Cairn Terrier Health Group

The Cairn Terrier is a generally robust and healthy breed, but dogs, like humans, do inevitably sometimes suffer from ill health. 

What the Health Group does:

The Cairn Terrier Health Group (CTHG) monitors the wellbeing of the breed by collecting and storing information on any diagnosed cases that occur throughout the full life of Cairn Terriers in the UK. 

This is the only way to try and ensure the future health of our wonderful breed. 

What can you do to help us:

 It is therefore very important that owners report any health issues to our data collection. 

We would also appreciate if you could forward any veterinary reports regarding any conditions that your dog has together with the pedigree to our co-ordinator.

What we can do to help you:

Advice from the CTHG is always at hand, either via email or by telephone, but don’t forget to also contact the breeder of your Cairn – he or she will no doubt want to be informed and offer support. 

The Best Little Pal:

The Cairn Terrier Health Group wishes you many Happy and Healthy years with your new friend and please don't forget to keep us informed! 

Contact details:

Margaret Shopland – Chairperson: Tel: 01487 840037


Jennie Fairweather – Secretary: Tel: 01869 322996 Email:

Chris Roberts – Co-ordinator/Treasurer: Tel: 01283 712498 


David Kippen – Committee Member/Adviser: Tel: 02392 465792






The yearly report has traditionally started with Sincere Thanks to owners, who have been in contact during the year with welcome updates or for help and advice. This year my Thanks is somewhat tainted with sadness, because this is my last report due to my retirement from the CTHG. I will of course still very much appreciate hearing about the dogs I have followed, some very long term. Help is always still at hand.

My very first Health Report had the following statement “The Cairn Terrier is luckily a typically robust and healthy breed, but vigilance is necessary to ensure that it remains that way”. Those words are, in my opinion, as relevant now as then. There are however some, who claim that the breed has so many health problems. This is not an opinion shared by the many Vets I talk to. They generally think it is a breed without many health problems. Cairns can of course suffer ill health, just like other dogs and humans too, but they are spared multiple hereditary problems affecting so many breeds. The liver diseases Porto Systemic Shunt (PSS) and MVD and eye condition Ocular Melanosis (OM) still appear to be the only diseases of certain heritable nature and where cases have been repeatedly reported. It seemed like a step forward, when quite some years ago by now, the KC agreed to add both Bile Acid testing of puppies and Yearly Eye testing as recommendations for Assured Breeders. Swab samples have been forwarded to research for both conditions and the AHT sequenced the DNA from a Cairn with OM and this has also been made available for research. Let’s hope DNA tests will soon be available!

I have also, in previous Health Reports, mentioned a variety of reported conditions, but this list has got most together in one place:

Addison’s disease; Advanced retinal degeneration and optic nerve atrophy; Bladder cancer; Bladder stones; Corneal ulcer; Cushing’s disease; Diabetes; Endometriosis with anaemia; Epilepsy; Granulomatous colitis; Hip dysplasia; Hydrometra; Hypothyroidism; Immune Mediated Meningitis; Iris melanoma; Ischemic myelopathy; Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS); Kidney disease; Liver cancer; Mitochondrial Fatty Acid Oxidation; Myasthenia Gravis; Nasal carcinoma; Osteosarcoma; Pancreatitis; Parvo in fully vaccinated pup; Polyarthritis; Renal failure/PLN; SARDS; Steroid Responsive Meningitis Arteris (SRMA); Testicular cancer; Vestibular Disease.

If that list looks scary, then it must realised that most of the diseases are only represented by a single reported case. The cancers were in elderly dogs. Added to the list could also be two of the most common conditions all vets treat pets for, namely Obesity and Skin problems, the latter often found to be caused by harvest mites or visiting fleas.

The KC has organised a yearly Breed Health Coordinator Seminar for a long time now and I have sometimes, in the Health Report, included information from talks given that year. Dr Mike Starkey is oncology specialist at the AHT (the only canine cancer research centre in UK) and he was mentioned 2015. He was yet again one of the speakers at the 2018 Seminar and gave an excellent presentation including ongoing DNA research and treatment options. Cancer affects 1 in 4 dogs and is the most common cause of death in dogs over the age of 10. It was also stated that most types of cancer affect most breeds but a few breeds are more susceptible to certain cancers. Such susceptibility is believed to be inherited, if multiple dogs in different generations of multiple families are affected by the same cancer and the incidence is significantly higher (Odds Ratio >1.0) than in most other breeds.

Dr Tom Lewis, KC Quantitative Geneticist, did also give a talk on Genetic Diversity and Effective Population Sizes, reported on earlier. It really did come to my mind when reading the KC registration figures for the last decade. The registered number of puppies has drastically gone down from 1,946 registered 2008 to 589 in 2017 (the 4th Qtr for 2018 not yet published but the 3 Qtrs showed 431 so the total for the year not likely to be better than in -17). The total for the 5 years 2008 – 2012 is 7.265 whilst the total for 2013 – 2017 is 4.100. This really illustrates the recent decline and is, I believe, the greatest threat to the breed. Which brings me back to that talk on Genetic Diversity. Dr Lewis had pointed out that our breed had reached a genetic bottleneck some time ago but had slightly recovered. This registration trend can easily again have a negative effect on genetic diversity but could be counteracted by breeders making use of more males (less concentration on Popular Sires), welcome wisely chosen Imports and, above all, try and promote the breed so more puppies can be bred and find good homes. Enthusiastic and friendly owners out and about with well socialised, friendly and happy dogs can attract new fans. Participation in various obedience type or agility activities, like we have recently seen at Crufts, can also attract positive attention. Cairns will certainly never be ‘handbag dogs’, but they are small enough to suit people of all ages and life styles. They are happy enough to partake in whatever activity the owner enjoys but don’t have demands on much exercise, they are typically healthy and long lived and they are great with children – what’s not to like? Fashion in dogs has, as we know, drastically changed, but hopefully the Cairn can win back some of its previous popularity.

The BREEDERS are custodians of this lovely breed and only they can really affect its future health. I have previously, possibly repeatedly, pointed out the importance of keeping long-term contact with puppies produced, since it is the only way to find out if a problem crops up in a breeding program. If it happens, then the thinking cap has to be put on and the program changed. It has to be remembered that sometimes conditions, that are not actually breed problems but of familial nature, can emerge and have to be remedied. The OWNERS can also help by remembering to keep the breeders informed about how the puppy they bred is getting on in life.

New contact for information is Jennie Fairweather, email: Tel: 01869 322 996

Sincere Thanks to a benefactor for the generous donation of £100 to the Health Fund!

 Enough from me now. I wish Happy & Healthy lives to all Cairnites and Cairns!

Maud Hawkes BSc(Hons)Animal Science


Many Thanks to owners, who again have kept us informed or asked for advice! It has also been welcoming to receive updates on cases earlier reported on, especially nice to hear when a previously diagnosed dog is still doing well. Please continue to report on problems or ask for information if needed. The assembly of data, collected by the Cairn Terrier Health Group (CTHG), has been somewhat delayed due to ill health, but the work is still in progress. The internet connection is not very reliable here, so a ‘phone call can often get quicker result. Answering machine is in place and I return your calls, if a message is left.



The Survey was discussed in the 2016 Health Report and it was pointed out that the response had been rather poor and somewhat limited in reported conditions. Further analysis was undertaken and published by the KC this year. This did show that cases of ‘Enlarged Heart’ were deemed as above average. This is a rather vague description and the ages of the dogs are missing. The heart is an organ that tends to wear out with old age, in both man and ‘beast’, and Cairns usually live to ripe old age, so that missing information could be relevant. No such cases have been reported to CTHG, so it would be most welcome if owners of affected dogs would notify us!

 It is in the nature of questionnaires that collected data easily can be somewhat skewed. Another, and probably more reliable, method would be to gather information directly from the veterinary surgeries. This was indeed realised, about a decade ago, at the Royal Veterinary College, where Dr Dan O’Neill and his team started a project called VetCompass (short for Veterinary Companion Animal Surveillance System). Disease information now is received directly from quite a large number of veterinary surgeries all over the country. VetCompass produces a profile of illnesses affecting all types of dogs, but do also run 2-year studies on specific breeds in turn. The breeds, so far included, have been those with perceived problems. The Cairns are not included in that group, because they are regarded as typically healthy dogs. I have however been in communication with Dr O’Neill about possibly doing a future study on our breed. We are therefore on the waiting list for the following year and then we have to see what eventuates.


It was mentioned, last year, that the breed had been entered for this project at the Animal Health Trust (AHT). The whole genome of a Cairn Terrier with Ocular Melanosis (OM) was sequenced by May 2017.  Communication from AHT states that “The data will be added to the genome bank, and will begin contributing to studies in other breeds immediately. In addition, the data will be made available to other scientists for use in their studies, and your breed has therefore made a vital contribution to genetic research affecting the welfare of dogs worldwide.” This data has also been shared with Dr Simon Peterson-Jones at Michigan State University, who is already doing research on Cairn Terriers with OM.


No new cases of OM have been reported, but a new case of Suddenly Acquired Retinal Degeneration Syndrome (SARDS) has come in. I first mentioned it in the 2014 report, after which an owner informed about other cases in the past. This really is such a strange condition and the first signs, even before sight loss, can be increased thirst and urination. Blood results can also be confusing and can easily mislead a veterinary surgeon, who hasn’t come across this rare disease before. Ordinary eye examination cannot detect degeneration of the microscopic photoreceptors, so a specialist electroretinogram (ERG) is needed. There is no treatment or cure, but most dogs can luckily continue to live a happy life. It is probably more upsetting to the owners, because eyesight is much more important to us humans than to dogs. They have thankfully got other senses so well developed that it is beyond our comprehension.

Yvonne Catto has sadly decided to retire from her long-held post as Secretary & Treasurer. She has been with the CTHG from the beginning and I will miss her deeply. Thank You, Yvonne, for all your help and have a Happy Retirement!!!

We welcome Jennie Fairweather as the new Secretary & Treasurer.

Sincere Thanks to a benefactor for the generous donation of £100 to the Health Fund!

Maud Hawkes BSc(Hons)Animal Science, Tel: 01623 812856



Many Thanks to all the owners, who have kept us informed during the year! Emails, letters and quite a number of ‘phone calls have yet again been received. Some contacts have been re documented case histories, whilst others have been about more general concerns and worries.  Notable cases reported this year include Addison’s disease and Steroid Responsive Meningitis Arteritis (SRMA); both autoimmune conditions. Portosystemic Shunt (PSS) has sadly again been reported. 

Health report data are typically dealt with on a generational basis for statistical purposes. This is also the method used by the Kennel Club (KC) for the intervals of their Health Surveys (see below). The end of spring 2017 marks the 10 years of data collection made by the Cairn Terrier Health Group (CTHG) and the results will be published, as soon as the data have been processed.

 It would be most appreciated, if any information, you may have forgotten to report earlier, could be forwarded to make the data as representative as possible!


The results of this latest survey were published in the spring 2016 and can be viewed at The response to the 2014 survey was slightly better than to the 2004 one but still rather poor.  300 live and 38 deceased Cairn Terriers were represented. Most dogs (198 dogs or 66%) were not affected by a disease condition. The most common disease in live dogs was lipoma and the two most common, equally represented, causes of death were old age and hepatic(liver)tumour (median age for the latter 13.5 years). There were strangely no cases reported as diagnosed with neither PSS/MVD nor Ocular melanosis (OM), but they could of course be hiding under another umbrella.


The Animal Health Trust (AHT), together with the KC, launched this worthwhile project early in the year. The aim is to get the genome sequenced for as many breeds as possible to enable/facilitate future research. It can be of benefit not only to one specific breed but also to other breeds involved in DNA analysis and sometimes even in human mutation research (e.g. certain cancers). The KC was subsidising a limited number of places, on a first come, first served basis. The normal price for sequencing is £2000/dog, but the KC are now paying half the cost. It was decided that the Cairn should have a place in this DNA collection, so an application was made and accepted and £1000 were sent from the CTHG. Comprehensive information, including on peer reviewed, published research, also had to be submitted. It was most encouraging to be notified that the researchers at AHT have decided to sequence the DNA from a Cairn with OM and cooperate with other research done on the condition. Very good news since a DNA test would be so much better than regular eye testing. Let us hope the research bears fruit!


The CTHG has subsidised several sessions of Eye testing this year and paid £840 towards these. It is unfortunate that the BVA increases the cost so frequently, but regular testing of breeding stock is obviously very important.

Many Thanks to Yvonne Catto for her invaluable help all these years !

Sincere Thanks to a benefactor for the generous donation of £100 to the Health Fund !

Maud Hawkes BSc(Hons)Animal Science

Tel: 01623 812856  Email:


Many Thanks for keeping us informed during the year! Please continue helping to keep our records updated, even with earlier cases you may have forgotten to tell us about before. 2016 is the year of reckoning, when one generation has been reached and all collected data will be calculated and compared with results from other sources!

The latest KC Breed Health Coordinators Symposium did have two interesting talks, worth reporting on:

Dr Mike Starkey, head of Molecular Oncology at AHT, gave a presentation on Canine Cancers. He confirmed, as other oncologists have also stated, that the incidence of cancer (benign and malign together) is somewhere between 1in3 and 1in4. This is actually roughly the same risk as for human beings, so one should not be too surprised if ones dog becomes ill with the disease. It is also the No 1 cause of death in dogs over the age of 2 years old. Most cancers are due to sporadic mutations and not to inherited gene mutations.

Dr Tom Lewis, KC Quantitative Geneticist, introduced just finished research on Trends in Genetic Diversity and Effective Population Sizes. This is an extensive study covering all KC registered breeds. The observed inbreeding coefficient (COI) for the Cairn Terrier has been considerably higher than the expected one and was at its highest in the 1980s and 1990s, with a genetic bottleneck and loss of genetic variation. There has been moderate replenishment since the early 2000s with negative rate of inbreeding and less extensive use of popular sires. Import of dogs may also have helped a little. Estimated effective population size = 70.3 (if below 50 the future of a breed may be at risk). Those wishing to read more about the issue can find the information at  

Lungworm (Angiostrongylus vasorum)

This potentially fatal internal parasite is a rather new problem in UK and was, until relatively recently, confined to the southern part of the country. It is however now spreading quite rapidly and cases have been reported as far up as in Edinburgh. Location of reported cases can be found on to aid risk assessment. Foxes and dogs serve as definitive host animals, but can not infect each other directly. Intermediate hosts, in the form of slugs or snails, who have come in contact with infected faeces, are needed for the parasite to spread. Dogs become infected through, accidentally or on purpose, eating those slimy pests. It is therefore sensible not to leave toys and water- and food bowls outside, especially since it is suspected that also the slime can carry the infection. Faeces should also be removed promptly.

The symptoms can be rather varied and include lethargy, chronic cough, exercise intolerance, breathing problems and subcutaneous bleeding. Correct diagnosis is not always made, especially since the condition is fairly new and not very common. One little bitch, owned by Mr and Mrs Firth, almost lost her life due to a severe infection. The condition had not earlier been found in the area, so the local veterinary surgeon failed to diagnose it. The life of the bitch was thankfully saved by referral to The Queen’s Veterinary School Hospital in Cambridge, where they had prior experience of cases. Most tests for internal parasites in dogs use faecal samples, but presence of this culprit has to identified using a blood test, or SNAP test.

Prevention can be achieved by using a specific Advocate product or by using a product containing milbemycin oxime every four weeks.

DNA tests

Somebody asked, why no list of DNA tests for Cairns had been published by the CTHG. The simple answer is, that there is no such list, because no relevant tests have been found. Very many tests are now being offered from laboratories around the globe and targeted at a great number of breeds. DNA tests can indeed be a valuable tool to help dealing with important hereditary conditions in a breed, but they are not a ‘quick fix’ to be used at random. One first has to ask IF a hereditary condition, and based on reliable, compounded information, is a problem in the breed? IF it appears to be relevant to use a genetic test, one then has to make sure that the specific test is accurate and has been validated for that specific breed i.e. one has to look at the scientific publication behind a test. The same inherited condition, e.g. PRA, can have a different mode of inheritance in different breeds, so that one test does not fit all. Tests also have to be incorporated in breeding programmes in such a way that the genetic variation is not unnecessarily reduced. Time and space does not allow for more in depth information on this somewhat complex topic, but I am more than happy to discuss further on the telephone!

Porto Systemic Shunt (PSS), or Liver Shunt; also MVD.

The number of breeders notifying about Bile Acid (BA) testing has not increased and the Scottish breeders are still top of the leader board.

1 case of PSS has been reported – a 7 years old bitch, who is thankfully doing well on conservative treatment.

Ocular melanosis (OM), Abnormal Pigmentation (APD).

The subsidized Eye examination was held in conjunction with the SKC show, with 8 Cairn Terriers being examined.

1 case of OM has been reported in a little bitch. She sadly had to lose one eye but is fortunately coping very well.


Many Thanks to Yvonne Catto for her invaluable help.

Sonia White, our fellow Health Group worker, did sadly pass away during the year. She was a truly lovely person and is much missed.

Sincere Thanks to a benefactor for the generous donation of £100 to the Health Fund !

Maud Hawkes BSc(Hons)Animal Science, Tel: 01623 812856



Another year of health monitoring has gone by and we have, as usual, been contacted by a number of breeders and, especially, pet owners with case reports or concerns.  We always try to do our best to give advice and support when needed and it is important to receive information on any diseases affecting the breed. Many thanks for keeping us informed and please continue to do so during 2015 !

A variety of conditions have been brought to our attention, but typically in singular number and of a nature that can affect any dog of any breed. The Cairn Terrier does still appear to be a generally robust and healthy breed, but can never the less suffer from ill health, just like other dogs and us humans.  It is also an unfortunate fact that old age tends to increase the risk for health problems.

The media bombards us with statistics, however accurate or not, on a daily basis. It is always difficult to do surveys that are statistically significant and without bias. I have personally, for quite some time, suggested that a good way to gather more reliable data on dog health would be through a computerised program linked to veterinary surgeries. It was therefore encouraging to be introduced to, at the latest KC Breed Health Coordinators Symposium, just such a project. Dr Dan O’Neill, and his team at the RVC, has now got a computerised program called VetCompass up and running. Veterinary data are received from a growing number of Veterinary practices all over UK and will form a relatively sound statistical basis for further research and information on breed health. We will follow this promising project closely!

The bottom line is however, whatever findings from surveys and research, what individuals can possibly do to sustain or improve health in a breed. Breeders can: Make sure that they breed from healthy dogs, which have also undergone necessary health testing (in our case, eye testing, done regularly). Test the offspring for possible problems (in our case bile acid testing). Encourage long term feedback from the owners of their pups, so the breeder can become aware, if a health problem has been the result of a certain breeding programme. Owners can: Help their dogs by giving them a life with enough training, activities and exercise. Keeping coat, nails and teeth well looked after. Feeding a suitable and wholesome diet, free from artificial additives, and of the right amount for that individual dog. It is regularly pointed out, that obesity is very bad for us humans and can contribute to a number of illnesses. Dogs are not different in that aspect !

Porto Systemic Shunt (PSS), or Liver Shunt; also MVD.

The number of breeders notifying about Bile Acid (BA) testing has not increased.                  1 case and 1 suspected case of PSS has been reported. 1 sad death has occurred of a dog suffering from MVD (previously reported) – unfortunately no puppy BA result forthcoming from the breeder, so it is unknown, if the condition could have been detected at an early stage.

Ocular Melanosis (OM), Abnormal Pigmentation (APD)

The subsidized Eye examination, normally held at the Joint Open Show, did unfortunately not take place this year due to problems with the venue. No new cases of OM have been   reported.                                                                                                                                          1 case of Sudden Acquired Retinal Degeneration (SARDS) has been reported in a 7 years old bitch. This is a, at least from a human perspective, rather scary condition, causing blindness almost overnight. The little bitch does however, thankfully, not appear to be much troubled by it and is reported to still live a fairly normal and happy life.

Warmest Thanks to my fellow Health Group workers, Yvonne Catto and Sonia White, for their invaluable help!

Sincere Thanks to a benefactor for a generous donation of £100 to the Health Fund !

Maud Hawkes BSc(Hons)Animal Science, Tel: 01623 812856




Cairn Terriers will inevitably, like all types of dogs, other animals and humans, sometimes suffer from illness. The breed does however thankfully very much appear to be a typically healthy one and not burdened by a number of inherited diseases, common in some breeds. It is nevertheless important to be vigilant and monitor the health situation, on a yearly basis. Old, or new, diseases can start to become prevalent, and of concern, in a breed. Case reporting and information from owners or breeders is therefore necessary to reveal such a trend, so it can be dealt with. Much valuable information has again been received during this year. Many thanks to the contributors!


The cost of veterinary treatment and specialist investigations can now be very high.  Some procedures are indeed so costly, that owners, however much they love their dogs, are unable to afford them, if insurance cover is not in place.  This is a problem that has recently been highlighted. Owners, who already have insurance for their dogs, can still encounter problems, if the insurance company does not continue to pay for an ongoing condition.  The advice is therefore to carefully study the ‘small print’ when choosing pet insurance. A slightly higher monthly premium, for an insurance that pays out for continued claims, may well be better long-term ‘economy’.


Reported conditions this year, apart from those affecting eyes and liver (see below), include 2 cases each of: Addison’s disease; kidney disease, and 1 case each of: Diabetes; Myasthenia gravis; Mitochondrial Fatty Acid Oxidation and polyarthritis. Cases of cancer in veteran dogs have yet again been reported, including 1case each of osteosarcoma, bladder- and liver –cancer. Cairns tend to live well into their teens, so some of them will unfortunately develop tumours.


Porto Systemic Shunt (PSS), or Liver Shunt.

The number of breeders notifying about Bile Acid testing of litters has not increased, despite the ABS recommendation. One of the tested puppies required further investigation.

PSS was reported in a Cairn/Westie cross. Cross breeding does not guarantee freedom from hereditary conditions, despite such claims from some supporters of ‘designer breeds’!

1 case of Hepatic portal bridging fibrosis has also been reported.


Ocular melanosis (OM), Abnormal pigment deposition (APD)

The subsidized Eye examination, organised at the Joint Open Show, was held again and well attended this year. 35 dogs were examined by Mr J V Goodyear BVM&S CertVOphthal MRCVS.

2 new cases of OM have been reported, one of them with eye enucleation.

Advanced retinal degeneration and optic nerve atrophy has been reported in a young dog. 1 case of corneal ulcer was also reported.


Warmest thanks to my fellow Health Group workers, Yvonne Catto and Sonia White, for their valuable help!


Sincere Thanks to those, who have given generous donations to the Health Fund !


                                       Maud Hawkes BSc(Hons)Animal Science, Tel: 01623 812856




Another year has gone by with continued good contact between owners and the Health Group.  The Cairn is of course generally a very healthy breed, but it is  important that it will remain that way.  Health monitoring is vital to achieve this, so all information is gratefully received.  Many Thanks to those who submit case histories and updates !


The UK Cairn Terrier Symposium did take place on Saturday 16 July, the day before the Joint Cairn Terrier Clubs’ show. Professor Steve Dean did contribute to the discussion on health issues, which naturally dealt mainly with Porto Systemic Shunt and Ocular Melanosis.


It was most encouraging to receive the message from the Kennel Club that new  additions have been made to the Assured Breeder Scheme (ABS) for our breed.  It is now strongly recommended that ABS breeders use the following health screening schemes : BVA/KC/ISDS Eye scheme on breeding stock and Bile acid testing of puppies.


Reported cases this year include 1 each of : Diabetes; Epilepsy; Granulomatous colitis; Hip dysplasia; Hydrometra; Hypothyroidism; Ischemic myelopathy; Renal failure/PLN. Liver and eye cases are listed separately.


Owners often seek advice on conditions that are not exactly qualifying as ‘disease cases’ but are nevertheless of great worry  to them.  This also sometimes happens towards the very end of an old, much loved Cairn’s life.  The aim of the Health Group is to offer help and support whenever possible, so don’t hesitate to contact us !


Porto Systemic Shunt (PSS), or Liver Shunt, also included is Microvascular Dysplasia (MVD).

Many more breeders are now bile acid testing their Cairn litters, but it still only amounts to around 5% of registered litters.  One reason for this is of course that the majority of litters are bred by non-breed club members.  Some of those breeders do however belong to the Assured Breeder Scheme, so the new KC recommendations will hopefully have some effect on the situation.  It is also important that breeders who use the procedure remember to send the results to the Health Group !


1 case of, and 1 suspected of, MVD has been reported.  2 puppies were found to have abnormal bile acid values and are being monitored. 1 case of congenital PSS has been diagnosed in a dog as old as 5 years.  The latter shows that the condition certainly can be hidden for a long time and in a seemingly healthy dog !




Ocular melanosis (OM), or bilateral secondary glaucoma.

It appears to have been ‘a good year’ on this front, with no new cases reported.  Previously unreported cases have however come to light and cases reported on earlier are still being followed.  Yet another dog did sadly have to lose an eye and its remaining eye is now under threat.  It must be stressed that this condition is progressive and not congenital.  Regular eye testing, at least every two years, of breeding stock is therefore most important.  The condition falls under Schedule B of the BVA/KC/ISDS Eye Scheme.  The test results are sent to the BVA where they are collated. Schedule B results are however not sent to the KC computer base and will therefore not appear on the KC’s Mate Select.


The yearly, subsidized Eye Examination resulted in 17 examinations and the session organized by Dawn Inett in 4 examinations.  1 result from a private consultation has also been added.  No evidence of OM/APD was found.


Many Thanks to those who have given generous donations to the Health Fund !


Maud Hawkes BSc(Hons)Animal Science

Tel: 01623 812856  email:




Latest news from the Health Group – June 2009


Health Form          DOWNLOAD FORM HERE


Real time health recording became a requirement for all breeds, when the KC Breed Health Plans were introduced 2009.  Our breed is of course one step ahead, since health monitoring has already been undertaken from the mid 1990s.  It was however decided that the health reporting could be made more efficient with the aid of a Health Form to accompany all puppies (and re-homed older dogs), when they go to their new owners.  The Cairn Terrier Health Group’s form is now ready for launch and will be available to download for printing on the clubs’ websites.  Breeders without downloading/printing facilities can order their forms from Sonia White, Tel: 01844 292501, email:


Liver Shunt (PSS)


The research at the University of Utrecht to establish the inheritance of this disease, and thereby enable the development of a DNA test, is progressing well.  This work can however only be speeded up with the submission of more DNA samples from affected dogs and their close relatives.  DNA swabs from the UK have therefore been sent to Utrecht for some time now.  It is vital that everybody, unfortunate to breed a puppy or own a dog with PSS, helps the research along by submitting buccal swab samples !  It is a very simple procedure and the swab kits, together with all the necessary instructions, are available from Maud Hawkes, Tel: 01623 812856, email:



Many more breeders are now also using bile acid testing on their litters and this is good news indeed.  It must however be pointed out that when the single test is used, then this would best be done on a post prandial sample.  Discussions with  Federico Sacchini (IDEXX) and Dr Jackson (Glasgow Veterinary School) have confirmed that the post prandial test is sufficient when looking for liver shunt.



The Cairn Terrier Health Group

Posted October 2008



The time of the year is fast approaching for the Health Report to be prepared. 

It is therefore important that any new case reports or Test results reach us before mid-November. Please send details of the Cairn(s) involved to Maud Hawkes, Holmlea, Moorhaigh Lane, Pleasley, Mansfield, Notts, NG19 7QF. 

All information will be held in strictest confidence and please remember that only with your help can we keep ourselves informed on the general health of the breed and whether any condition needs further monitoring.




Posted - 29/02/08


The Cairn Terrier Health Group monitors and records health conditions in the breed.


The Cairn is an active, hardy and game little dog with a life span of approximately 12 to 15 years. But like all living creatures some of them will on occasion have a health problem. If your Cairn develops a Health problem then the Cairn Terrier Health Group would welcome your report.  It is important to the future wellbeing of the breed that any conditions that may become frequent are noted early.


When reporting a condition, please send a veterinary report and copy of pedigree of the Cairn involved to Maud Hawkes, who will deal with all data on health conditions. Information can be send to her at or cases discussed on telephone 01623 812856. All information will be treated in the strictest confidence.


Two conditions in the breed are of special concern to the Health Group.  These are Liver Shunt (PSS) and the eye condition Ocular melanosis.   It has to be stressed that cases are far from common, but it is important to try and ensure that it remains that way.


LIVER SHUNT - (Portosystemic shunt; PSS)

Though there is no test for liver shunt at the moment, research is being carried out in many countries. Hopefully in the future a DNA test will become available and then Breeders will be able to carry out their breeding plans with the hope of eliminating the chance of breeding a liver shunt puppy.

The bile acid testing of puppies is the only action available to Breeders at this time. The Cairn Terrier Health Group strongly recommends that Breeders use this test on their litters. This will give Breeders the confidence that they have done everything to avoid the heartbreak of a Pet Owner having the terrible experience of an ill puppy.

If you have had your litter bile acid tested, then please send your results and copy of pedigree to Maud, or to Maud Hawkes, Holmlea, Moorhaigh Lane, Pleasley, Mansfield, Notts, NG19 7QF. Telephone 01623 812856.




This is a hereditary eye condition caused by Abnormal Pigment Deposition (A.P.D.).  It is advisable to test regularly to enable early detection.   Such testing will also reveal any other eye condition the dog might have been unfortunate to develop.


The Health Group subsidises (in conjunction with the Joint Cairn Terrier Clubs) an eye testing session each year at one of the shows held by a Breed Club. This year the eye testing will be organised by the Cairn Terrier Association.  Details will be advertised later in the year.


The members of theGroup are happy to advise on any queries you may have concerning the health of your Cairn Terrier!


Contact Maud Hawkes or telephone 01623 812856.

Yvonne Catto or telephone 0131 449 2790  





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