The Breed History
As with many breeds of dogs, the origins of the Airedale are somewhat obscure. A now-extinct Black and Tan Terrier sometimes called Old English terrier or Broken-haired terrier may have been a progenitor of not only the Airedale, but perhaps also the Fox, Welsh, and Irish terriers. In the latter part of the 1800s, the first show classes for this breed took place. About the same time, a known outcross with the Otterhound breed was carried out to improve the Airedale's capacity for water work and to improve scenting ability.
Breeding for Function
The old terriers were widely used in Yorkshire England for hunting otter, rats, badgers, weasels and other medium game. In Canada, the US, India and Africa they were prized for their bravery in large game hunts. Their utility encompasses police dog work and historically, included service as war dogs. They also perform well in obedience tracking, agility and guarding.
Height at Withers: female 22" (56 cm), male 23" (58.5 cm). Weight: females 40-48 lb (18-22 kg), males 45-70 lb (20.5-32 kg). Coat: The dense double coat may have some crimping; the outer layer is wiry while the undercoat is soft. Colors are black and tan with specifically distributed markings. A small white mark on the chest is not penalized.
Longevity: 10-12 years.
Points of Conformation: The head is long with a minor stop, the ears are V-shaped and carried folded. Eyes are dark and small with keen expression, and nose is medium and black. Other points include moderate length neck, chest deep but not broad, topline level and back is short. Legs are straight, tail is carried high, and feet are compact and small. Overall, they are characterized by good bone and athletic appearance, with a solid straight way of going, including good stride length and freedom of movement.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Breed Traits Ascribed Include: Renowned for being exceptionally loyal devoted companions, good protectors of home and farm, and are noted to be aloof with strangers. Their training should start early. The mix of hound and terrier leads to independent thinking traits, and they have high intelligence. They need close human contact, and may chew or dig if left alone for extended periods. The hound component means that they tolerate other dogs much better than typical terriers.
They are low shedders, low allergenic dogs and need regular grooming. They are considered high-energy dogs. They are suitable for both town and country as long as regular exercise is provided.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 11.4% affected.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. OFA reports 11% affected.
von Willebrand's Disease (vWD): Autosomal recessive Type I vWD is reported in the Airedale Terrier. This disease causes a mild bleeding disorder. A genetic test has not been developed in this breed.
Hemophilia B (Factor IX Deficiency): Severe, x-linked recessive bleeding disorder documented in this breed. A genetic test is available.
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Too few Airedale Terriers have been OFA evaluated to determine an accurate frequency.
Heart Murmur: Reported at a frequency of 13.3% in the Airedale Terrier Health Survey 2000-2001. Atrial septal defect, pulmonic stenosis, subaortic stenosis, tricuspid valve dysplasia, and ventricular septal defect are reported to occur in the breed.
Allergic Dermatitis: Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). The Airedale Terrier Health Survey 2000-2001 reports 11.4% allergic to fleas, 7.7% to inhaled allergens, and 5.0% to food.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 8.8% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%). Reported at a frequency of 7.5% in the Airedale Terrier Health Survey 2000-2001.
Cataracts: Anterior cataracts are the most frequent in the breed. Identified in 6.94% of Airedale Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Reported at a frequency of 8.3% in the Airedale Terrier Health Survey 2000-2001. CERF does not recommend breeding any Airdale Terrier with a cataract.
Persistent Pupillary Membranes: Strands of fetal remnant connecting; iris to iris, cornea, lens, or involving sheets of tissue. The later three forms can impair vision, and dogs affected with these forms should not be bred. Identified in 5.78% of Airedale Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 5.20% of Airedale Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cancer: The following frequencies for cancer were reported in the Airedale Terrier Health Survey 2000-2001: Melanoma 4.0%, adenocarcinoma 3.3%, hemangiosarcoma 2.7%, lymphosarcoma 2.5%, osteosarcoma 1.2%, mast cell tumor 1.2%.
Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas causing vomiting and peritonitis. Can be life threatening if severe. Reported at a frequency of 3.7% in the Airedale Terrier Health Survey 2000-2001.
Corneal Dystrophy: Causes opacities on the surface of the cornea. Age of onset of 9-11 months, which may progress to vision impairment by 3-4 years of age. Sex-linked inheritance suggested in one report. Identified in 3.41% of Airedale Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 1991-1999, with none reported between 2000-2005.
Retinal Dysplasia: Focal folds and geographic retinal dysplasia are seen in the breed. Focal folds were identified in 2.89%, and geographic dysplasia in 0.58% of Airedale Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Inherited Epilepsy: Grand-mal seizures. Control with anticonvulsant medication. Reported at a frequency of 2.3% in the Airedale Terrier Health Survey 2000-2001. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia (AIHA): Autoimmune destruction of red blood cells. Clinical features include pale mucous membranes, weakness, lethargy and collapse. Treat with immunosuppressive drugs. Reported at a frequency of 2.3% in the Airedale Terrier Health Survey 2000-2001. Reported 45.3x odds ratio versus other breeds. Reported 22.5x odds ratio for concurrent AIHA and ITP.
Missing Teeth: Reported at a frequency of 2.3% in the Airedale Terrier Health Survey 2000-2001. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Umbilical Hernia: Congenital opening in the body wall from where the umbilical cord was attached. Unknown mode of inheritance. Reported at a frequency of 1.9% in the Airedale Terrier Health Survey 2000-2001.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): Inherited degeneration of the retina resulting in blindness. Age of onset around 3 years of age. Mode of inheritance presumed recessive. Reported in 1.83% of Airedale Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 1991-1999, with none reported between 2000-2005.
Entropion: Rolling in of eyelids, often causing corneal irritation or ulceration. Entropion is reported in 1.73% of Airedale Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cryptorchidism (Retained Testicles): Can be unilateral or bilateral. Reported at a frequency of 1.7% in the Airedale Terrier Health Survey 2000-2001.
Immune-Mediated Thrombocytopenia (ITP): Autoimmune destruction of blood platelets. Most common presentation is in middle aged females. Reported at a frequency of 1.5% in the Airedale Terrier Health Survey 2000-2001. Reported 22.5x odds ratio for concurrent AIHA and ITP.
Dilated Cardiomyopathy: Can present with ventricular arrhythmias, progressing to heart failure. Increased incidence reported in the breed. Two to one ratio of affected males to females. Reported at a frequency of 1.4% in the Airedale Terrier Health Survey 2000-2001.
Gastric Dilation/Volvulus (GDV, Bloat): Life-threatening twisting of the stomach within the abdomen. Requires immediate veterinary attention. Reported at a frequency of 1.0% in the Airedale Terrier Health Survey 2000-2001.
Seasonal Flank Alopecia: Bilateral, symmetrical alopecia affecting the flank, dorsum and tail. Affects primarily spayed females, in the Spring or Autumn. Mean age of onset is 3.6 years.
Seborrheic Dermatitis: Skin disorder presenting with greasy skin and haircoat. Dorn reports a 2.06x odds ratio of developing seborrheic dermatitis versus other breeds.
Transitional Cell Carcinoma (TCC, bladder cancer): Increased incidence of this bladder cancer cited in the breed. TCC is a malignant cancer that can be controlled with surgery and piroxicam treatment.
Diskospondylitis: Vertebral bone infection, possibly with an immune component in the breed. There are multiple case reports in related Airedale Terriers. Thought to be due to immunosuppression from decreased immunoglobulin A production.
Cerebellar Abiotrophy (CCA, cerebellar ataxia): Disorder causing hypermetria, a high stepping gait, and incoordination. Onset in this breed is 12 weeks of age. Clinical signs usually progress slowly throughout the life of the dog, however some can progress more rapidly to constant stumbling. Occurs at a low frequency in Airedale Terriers.
Chromosomal Intersex, Demodicosis, Exocrine Pancreatic Insufficiency, HyperlipoProteinemia, Hypoadrenocorticism, Intervertrbral Disk Disease, Laryngeal Paralysis, Myasthenia Gravis, Narcolepsy, Panosteitis, Pannus, Polycystic Kidney Disease, Portosystemic Shunt, and Sebaceous Adenitis are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Pituitary Carcinoma: A 6-year-old Airdale terrier presented with a one month history of progressive behavioral and neurological signs, including proprioceptive deficits, circling, anisocoria, and head pressing. A large, invasive, pituitary carcinoma was diagnosed at post mortem.
Multiple Myeloma: Identified in a 10-year-old neutered male Airedale Terrier with inappetence, weight loss, and lameness. Multiple myeloma was diagnosed based on bone marrow plasmacytosis, multiple lytic bone lesions, and hyperglobulinemia with a clonal gammopathy.
Mixed Germ Cell Tumor: Identified in the lumbar spinal cord of a two-year-old, female Airedale terrier with a history of progressive paraplegia. It was composed of three different types of cells: small round germ cells, large eosinophilic cells, and a rarer differentiated epithelial cell.
Unilateral Horner's Syndrome and Masticatory Muscle Atrophy: Seen in a 9-year-old, spayed female, Airedale Terrier diagnosed with polyradiculoneuritis and ganglionitis that was most severe in the trigeminal nerves.
Tests of Genotype: Direct test for Hemophilia B is available from HealthGene.
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes hip radiographs, congenital cardiac examination, and renal disease testing. Optional recommended testing includes CERF eye examination, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and elbow radiographs. (See CHIC website; caninehealthinfo.org). Recommend patella evaluation.
- Breed name synonyms: Airedale, Bingley Terrier (historical), Waterside Terrier (historical), King of Terriers (historical)
- Registries: AKC, CKC, UKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club)
- AKC rank (year 2008): 58 (1,776 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Airedale Terrier Club of America: airedale.org
National Airedale Terrier Association (UK):nationalairedale.co.uk
Airedale Terrier Club of Canada: airedaleterrier.ca
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