The Breed History
The breed origins trace to Australia in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They were developed as a result of crosses between Yorkshire terriers and native Australian terriers. The AKC recognized the breed in 1955.
Breeding for Function
Early in breed development, the Silky terriers were used for vermin control, but this breed was primarily developed for companionship.
Height at Withers: 9-10 " (23-25.5 cm)
Weight: 8-11 lb (4-5 kg)
Coat: Single coated, the hairs are long, silky and glossy but not so long as to reach the ground. The topknot is prominent. Breed colors are blue and tan, though the blue varies considerably from so-called silver blue to a slate blue. The topknot is the lightest colored part of the coat and the tan markings have a set distribution.
Longevity: 11-14 years
Points of Conformation: This toy terrier has a fine bone structure, silky coat, and the hair is normally parted from the muzzle to the tail base, and in overall conformation they are low-set and longer than tall. The head is wedge-shaped, and the small dark eyes are almond shaped and lined with dark palpebral rims. Ears are triangular and small and carried pricked. The stop is shallow, the nose is black, and the neck is moderately curving and long. The topline is level, and the tail is usually docked and is carried upright. Limbs are straight, fine boned and the feet are small and compact; nails are dark. Dewclaws usually removed. The gait is springy and straight.
Recognized Behavior Issues and Traits
Reported breed characteristics include: Typical terrier personality; feisty, active, loves to dig, and prone to boredom vices if left alone, keenly alert, friendly and curious. They like to be included in all family activities. Good alert barker with moderate to high barking tendency. Good with gentle children. Low exercise needs. Grooming needs are high, with regular bathing recommended.
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 16.0x odds ratio versus other breeds. OFA reports 1.6% affected. Reported at a frequency of 1.1% in the 2002 STCA Health Survey.
Legg-Perthes Disease and Hip Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited traits causing degenerative hip joint disease and arthritis. Too few Silky Terriers have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency. Legg-Perthes disease is reported at a frequency of 0.8% in the 2002 STCA Health Survey.
Elbow Dysplasia: Polygenically inherited trait causing elbow arthritis. Too few Silky Terriers have been screened by OFA to determine an accurate frequency.
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 10.56% of Silky Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Cataracts: Anterior, posterior, intermediate and punctate cataracts occur in the breed. Age of onset 4-5 years. Dorn reports a 1.76x odds ratio of developing cataracts versus other breeds. One study estimated the frequency of cataracts in the breed at 10.29%. Identified in 9.94% of Silky Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Reported at a frequency of 4.2% in the 2002 STCA Health Survey. CERF does not recommend breeding any Silky Terrier with a cataract.
Aggression: Food, dog-dog, or people aggression. Reported at a frequency of 3.8% in the 2002 STCA Health Survey.
Cryptorchidism (Retained Testes): Can be bilateral or unilateral, and seen at an increased frequency in the breed. Reported at a frequency of 3.7% in the 2002 STCA Health Survey.
Allergies: Inhalant or food allergy. Presents with pruritis and pyotraumatic dermatitis (hot spots). Reported at a frequency of 3.4% in the 2002 STCA Health Survey.
Hypothyroidism: Inherited autoimmune thyroiditis. 3.0% positive for thyroid autoantibodies based on testing at Michigan State University. (Ave. for all breeds is 7.5%). Reported at a frequency of 1.3% in the 2002 STCA Health Survey.
Vitreous Degeneration: Liquefaction of the vitreous gel which may predispose to retinal detachment. Identified in 2.48% of Silky Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
Focal Alopecia: Silky Terriers can develop focal areas of hair loss secondary to injections or vaccinations. Dorn reports a 8.98x odds ratio of alopecia versus other breeds.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): A late onset PRA occurs in the breed. Clinically evident at 5-11 years of age. Identified in 1.24% of Silky Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005. Undetermined mode of inheritance.
Retinal Dysplasia: Retinal folds, geographic, and detachment are recognized in the breed. Can progress to blindness. Identified in 1.24% of Silky Terriers CERF examined by veterinary ophthalmologists between 2000-2005.
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. Dorn reports a 2.17x odds ratio versus other breeds. Reported at a frequency of 0.9% in the 2002 STCA Health Survey.
Idiopathic Epilepsy: Inherited seizures can be generalized or partial seizures. Control with anti-seizure medication. Reported at a frequency of 0.8% in the 2002 STCA Health Survey.
Diabetes Mellitus: Caused by a lack of insulin production by the pancreas. Controlled by insulin injections, diet, and glucose monitoring. Dorn reports a 3.76x odds ratio of developing diabetes versus other breeds. Reported at a frequency of 0.4% in the 2002 STCA Health Survey.
Collapsing Trachea: Caused by diminished integrity of the cartilage rings in the trachea and can produce increased coughing, stridor, and respiratory distress. Dorn reports a 3.53x odds ratio versus other breeds.
Portosystemic Shunt (PSS, Liver Shunt): Abnormal blood vessels connecting the systemic and portal blood flow. Vessels can be intrahepatic, extrahepatic or microvascular dysplasia. Causes stunting, abnormal behavior and possible seizures. Diagnose with paired fasted and feeding serum bile acid and/or ammonia levels, and abdominal ultrasound. The Silky Terrier is a breed at increased risk of having PSS. Undetermined mode of inheritance.
Cystine Urinary Calculi: Silky Terriers are a breed with increased risk of developing cystine calculi. Caused by a defect in cystine metabolism.
Glucocerebrosidosis (Gaucher Disease): Rare, fatal lysosomal storage disease causing neurological deterioration and seizures at 4-6 months of age. Undetermined mode of inheritance.
Brachygnathism, Color Dilution Alopecia, Hydrocephalus, Prognathism, and Spongiform Leukodystrophy are reported.
Isolated Case Studies
Myopathy: A young female Silky Terrier presented with severe, progressive weakness caused by an underlying subacute skeletal myopathy. Muscle degeneration appeared to involve extensive segmental disarray of sarcomeres with formation of nemaline rod-like bodies. The clinicopathologic features suggested that there was a primary myopathy with a probable genetic basis. Dystrophinopathy was excluded on the basis of immunostaining.
Tests of Genotype: none
Tests of Phenotype: CHIC Certification: CERF eye examination and patella evaluation. (See CHIC website; www.caninehealthinfo.org). Recommend hip and elbow radiographs, thyroid profile including autoantibodies, and cardiac examination.
- Breed name synonyms: Sydney Silky terrier (historical), Australian Silky Terrier (historical), Silky Toy Terrier, Silky.
- Registries: AKC, UKC, CKC, NKC (National Kennel Club).
- AKC rank (year 2008): 77 (968 dogs registered)
- Internet resources: Silky Terrier Club of America: www.silkyterrierclubofamerica.org
Maple Leaf Silky Terrier Club (Canada): http://silkyterrier-canada.org/
Australian Silky Terrier Club of Great Britain: http://22.214.171.124/australiansilkyterriers.co.uk/
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