Top Ten Tips for Success with Your Adopted Westie!

Tip #6  --  Skin Problems

  • Malassezia Dermatitis
  • Veterinary Dermatologist
  • Allergies
  • Helpful Links

Skin problems constitute the single largest health concern with Westies and probably no other health issue contributes more to the breed's abandonment or surrender to rescue.  Most skin problems experienced by Westies are hereditary in nature and require long-term medical management.  These skin problems may include:

Atopica or Gengraf (cyclosporine) is a treatment for dogs with Atopic Dermatitis.  Please consult with your veterinary dermatologist to determine if cyclosporine is appropriate for your Westie.

Apoquel tablets are a new treatment to control itching associated with dermatitis. Please consult with your veterinary dermatologist to determine if Apoquel is appropriate for your Westie.

Malassezia Dermatitis (Yeast Infection)
A condition that is often misdiagnosed and mistreated by veterinarians unfamiliar with Westie skin diseases is Malassezia dermatitis.  Without proper treatment the condition continues to worsen leading to many Westies unnecessarily being abandoned, surrendered to rescue or euthanized.
Malassezia dermatitis is the condition that occurs when the yeast normally found on canine skin and ears proliferates excessively.  Westies, as well as several other breeds, are genetically predisposed to Malassezia dermatitis which manifests itself as oily, crusty, red, itchy skin with a rancid odor.  If untreated, the Westie will have hair loss and the skin will become thickened and black accompanied by ear infections.
This condition occurs most often when the skin is compromised in some way. Malassezia dermatitis is a secondary infection.  In addition to treating the Malassezia, the primary underlying disease must also be found and treated.  The skin of Westies with flea or food allergies, atopic dermatitis, an immune deficiency or seborrhea seems particularly prone to allowing an overgrowth of the yeast.  Additionally, Westies living in regions with high humidity seem to be susceptible to  Malassezia dermatitis.
Malassezia dermatitis requires a very specific treatment course which may include a combination of systemic Ketoconazole therapy, antibiotics, antihistamines, Malaseb medicated shampoo and/or topical treatment for ears and skin.
Malassezia in Westies -- excellent article!
More information about Malassezia
Malassezia Infection -- Westie Foundation Research

Westies can be subject to a variety of allergies caused by contact with the skin, digestion or inhalation.  The severity of allergies, which can be seasonal or year round, varies greatly.  The most common symptom from an allergy is itching which may be localized or systemic.  Food allergies can manifest as gastrointestinal problems.
When your Westie has an allergic reaction, it is an overreaction to a particular substance or allergen.  While allergies can not be cured, some can be controlled with appropriate treatment.  Proper identification is necessary to determine proper treatment.
Fleas are a common source of contact allergies.  Flea control can be easily achieved now with use of monthly products such as Program, Advantage or Frontline.  Additionally, flea control is benefited by weekly vacuuming the house, weekly washing your dog's bedding, collar and toys as well as combing your dog's hair with a flea comb several times a week.
Skin problems caused by food allergies are often helped by a better diet using premium quality dog food.  Preservatives and fillers are commonly the source of these allergies.  A food allergy can be a reaction to almost any ingredient, however, we recommend that Westies routinely avoid wheat, corn and soy. See Tip #4 on Nutrition.
Many Westie owners have had success improving their dog's skin problems by adding Omega 3 fatty acids to their dog's diet.
Other owners have found that Missing Link® food supplement and Humilac® spray rinse or ResiProx conditioner have done wonders for itchy dogs and dogs with hot spots.
Check with your veterinarian about the use of Gentocin spray and Panalog cream on your dog's skin lesions and hot spots.
Please remember each dog is different and these products may or may not help your dog's skin condition.   ALWAYS consult your veterinarian before using any new product with your dog.

Veterinary Dermatologist
Allergies and skin diseases are not always easy to diagnose.  This is an area in which a veterinary dermatologist specialist may be needed to properly diagnose and treat your Westie.
To save you time and money as well as to ensure a speedy recovery for your Westie with serious skin conditions, we highly recommend you consult with a veterinary dermatologist in the Bay Area:

San Francisco Veterinary Specialists

600 Alabama St., San Francisco, CA 94110


To find a veterinary dermatologist in your area, please refer to the following website:

American College of Veterinary Dermatology

Helpful Links
We encourage you to be informed so that you can help make intelligent decisions for your dog’s care should your Westie have skin problems. An excellent book to read is Guide to Skin and Hair Coat Problems by Lowell Ackerman, DVM.
Some helpful websites are:

Any information contained on this site relating to various medical, health, and fitness conditions of Westies and their treatment is for informational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for the advice provided by your own veterinarian. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing a Westie's should ALWAYS consult your own veterinarian.



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