    We opted to do chemo and related treatments with the wonderful team at MSU. It meant a two hour commute to Lansing, MI every three weeks. It was a full day for Gus and for us. He suffered no side effects for most of his treatments. During the treatments he also had stomach surgery to remove some benign masses in his belly that were beginning to hamper his eating.
    During the 14 months of treatments he received three different courses of chemo meds. He remained alert, friendly, interested in his Scottie world (our backyard). His weight was stable, his appetite ok, no vomiting. He did dread the long ride, was nervous for the first 20 miles or so. He needed lots of encouragement to go with the vet techs (separation anxiety?) but we were always told he was a good boy during his stay with them. They all came to love him as much as we did.
    In mid September we finally reached a time when the chemo was not working. We made the decision to discontinue treatment. Gus was on some pain meds for the last two weeks of his life. But those two weeks were still good weeks. He got lots of good food, lots of love, lots of good byes from all of his family. Finally we decided that even though there was still “Gus” in that little body it was time to let him go.
    Yes, we spent thousands of dollars on his treatments. Each dollar was well spent and never regretted. Many Scottie owners would not be able to do that.
    We were not aware that there is a study being done on bladder cancer in Scottish Terriers. We wonder if all the medical records of Gus’s treatment would benefit that study? Does anyone know if these records can be added to the study? We will contact MSU vet school and encourage them to submit the records if needed.

    1. Hi there, I’m so very sorry to read about the recent loss of your beloved Scottie, Gus. I too had a scottie called Gus. I’m based in the UK and we’ve only just started on our on investigations into Bladder Cancer, but Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, headed up by Dr Deborah Knapp have been undertaking research into Scottish Terriers and Bladder Cancers for many years. Please get in touch with them as I’m very sure they would welcome any medical history your own vets have. Our Scotties are 20 times more at risk of suffering from this disease than any other breed. There are plenty of us trying to ensure that something significant is being done about this. So please, get in touch with them : Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine, 625 Harrison Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907, (765) 494-7607. My heart goes out to you ….

  10. I have a 7 1/2 year old Scottie called Dougal he is my heart. He has been so very poorly since he was 3 he has undergone many operations and procedures all related to three of his legs – he has had problem after problem with his bones ligaments and knees – he has been with a specialist vet for all this time and he said it is all genetic. During this time I looked at his pedigree I have five generations and I could see the same names appearing on each of his parents sides I am certain that this was too close far too close. I contacted the breeder she didn’t want to know I contacted the Kennel Club and they certainly didn’t want to know I pointed out that I had chosen this breeder as she is recommended on their web site as a certified Scottish Terrier breeder they said they cannot check everyone out ! When I read out the pedigree and how close the lines were on both parents they said it’s allowed and that was that. My precious Scottie is still suffering even with the pain relief I give him he has been on tranadol and metacam for four years and I’m worried about that but I cannot have him in pain can I – I have recently started giving him CBD oil and although early days I’m convinced it is helping and I also started using ‘golden paste’ which is turmeric black pepper and coconut oil Home made. The insurance has now ran out and I worry about that but I’m not leaving my Scottie behind he is right by my side for as long as he is on this earth I most certainly love that Dog and the breed he is my fourth precious Scottish Terrier.

    1. I’m so very sorry to read about your beloved Dougal. Sadly there are far too many irresponsible breeders only interested in either the financial rewards, or rosettes and Challenge Certificates received in the Show Ring. Very few of us are responsible custodians of our beloved breed. On the Kennel Club website there is a section called Co-efficient of Inbreeding or C.O.I. This allows breeders to hypothetically test out a ‘mating’ to see how high the C.O.I of a litter will be. Currently the Co-efficient of Inbreeding for Scotties is 5.9%. It is not acceptable by the Kennel Club to register a litter with a COI of 25% which is probably a mother-son mating. However, they do allow other closely related matings to take place such as ‘uncles and nieces’ and ‘half brothers and half sisters’ which I personally do not think is right. If the Breeder is on the Kennel Club website, then they would initially have been checked out, but who knows how regularly the Kennel Club manage their ‘Schemes’. I’m sure there will be plenty of holistic and natural remedies that we can help you find, in order to keep your little boy comfortable. If you have a Facebook Profile, then please check out our Page “Scottish Terrier Health Network” – there are over 7,200 followers who love to help scottie families with anything. Please do keep in touch and if you would prefer to chat privately, I shall be more than happy to carry on in that way.

Our Scotties really do need to hear from you .....

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