The small but spunky silky terrier is generally a healthy breed. Like any purebred dog, they are predisposed to certain genetic diseases and conditions. This Australian native bears a close resemblance to his relatives, the Australian terrier and the Yorkshire terrier. Like other small terriers, the silky thinks he's a big dog in a little canine's body.
Silky terriers are prone to certain eye disorders, including progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) and cataracts. PRA develops gradually, but eventually results in total blindness. Early signs include inability to see in weak light, characterized by walking into objects and unwillingness to go outdoors at night. Eventually, the eyes develop cataracts, or opaque white areas around the pupil. Silky terriers can also develop cataracts without PRA. There is no treatment for PRA, but most dogs adjust to their loss of vision, with help of dedicated owners. Dogs suffering only from cataracts can have them surgically removed.
Silky Terrier Endocrine Diseases
Hypothyroidism, or insufficient amounts of thyroid hormone, can affect silky terriers. Symptoms include weight gain although the dog isn't eating more food, behavioral changes, hair loss and dull coat and skin infections. The lively silky terrier becomes lethargic. Fortunately, your vet can prescribe daily thyroid medication to restore your silky terrier to health. Another endocrine disorder, Cushing's disease, or hyperadrenocorticism, also occurs in older silkies. In this condition, the dog's adrenal glands produce excess cortisol. Symptoms of Cushing's disease resemble those of hypothyroidism, along with excessive eating and drinking. Your vet can prescribe medication for disease control.
Leggs-Calve-Perthes disease, a common hereditary orthopedic condition in small breed dogs, often occurs in the silky terrier. Initial signs consist of rear leg lameness in a young animal. With this condition, the blood supply to the femur's head is inadequate, leading to its necrosis. Treatment consists of surgery to remove the "dead head." Patellar luxation, or dislocated kneecaps, frequently affect small breeds and the silky terrier is no exception. Most dogs require surgery to correct the dislocation.
Silky Terrier Epilepsy
Some silkies might suffer from epilepsy, a neurological disorder resulting in seizures. Such episodes are terrible to watch, as affected dogs lose balance and fall over, often with legs flailing, body shaking and teeth biting at the air. Most seizures last just a minute or so, with those in excess of five minutes often causing some permanent damage. Depending on the frequency of the seizures, your vet might prescribe phenobarbital or potassium bromide for prevention and control.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.