General Health Survey on Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers
Margaret Slater DVM PHD with assistance from Jacque Harbison
Department of Veterinary Anatomy & Public Health, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University, College Station TX
Survey conducted 1999-2000.

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Introduction
The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America's Health Issues Committee contacted us about conducting a general health survey for Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers (Wheatens). The purpose was to determine the frequency of specific health problems affecting the breed, and whether there was a relationship between sex of the Wheaten and the frequency of any health problems.

Materials and Methods
The questionnaire was designed to survey common health problems in Wheatens. Respondents were asked to complete the survey for any dogs they currently owned, co-owned, or who had died while living with them since 1994. The survey was divided into three main sections. The first section asked for general information on the number of Wheatens currently owned, the number of years respondents had owned Wheatens, and what activities owners were involved in with their Wheatens. The second section asked for information on all Wheatens owned or co-owned since 1994 including current age or age at time of death, sex, and cause of death if applicable. The last section addressed specific categories of health problems in Wheatens. Respondents were to indicate how many of their Wheatens had a particular disease as well as the sex of those Wheatens. Also included in this section was an area for respondent comments and/or questions.

The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America, Inc. provided the names and addresses of Wheaten owners from a current and former club membership list, the Benchmark magazine subscription list, and a list of Canadian Wheaten owners. A systematic random sample of 50% of the list was selected. An initial mailing of the survey was sent out in November of 1999 (delayed from the expected September start date). Postcard reminders were sent out in December of 1999 to all participants. A second mailing of the survey was performed in February of 2000 to non-respondents. A graph of responses across time is included in Appendix 1.

A chi-squared test was used to analyze the data from this health survey. A p-value less than or equal to 0.05 was considered statistically significant and indicated a difference between males and females in the frequency of these health problems.

Results
Questionnaires were sent to 699 Wheaten owners from the United States and Canada. Five hundred and twenty-one people returned their forms giving an overall response rate of 74.5%. Seven surveys were returned unopened due to a change of address and one survey was returned unopened due to the death of the owner. Information regarding the number of respondents is shown in Table 1.

Table 1: General survey information for the Wheatens in this study

Survey Information on Wheatens
Total number of surveys mailed out
Total number of respondents<
Surveys returned un-opened
699
521
8
Overall response rate for Wheaten owners 74.50%
Total number of dogs involved in the survey 1246
Total number of dogs currently owned by respondents
— Females currently owned
— Males currently owned
997
613
384
Total number of deceased dogs in survey
— Females deceased
— Males deceased
249
134
115

The average number of Wheatens currently owned by respondents was two, the median number of Wheatens currently owned was one, and the number of Wheatens currently owned ranged from zero to fourteen. In completing this survey, respondents were to include any Wheatens they currently owned, co-owned, and those who died under their ownership since 1994. The 1,246 Wheaten sample size of this study is comprised of the 997 Wheatens currently owned plus the 249 deceased Wheatens. Table 2 shows the information for Wheatens included in this study. The "no data" column is for those Wheatens whose owners did not provide a response for that question.

Table 2: General information on the Wheatens included in this study

General Information on Wheatens from the Survey
Variable No. Median (Minimum, Maximum) No data
Years of owning Wheatens 521 6.5 (0, 33) 4
Wheatens currently owned 997 1 (0, 14) 5
Age of total currently owned
— Age of Males
— Age of Females
  4.8
4
5
(0.2, 16)
(0.6, 16)
(0.3, 16)
48
22
26
Deceased Wheatens 249      
Lifespan of deceased (yrs)
— Males
— Females
  12
12
11.5
(0.2, 17)
(0.2, 17)
(0.8, 16.2)
15
6
9

For those Wheatens that were deceased, respondents were asked to give the cause of their deaths. Table 3 lists the most common causes of death in Wheatens from this health survey, which includes 75% of all causes of death.

Table 3: Common causes of death in the Wheatens of this study

Most Common Causes of Death in Wheatens
Cause No. of instances
Males Females Total
Cancer 26 39 65
Old age 19 17 36
PLE/PLN 13 21 34
Kidneys 11 8 19
Heart 9 9 18
Stroke 6 2 8
Seizures 2 3 5
Behavior 3 1 4

Respondents were also asked about the types of activities they participated in with their Wheatens. Respondents could choose more than one activity. Table 4 shows their responses.

Table 4: Wheaten/Owner activities in this study

Wheaten/Owner Activities
Activity No. of owners
Pet/Companion 459
Conformation 202
Obedience 133
Agility 43
Therapy dog 36
Other activities 29
Herding 11

Table 5 shows the health problems listed in the survey and the number of male and female Wheatens along with the percentage of total Wheatens with the problem. The values for percentage of total males or total females with a particular health problem was small due to the large population of total male Wheatens (499) and total female Wheatens (747).

Table 5: Descriptive statistics for health problems in the Wheaten survey

Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier General Health Survey
Health Problem #Males % of 499
Males
#Females % of 747
Females
Bone or Skeletal
— Arthritis
— Hip Dysplasia
— Luxating Knee Cap
— Neck Pain
— Panosteitis
— Other

44
10
4
31
1
12

8.8
2
0.8
6.2
0.2
2.4

46
11
9
26
2
7

6.2
1.5
1.2
3.5
0.3
0.9
Skin
— Sebaceous Cysts
— Pyoderma (Skin Infection)
— Seborrhea
— Other

82
20
12
29

16.4
4
2.4
5.8

137
47
21
32

18.3
6.3
2.8
4.3
Allergies
— Inhalent (Atopy)
— Food
— Contact
— Flea
— Other

30
37
13
44
31

6
7.4
2.6
8.8
6.2

41
50
18
49
33

5.5
6.7
2.4
6.6
4.4
Eyes
— Cataracts
— Glaucoma
— PRA
— Blocked Tear Ducts
— Other

29
0
1
5
7

5.8
0
0.2
1
1.4

40
0
1
11
11

5.4
0
0.1
1.5
1.5
Mouth
— Missing Teeth
— Undershot Jaw
— Cleft Palate
— Other

20
14
1
17

4
2.8
0.2
3.4

28
12
0
20

3.7
1.6
0
2.7
Ears
— Deafness
— Chronic Infection
— Other

14
33
13

2.8
6.6
2.6

11
44
25

1.5
5.9
3.3
Muscle
— Inguinal Hernia
— Umbilical Hernia
— Myopathies
— Other

2
2
0
4

0.4
0.4
0
0.8

6
6
0
3

0.8
0.8
0
0.4
Neurologic
— Slipped Disc
— Seizures
— Horner's Syndrome
— Hydrocephalus
— Other

13
12
0
1
3

2.6
2.4
0
0.2
0.6

10
15
0
1
3

1.3
2
0
0.1
0.4
Blood
— Anemia
— Clotting Disorder
— Other

2
1
1

0.4
0.2
0.2

4
2
1

0.5
0.3
0.1
Heart/Circulatory
— Congenital Defect
— Congestive Heart Failure
— Other

8
5
3

1.6
1
0.6

4
5
3

0.5
0.7
0.4
Respiratory
— Pleural Effusion
— Pneumonia
— Other;

0
0
4

0
0
0.8

1
3
6

0.1
0.4
0.8
Liver/Spleen
— Hepatitis
— Hepatic Shunt
— Gall Stones
— Other

2
0
0
5

0.4
0
0
1

2
1
1
8

0.3
0.1
0.1
1
Kidney & Urinal Tract
— Protein-losing Nephropathy (PLN)
— Renal Dysplasia
— Ectopic Ureter
— Incontinence
— Bladder Stones
— Other

11
4
1
12
1
13

2.2
0.8
0.2
2.4
0.2
2.6

23
6
3
22
2
19

3.1
0.8
0.4
2.9
0.3
2.5
Gastrointestinal
— Protein-losing Enteropathy (PLE)
— Inflammatory Bowel Disease
— Colitis
— Other

16
9
10
31

3.2
1.8
2
6.2

17
8
11
24

2.3
1
1.5
3.2
Endocrine
— Cushing's Syndrome
— Addison's Disease
— Hypothyroidism
— Diabetes
— Other

0
1
11
0
3

0
0.2
2.2
0
0.6

2
3
20
0
1

0.3
0.4
2,7
0
0.1
Temperament/Behavioral
— Rage Syndrome
— Fear Aggression
— Dog-Dog Aggression
— Phobias
— Other

5
23
52
86
18

1
4.6
10.4
17.2
3.6

2
13
54
119
26

0.3
1.7
7.2
15.9
3.5
Autoimmune Disease
—Immune Mediated Hemolytic Anemia
— Lupus
— Other

0
1
3

0
0.2
0.6

2
0
6

0.3
0
0.8
Reproductive Problems
— Uterine Infection (Pyometra)
— Dystocia
— Infertility
— Other

0
0
3
8

0
0
0.6
1.6

11
1
8
18

1.5
0.1
1
2.4
Non-malignant Tumors or Cysts 91 18.2 161 21.6
Malignant Tumors 22 4.4 37 5
Drug Reactions 17 3.4 14 1.9
Vaccine Reactions 16 3.2 18 2.4

The most common health problems were non-malignant tumors (including sebaceous cysts), dog-dog aggression, phobias, arthritis, flea and food allergies, and chronic ear infections. The median age of onset of cataracts was 11 years in males and 10.5 in females. The most common phobias for males and females were thunder and loud noises. Information concerning type and location for non-malignant tumors or cysts and malignant tumors, specific drug and reaction, and specific vaccine and reaction was also collected by this survey. Results appear in tables Appendix 2.

In order to determine whether there were any associations between sex and occurrence of a particular health problem, a chi-squared test was used. This test was performed for health problems where there was about a 2% difference between the sexes. Two percent was chosen as a level that may be of clinical importance as a difference of about 24 dogs would be involved. These health problems included arthritis, luxating knee cap, sebaceous cysts, pyoderma, flea allergies, other allergies, other gastrointestinal problems, fear aggression, dog-dog aggression, phobias, non-malignant tumors or cysts, and drug reactions. A p-value of 0.05 or less was considered significant in determining an association. There was an association between sex and occurrence of arthritis, neck pain, other gastrointestinal problems, fear aggression and dog-dog aggression. A significantly higher percentage of males than females developed all of the above health problems based on these results.

Table 6: Information on the association between sex and occurrence of health problems
Association between sex and health problems in Wheatens
Health problem No.with Problem No.without Problem P-value
Arthritis  0.05*
Male 44455
Female 46701
Neck Pain  0.003*
Male 31468
Female 26721
Sebaceous Cysts  0.4
Male 82417
Female 137610
Pyoderma  0.08
Male 20479
Female 47700
Flea Allergy  0.1
Male 44455
Female 49698
Other Allergies  0.2
Male 31468
Female 33714
Other Gastrointestinal  0.01*
Male 31468
Female 24723
Fear Agression  0.003*
Male 23476
Female 13734
Dog-Dog Aggression  0.05*
Male 52447
Female 54693
Phobias   0.5
Male 86413
Female 119628
Non-malignant Tumors or Cysts  0.1
Male 91408
Female 161586

Discussion

The overall response rate of 74.5% for this survey was very high. This is most likely due to self-explanatory and simple to complete survey format and the interest level of the participants. The major cause of death for Wheatens in this study was cancer, old age, and protein-losing enteropathy.

The most common activity that owners were involved in with their Wheatens in this study was pet/companionship. Other common activities included conformation and obedience.

The most common health problems in the male Wheatens of this study were arthritis, sebaceous cysts, flea allergies, dog-dog aggression, phobias, and non-malignant tumors or cysts. The most common health problems in the female Wheatens of this study were sebaceous cysts, phobias, and non-malignant tumors or cysts. Please note that non-malignant tumors may have included the very common sebaceous cysts so that the numbers of these two problems overlap. PLE and PLN occurred in just over 5% of dogs. Renal dysplasia was reported in 0.8% of dogs.


Appendix 1:


Appendix 2
Drug Reactions (other than vaccines)
Specific DrugNo. maleNo. femaleTotal
Anesthesia426
Flea control medication325
Heartworm prevention134
Unspecified303
Amoxicillin022
Rimadyl202
Antibiotics112
Baytril011
Buterol101
Steroids101
Tetracycline011
Valium101

Vaccine Reactions
Specific vaccineNo. maleNo. femaleTotal
Bordetella 3 4 7
Unspecified 5 2 7
Annual vaccinations 4 2 6
Combination vaccines 1 4 5
Leptospirosis 1 4 5
Rabies 2 1 3
Antistapholococcal 0 1 1
Hepatitis 1 0 1

Other Gastrointestinal Problems
Specific problemNo. maleNo. femaleTotal
Vomiting 7 4 11
Diarrhea 3 5 8
Gastroenteritis 4 2 6
Bleeding 1 4 5
Pancreatitis 2 3 5
Irritable Bowel Disease 4 0 4
Mucous in stool 1 3 4
Gastric reflux 2 1 3
Anal gland compaction 1 1 2
Constipation 1 1 2
Indigestion 0 2 2
Poor appetite 1 1 2
Colitis0 1 1

Non-malignant Tumors or Cysts
Specific Tumor or CystNo. maleNo. femaleTotal
Cyst 13231163
Unspecified 1110 111
Fatty Tumor 12 4 16
Tumors 12 10 22
Trichaepithelioma 1 0 1
Dermatofibroma 10 1
Tumor or Cyst Location
Skin1153 64
Unspecified 19 25 44
Back 3 23 26
Neck 3 14 17
Abdomen 115 16
Mammary 0 16 16
Head 1 10 11
Legs 1 9 10
Hip 0 8 8
Tail 1 4 5
Brain 0 1 1
Groin1 0 1
Uterus011

Malignant Tumors
Specific type No. maleNo. femaleTotal
Unspecified241640
Hemangiosarcoma 437
Malignant Melanoma 415
Adenoma 112
Lobular Carcinoma 101
Ductlar Adenocarcinoma 101
Malignant Osteogenic sarcoma101
Ceruminous Gland Adenocarcinoma101
Nasal Adenocarcinoma 101
Tumor Location
Mammary01818
Spleen527
Mouth 044
Nasal314
Unspecified134
Abdominal213
Heart123
Lungs033
Skin 213
Brain 022
Ear022
Legs112
Neck 112
Testicles 202
Bladder011
Pancreas 101
Thyroid 011



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