Postmortem Examination Recommendations
for the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier
Recommended by SCWTCA and its Researchers

We are all aware of the health problems facing the Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier. We also well know the difficulties facing our veterinarians and researchers when diagnosing these issues. Until new methods, such as DNA analysis, become available, we are, in many cases, breeding in the dark. For many dogs, the only definitive diagnosis can be made by a postmortem examination. Although a postmortem may come too late to help with some breeding decisions, it can be quite useful to know the status of the dogs in our pedigrees. The Soft Coated Wheaten Terrier Club of America and its researchers therefore suggest that Wheaten breeders and owners plan to have necropsies performed at the time of death on three classes of dogs, as follows.

  1. Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers used in breeding programs not affected with PLE, PLN, Addison’s, IBD or RD at time of death:

    It is recommended that all Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers used in breeding programs have a postmortem examination to determine cause of death. Keep in mind that old age is not a cause of death. Along with the post-mortem to determine the cause of death these SCWT’s should also be examined to determine if the dog is affected with Protein-Losing Enteropathy (PLE), Protein-Losing Nephropathy (PLN), Renal Dysplasia (RD) and /or Addison’s Disease The formalin sample will be sent to the vet’s lab for analysis at the breeder/owners expense. If the breeder would like Dr. Littman or Dr. Wilcock to give a second opinion on the results the vet’s pathologist should forward the slide to the researchers directly for a second opinion. Note: because things don’t always go as planned it might be wise for the vet to take two samples and keep one in case the sample is damaged or lost.

    1. Histopathologic examination:
      • Kidney or wedge of kidney stored in formalin stored at room temperature
      • Ring of small intestine stored in formalin stored at room temperature
      • Any tissue that appears abnormal in formalin stored at room temperature
    2. DNA Sample:
      If the breeder would like to store DNA on their dog for future use they should do the following:
      • One kidney or spleen saved in a Ziploc bag and frozen in the breeder, owner or veterinarian’s freezer.
      • Other ways of collecting DNA could be tails and declaws gathered at birth and frozen, skin, any piece of the dog’s body.
      If the owner has a food saver they can freeze the body part first and then put it in the food saver.
    3. Medical History:
      Because many veterinarian offices destroy files on deceased dogs, it is recommended that the breeder obtain copies of the dog's medical file for their home files.
  2. All Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers suspected to have or known to be affected with PLE, PLN, Addison’s, IBD or RD at time of death:

    It is recommended that all Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers suspected to have or who have been clinically diagnosed with PLE, PLN, Addison’s Disease, IBD or RD at the time of death have a postmortem examination to support on-going research. Inevitably in Wheatens with chronic illness, discussion of euthanasia will arise. Before that decision is made, have your veterinarian call Dr. Littman to discuss the case. She will help decide if tissue samples need to be submitted to have the dog included in the SCWT Open Registry, or if existing test results are sufficient.

    If samples are required, have your veterinarian submit the following as described:

    1. Histopathologic examination:
      • One kidney or a wedge of kidney stored in formalin at room temperature.
      • A one inch ring of small intestine stored in formalin at room temperature.
        Do not freeze this sample and send by regular mail. This means that the dogs body should not be frozen prior to the necropsy being performed. If the dog was inadvertently frozen see DNA Sample for instructions.
      • If Addison’s disease is suspected, include adrenal glands and kidney as above, in formalin.
      • If any other tissue appears abnormal, send in formalin.
      • If serum has not been analyzed, submit sample (5-10 cc), frozen.
      • If urine has not been analyzed, submit sample (10 cc) from bladder, frozen.
        It is highly recommended that a second sample be sent to the vet’s lab for a second opinion and for immediate lab results.
    2. DNA Sample:
      • One kidney or spleen saved in a Ziploc bag and frozen.

      After the sample is frozen it should be sent with ice packs inside a styrofoam container by FedEx overnight delivery. A call must be made to Dr. Littman to ensure that she is available to accept the delivery. If Dr Littman is not available the vet should store the samples in their freezer until shipment.

    3. 4-Generation Pedigree
    4. Copy of any medical records available which would include all past lab work.

  3. Geriatric Soft Coated Wheaten Terriers over the age of 13 years and in relatively good health:
    Follow all instruction listed for #2 above.

A copy of the dog’s medical records and screening test results, including a current CBC, Chemistry Profile, Urinalysis, Urine Protein Creatinine Ratio test results within a year or so. If Fecal API and or MA testing were done, we’d like to see copies of those too. If you would like to participate but do not want the expense of paying for these tests, then have your vet pull the samples and send them in a purple top for CBC and red tops for serum profile and urine – be sure to mark which red top is serum and which is urine. Freeze and FedEx them with the DNA sample to Dr. Littman

Mailing Directions for Affected Wheaten Terriers or Geriatric Wheaten Terriers
Send Samples to:
Dr. Meryl P. Littman
University of Pennsylvania
School Of Veterinary Medicine
3900 Delancey Street
Philadelphia PA 19104-6010
(215) 898-9288
(215) 573-6050 fax (include cover sheet)
Dr. Brian Wilcock
Veterinary Pathologist
Histovet Surgical Pathology
21 Verdon Drive
Guelph ON N1G 1W8
(800) 853-PATH (within Canada)
(519) 822-4486 (outside Canada)

Tissue samples may be sent to either the University of Pennsylvania or to Histovet if submitted to Dr. Littman or to Dr. Wilcock directly. Owners/breeders are responsible for local veterinary charges for tissue removal, storage and shipping costs, and for specimens sent directly to the University of Pennsylvania Pathology Lab at this time. Frozen samples should be kept frozen at the veterinarian's office until the veterinarian speaks with Dr. Littman for approval for shipment so that the samples will be handled appropriately upon receipt.

If the owner decides to have samples submitted for histopathology directly through their veterinarian, please forward the results along with the rest of the medical reports to Dr. Littman.

Please note that for dogs diagnosed by Dr. Wilcock, the necessary paperwork must be submitted to Dr. Littman for the dog to be included on the Open Registry.

It would be a good idea to have copy of the Necropsy Protocol on file with the dog's vet. We understand how difficult it is to make these arrangements on your loved one and, if we can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact a member of the health committee or one of doctors listed above.


Revised 12/07

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