Health Watch

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

The Breed is an active, hardy and game little dog with a life span of appox 12 to 15 years. But like all living creatures some Cairns will have on occasion a health problem.

If your Cairn develops a Health problem then the Cairn Terrier Health Group would welcome you reporting it to the Group.

All members of the group are happy to give advice on health conditions.

Contact Maud Hawkes or telephone 01623 812856.

When reporting a condition, please send a vet 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.



Many Thanks to owners, who again have kept us informed or asked for advice! It has also been welcome 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!!!

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

Maud Hawkes BSc(Hons)Animal Science

Tel: 01623 812856