The Breed History
In Australia, the breed was first exhibited in 1899. These terriers were the first of the Aussie breeds, with the breed standard finalized in the year 1896. The AKC registry admitted Australian Terriers in 1960. Breed origins may include the Rough-coated Terrier crossed over many generations with other terriers such as the Skye, Dandie Dinmont, Irish, Cairn, Yorkshire, Black-and-Tan Terrier, and perhaps the Norwich Terrier. They were first brought to North America following the Second World War.
Breeding for Function
This small terrier was bred for both companionship and as a sturdy hunting partner. He also served as protector of sheep flocks and family. Rat and snake control were common tasks for which this terrier was bred.
Height at Withers: 10-11" (25.4-28 cm).
Weight: 12-14 lb (4-7 kg).
Coat: The double coat is water resistant. Outer coat is straight, harsh and broken, and 2-1/2" (6 cm) long except furnishings. Inner coat is dense and short. Colors include blue and tan, sandy, and red. The hairs form a distinct topknot, apron and ruff. White markings on feet and chest are faults.
Longevity: 14 years
Points of Conformation: The Australian Terrier is characterized by a sturdy build, with medium bone and musculature. They possess an alert expression, high head carriage, and the body is a fair bit longer than tall. The gait is smooth and agile. Ears are small, triangular and held pricked up. Oval eyes are small and dark brown, wide-set and palpebral margins are also black. A definite stop is standard. Nose is colored black and the bridge of the nose has a hairless area. Lips are dark, and the neck is long. The thorax has well-sprung ribs and the topline is level. The tail is high-set and carried high; usually docked to about one half of the natural length. Limbs are straight boned, dewclaws are usually removed, feet small and compact, and nails black.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Good in rural and urban environments, courageous, good alarm barkers, low shedding, adaptable, loyal, and intelligent. Can be scrappy with other dogs, enjoys close human companionship, good with other pets if raised with them (except other dogs, especially inter-male), high trainability, very high energy, spirited, like to dig and if off leash, they should be in a securely fenced enclosure; may also jump a fence. Should be socialized to pets and children since the strong chase instinct means that small pets could be viewed as prey.
Normal Physiologic Variations
Patella Luxation: Polygenically inherited laxity of patellar ligaments, causing luxation, lameness, and later degenerative joint disease. Treat surgically if causing clinical signs. Reported 8.0x odds ratio versus other breeds. OFA reports 11.9% affected. Reported at a frequency of 9.0% in the 2002 ATCA Health Survey.
Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing degenerative joint disease and hip arthritis. OFA reports 2.4% affected.
Legg-CalvР№-Perthes Disease: Polygenically inherited aseptic necrosis of the femoral head, resulting in degenerative joint disease. Can be unilateral or bilateral, with onset of degeneration usually between 6-9 months of age. Treat surgically if causing lameness/ discomfort. Reported at a frequency of 1.6% in the 2002 ATCA Health Survey.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Too few Australian Terriers have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
Diabetes Mellitus: Sugar Diabetes. Australian Terriers are the breed with the highest incidence of DM. Caused by a lack of insulin production by the pancreas. Controlled by insulin injections, diet, and glucose monitoring. Reported at a frequency of 9.8% in the 2002 ATCA Health Survey. Unknown mode of inheritance.
Cataracts: Anterior or posterior intermediate and punctate cataracts occur in the breed. Unknown mode of inheritance. Reported in 4.10% of Australian Terriers presented to veterinary teaching hospitals. Identified in 1.48% of Australian Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Reported at a frequency of 5.1% in the 2002 ATCA Health Survey. CERF does not recommend breeding any Australian Terrier with a cataract.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 4.9% positive for thyroid auto-antibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%). Reported at a frequency of 3.6% in the 2002 ATCA Health Survey.
Allergic Dermatitis: Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). The 2002 ATCA Health Survey reports 4.7% allergic to fleas, 0.8% to inhaled allergens, and 1.8% to food.
Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture (ACL): Traumatic tearing of the anterior cruciate ligament. Treatment is surgery. Reported at a frequency of 4.4% in the 2002 ATCA Health Survey.
Urinary Calculi (Bladder Stones): Mineral content of stones not specified. Reported at a frequency of 4.4% in the 2002 ATCA Health Survey.
Pancreatitis: Inflammation of the pancreas causing vomiting and peritonitis. Can be life threatening if severe. Reported at a frequency of 2.7% in the 2002 ATCA Health Survey.
Deafness: Congenital deafness can be unilateral of bilateral. Diagnosed by BAER testing. Reported at a frequency of 2.3% in the 2002 ATCA Health Survey. Not listed as a breed at risk by Strain.
Idiopathic Epilepsy (inherited seizures): Control with anti-seizure medication. Reported at a frequency of 2.1% in the 2002 ATCA Health Survey.
Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing's disease): Hyperfunction of the adrenal gland caused by a pituitary or adrenal tumor. Clinical signs may include increased thirst and urination, symmetrical truncal alopecia, and abdominal distention. Reported at a frequency of 1.9% in the 2002 ATCA Health Survey.
Cryptorchidism (Retained Testicles): Can be unilateral or bilateral. This is a sex-limited disorder with an unknown mode of inheritance. Reported at a frequency of 1.6% in the 2002 ATCA Health Survey.
Distichiasis: Abnormally placed eyelashes that irritate the cornea and conjunctiva. Can cause secondary corneal ulceration. Identified in 1.48% of Australian Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
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 1.48% of Australian Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Mast Cell Tumor (MCT): Skin tumors that can reoccur locally or with distant metastasis. Reported at a frequency of 1.3% in the 2002 ATCA Health Survey.
Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS, Dry Eye): Ocular condition causing lack of tear production and secondary conjunctivitis, corneal ulcerations, and vision problems. Reported at a frequency of 1.1% in the 2002 ATCA Health Survey.
Allergic Inhalant Dermatitis, Cleft Lip/Palate, Glucocerebrosidosis, Juvenile Cellulitis, Megaesophagus, Patent Ductus Arteriosus, Portosystemic Shunts, Progressive Retinal Atrophy, and Retinal Dysplasia are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Gastrinoma: An 8-year-old, spayed female Australian Terrier was presented with weight loss, inappetence, lethargy and a 2-day history of intermittent vomiting. Fasting serum gastrin levels were markedly elevated. The dog was treated with omeprazole, ranitidine and sucralfate, and remained clinically normal for 26 months. Histopathology and immunocytochemistry confirmed the diagnosis of metastatic gastrinoma.
Ganglioneuroma: An 18-month-old, spayed female Australian Terrier was presented with a 10-month history of chronic large bowel diarrhea. Two rectal masses were removed, and found to be ganglioneuromas on histopathology. There was no recurrence post-surgically.
Primitive Neuroectodermal Tumour: An 18-month-old female Australian terrier that died of central nervous system disease was found to have a large hemorrhagic primitive neuroectodermal tumour with ependymal differentiation replacing the thalamus and part of the hypothalamus of the brain.
Tests of Genotype: none
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: Required testing includes CERF eye examination, patella evaluation, and thyroid profile including autoantibodies. (See CHIC website; caninehealthinfo. org). Recommend hip and elbow radiographs, cardiac evaluation, blood and urine glucose tests for diabetes.
- Breed name synonyms: Aussie, Broken-coated Toy Terrier (Historical).
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, KCGB (Kennel Club of Great Britain), ANKC (Australian National Kennel Club), NKC (National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 113 (330 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Australian Terrier Club of America: australianterrier.org
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