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Any information contained on this site relating to various medical, health, and fitness conditions of Australians Terrier 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 an Australian Terriers health - you should always consult your own veterinarian. 

These diseases which occur occasionally in Australian terriers are listed in alphabetical order only and do not represent their predominance within the breed.

The Australian Terrier Club of America "ATCA" recommends that Australian Terrier breeders screen breeding stock for Thyroid, patellar luxation, and congenital eye disease as part of the CHIC (Canine Health Information Center) program.


Addison’s Disease (Adrenal Gland Insufficiency)

Addison’s disease, also known as adrenal gland insufficiency or hypoadrenocorticism, is an uncommon condition in which the patient’s adrenal glands no longer supply the body with two classes of hormones, called glucocorticoids and mineralocorticoids. These hormones help regulate cellular metabolism and electrolyte balance in the body. According to the most recent edition of the Merck Veterinary Manual (Merck, 2015), this disease is characterized by gastroenteritis (vomiting and diarrhea), loss of body condition, lethargy and weakness, and inability to respond to stress. Although this condition has been recognized in dogs for more than 60 years, it remains difficult to diagnose, primarily because the animal’s symptoms mimic those associated with several other diseases. IT IS ALSO VERY DIFFICULT TO DIAGNOSE BECAUSE THE SYMPTOMS WAX AND WANE. However, when the disease is identified, treatment is very effective, allowing affected dogs to lead normal healthy lives. In order to understand how Addison’s disease develops, it is important to first understand something about the anatomy and physiology of the adrenal glands themselves.


Allergies can be broken down into inhalant, contact, or food allergy origins. Flea allergies, grass allergies, and environmental toxin induced allergies are the most common causes of skin conditions in TERRIERS. Allergies can be chronic or seasonal. They can be minor or severe in occurrence. They tend to become worse with age. Treatment is much better than in bygone days. Environmental controls, antihistamine treatment, and desensitization injections have made huge strides in the last few years. 

Glucocorticoids should be used only as a last resort due to serious side effects, ESPECIALLY WITH DIABETES. Diagnosis and treatment of chronic or severe cases by a Board Licensed Veterinary Dermatologist is recommended.


A couple of generalizations about tumors in dogs will help put things in perspective: 

  • Tumors are more common in middle age (over 5 years old) and older aged dogs, than in young dogs. 

  • Most tumors develop slowly and the cause of the tumors is never known; owners need to know they very likely could not have prevented the development of a tumor, except... 

  • Early neutering of male dogs will eliminate development of testicular tumors and may affect development of prostate problems. 

  • Spaying of female dogs less than one year of age will decrease the incidence of mammary gland tumors as the dog ages. Early spaying eliminates the possibility of developing both ovarian and uterine tumors, although neither of these types of tumors are common in dogs. 


  • Regular examinations by owners and veterinarians help detect tumors at earlier stages, when they are more likely to be controlled with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy – the standard types of treatment. 

  • Skin tumors are common in all dogs and are usually and effectively treated with surgical removal. 

Malignant tumors are more difficult to treat and control, are more likely to have poor outcomes, and can be costly to manage if chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy is used.


The lens of the eye is clear and is located behind the pupil. The job of the lens is to focus light into the retina. When the lens becomes unhealthy, it turns white or opaque. Cataracts are generally considered a common old age change, but a juvenile form also occurs.

Juvenile cataracts are inherited and are not usually present at birth, although this condition can present itself at any age- months to years. Juvenile cataracts affect different areas of the lens depending upon the breed of dog. They do not always result in the lens becoming completely opaque.


Complete cataracts result in blindness that can only be corrected by cataract surgery. Yearly CERF examinations are an important tool in diagnosing this condition. Proper treatment can be hastened by early diagnosis.

Cruciate ligament

Cruciate ligaments are pairs of ligaments arranged like a letter X. They occur in several joints of the body, such as the knee joint and the atlanto-axial joint. In a fashion similar to the cords in a toy Jacob's ladder, the crossed ligaments stabilize the joint while allowing a very large range of motion.


Depending on the severity of the CCL injury, a dog’s symptoms might range from having a hint of lameness to being unable to bear weight on the injured leg. A dog with a CCL injury may also have swelling on the inside of the knee. 



Cryptorchidism is the failure of one or both of the testicles to descend into the scrotum. Normal descent is often complete by 6 to 8 weeks of age but may be delayed to as late as 6 months of age. The undescended testicle may be found within the abdominal cavity, in the inguinal canal or under the skin next to the penis. The condition is considered hereditary in most breeds.

There is not complete agreement on the mode of inheritance. Because of the increased incidence of cancer in retained testicles, cryptorchid dogs should always be neutered. A neutered cryptorchid dog should have no other expected health risks due to this condition.


Cushing’s disease typically occurs in middle-aged and older dogs of all breeds, with no predilection for either gender. The most common symptoms associated with the condition related to the urinary system include increased thirst (polydipsia) and urination (polyuria).




Affected dogs also have changes in the musculoskeletal system, which include decreased muscle mass, muscle weakness, obesity, excessive fat on the neck and shoulders, a pot-bellied abdomen, and lack of energy. Skin manifestations of the condition include hair loss (alopecia), thin skin, bruising, hyperpigmentation, and white scaly patches on the elbows.


Diabetes mellitus is a relatively common metabolic disease in dogs, including AUSTRALIAN Terriers, but that fortunately is treatable with good success. The causes are unknown but include pancreatic disease, genetics and possible environmental factors. Common signs are increased thirst (polydipsia), increased urination (polyuria), and appetite (polyphagia). Blood and urine tests are used to identify the high concentrations of glucose in the blood and the presence of glucose in the urine. Treatment usually involves giving daily injections of insulin that are sufficient to meet daily metabolic needs and monitoring blood glucose concentrations. If left untreated, diabetes mellitus can cause ketoacidosis, coma, glaucoma, coma, and even death. Properly treated dogs can live relatively normal lives. 

Degenerative Myelopathy

Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is a fatal neurodegenerative disease that affects older dogs. It initially results in paralysis of the pelvic limbs but progresses to affect all limbs. Pathogenesis since first described in 1973 by Damon Averill, DVM, DM has stood for a degeneration of the spinal cord due to an unknown cause. In 2009, a mutation in the gene superoxide dismutase 1 (SOD1) was described to underlie the cause of DM. Dogs that have two copies (homozygous) of the mutant allele have been shown to be at risk for developing DM. In other words, not all dogs that have the mutation will develop DM so the mutation test is currently a test for risk. Mutations in SOD1 are associated with some forms of human amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, which is adult in onset, causing muscle weakness and eventually respiratory paralysis.


Treatment Unfortunately there is no treatment for DM. We currently recommend physical rehabilitation that may have a role in maintaining the health of the muscles. Please visit our Small Animal Physical Rehabilitation Service page for more information. Dogs with DM will need to be kept on a clean, padded bed and will need to be rotated from side to side every four to six hours if they are not able to do it on their own. As the disease progresses, they will lose the ability to urinate on their own. Bladder management consisting of urinary catheterization or manual expression will be necessary three times daily. Proper hygiene and monitoring will be important as these dogs are more likely to develop urinary tract infections. As they lose the ability to move their legs, they may develop sores on their feet from scuffing their toes. Wound management and prevention (using wraps or booties on the feet) may be necessary.



​Heart defects 

A variety of heart defects can occur in every breed of pure-bred dogs. A careful examination of puppies by a veterinarian at 6 weeks of age is recommended since most congenital heart problems can be detected this way. There is no predominant heart disease identified with Australian Terriers, though various murmurs do occur.


Hemangiosarcoma in dogs is an aggressive, malignant cancer of the blood vessels. Dogs are more affected by hemangiosarcoma than any other species of animal. Because it affects blood vessels, this type of cancer is often associated with sudden internal bleeding, which can be life-threatening for your dog.This type of tumor can originate in several areas with the most common sites being the spleen, heart, skin, and liver.
If hemangiosarcoma is found in the spleen (the most common location) or another abdominal organ in your dog, emergency surgery will generally be recommended to remove the organ and stop the bleeding. Depending on how much blood loss has occurred, a blood transfusion from another dog or a blood bank may be needed prior to surgery. Biopsy of the organ (submission of the tissue to a laboratory) will be necessary to accurately diagnose the tumor.
Your veterinarian will recommend evaluating your dog's heart for signs of hemangiosarcoma as well. Reports have cited that up to 25% of dogs with abdominal hemangiosarcoma also have involvement within the heart. This is important to know prior to pursuing surgery as it will affect the long term plan and may be a factor for your pet under anesthesia.
Because this type of cancer is so aggressive, treatment is extensive. For owners that want to pursue all options, surgery is followed by chemotherapy. Even with this extent of care, it is not anticipated that the hemangiosarcoma will be cured, but the return of the tumor may be delayed. Because the long-term prognosis for hemangiosarcoma is poor, many owners elect euthanasia for their pets rather than pursue treatment



It is characterized as an underproduction of hormone by the thyroid gland. It occurs in many breeds, including Cairns. Diagnosis is done by a blood test for complete thyroid activity. Symptoms include poor haircoat, infertility, lethargy, and cold intolerance. Treatment with synthetic hormones is very successful in controlling this condition. Blood tests to evaluate dosage is important on a yearly basis.


Legg-Perthes is an aseptic necrosis of the femoral head (meaning bone death, not due to infection). This disease occurs in many small breeds of dogs, including Australian Terriers. It may necessitate corrective surgery. Diagnosis is by X-ray.


Luxated Patellae 

This is a problem in many small breeds of dogs, including AUSTRALIAN TERRIERSs. In this disorder, the knee cap slips out of the trochlear groove. Diagnosis is by X-ray and palpation exam. The severity of the condition is quite variable. It can occur in one back leg, or both. Grade 1 cases can be very mild, with minor gaiting anomalies. Mild cases will do such things as: pick up a leg for a few steps when moving over irregular ground (gravel or long grass), lope or gallop rather 

than trot. They are often straight in the stifle and have no “drive” to their rear movement. Grade 3 and 4 cases, are less common and do require surgical correction. This condition does weaken the integrity of the joint, predisposing to arthritis and traumatic injury.

OFA Eye Certification Registry 

EYE REGISTRY UPDATE—As of November 1, 2012 the American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologists (ACVO) will be endorsing the OFA Eye Certification Registry (OFA ECR) as its recommended canine eye registry. Diplomates of the Veterinary College may submit eye registrations for either the OFA ECR or the CERF programs. Exam protocols will be exactly the same for both registries. Diplomates are in the process of receiving the new OFA ECR forms. It is hoped that the new OFA ECR registry will contribute to making OFA an even more complete resource of canine health screening results. More details can be found at and

Liver Portosytemic Vascular AnomalyLiver Portosytemic Vascular Anomaly (PSVA) and Microvascular Dysplasia (MVD) commonly referred to as “Portal Shunt” or “Liver Shunt”

PSVA and MVD occur in many small dog breeds and they are related abnormalities. They both are an abnormal flow of blood between the liver and the body. In PSVA the portal vein that carries blood from the intestines to the liver is affected. In MVD abnormally miniaturized portal veins can be found in the liver itself. MVD causes microscopic shunting in the liver but affected dogs may not have any symptoms, be ill or require medical or dietary treatment. Rarely, some MVD dogs have a problem with drug metabolism (e.g. antihistamines, certain anesthetics). 

Since the liver is responsible for detoxifying the body, metabolizing nutrients and eliminating drugs, blood bypassing the liver can cause many symptoms. Indications of possible PSVA include, but are not limited to, excessive thirst and urination, head pressing, lethargy, diarrhea or vomiting, seizures, eating abnormal substances, elevated (paired) bile acid results, low cholesterol, small red blood cells, behavioral changes such as confusion, circling and head pressing, anorexia, hypoglycemia, drug and anesthesia intolerance, unthriftiness and poor growth. Most dogs with PSVA will also have ammonia biurate crystals in their urine. It is important to note that not all dogs with PSVA or MVD have symptoms or are ill. Protein C analysis can help differentiate between PSVA and MVD. Signs of PSVA usually appear before two years of age, but later onset has been recorded. 

Pursuing a dog without symptoms that has high bile acids (greater than 25) and a normal Protein C can result in costly and invasive testing and thus some MVD dogs are subjected to rigorous evaluations that may not be needed or useful. If an animal has a confirmed PSVA, corrective surgery can be helpful in the long-term management of these animals. Best outcomes are realized in hospitals with an experienced surgical, medical and nursing staff team. Dietary manipulation is also important in maintaining dogs with PSVA. 

Mode of inheritance has not been established. 


Progressive Retinal Atrophy 

Also known as PRA. Sometimes referred to as “night blindness”, which is a misnomer because the blindness caused by this disease is eventually total. In the early stages, the dog’s vision is impaired at night and eventually becomes worse in daylight and dim light conditions. Ultimately, the dog becomes completely blind as both eyes are affected. This condition is an inherited one with both parents being carriers. Diagnosis of PRA can be detected by a CERF exam. This condition exists in quite a number of breeds.

Seizures and Epilepsy 

Seizures can be the result of the disease Epilepsy, or can be a sign of many different problems. Epilepsy can usually be controlled by medication. Specific diagnosis of the cause of seizure symptoms is critical to successful treatment. Seizures can start early in life or be sudden onset in adult dogs of varying age. There are a myriad of reasons for a dog to suffer seizures. Seizure episodes that occur over an extended period of time are likely to be genetic in origin.

Heart Defects
Luxatd Patellae
Cruciate Ligament
OFA Eye Certification
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Anchor 2
Seizures and Epilespy
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