Yorkshire Terriers, known for their long lifespan and overall good health, are still susceptible to certain inherited diseases. In addition to breed-specific health concerns, they are also more prone to common health issues that affect smaller dog breeds.
If you’re considering adopting a Yorkshire Terrier, it’s essential to be aware of the most common health issues this breed faces, and how to prevent or treat them.
Are Yorkshire Terriers Prone to Health Issues?
While Yorkshire Terriers aren’t any more prone to health issues than any other purebred dog, the selective breeding process of purebred dogs leads to the prevalence of various inherited diseases. While you should generally find that your Yorkie will stay healthy for most of its life, they are indeed predisposed to certain health conditions.
It’s important to remember that just because these medical conditions tend to be prevalent in Yorkshire Terriers doesn’t mean that every Yorkie will get sick. Many Yorkies never suffer from breed-specific health issues, and if they do, they can generally be treated with the care of a veterinarian.
Yorkie Health Issues: What you need to Know
Although Yorkshire Terriers aren’t more prone to health issues than other purebred dogs, the selective breeding process can result in various inherited diseases. While many Yorkies remain healthy throughout their lives, they can still be predisposed to certain health conditions.
Remember that not all Yorkies will experience breed-specific health problems and those that do can typically be treated with the help of a veterinarian.
Top Health Concerns for Yorkshire Terriers
While not every Yorkshire Terrier will experience these health issues, the following are the most common concerns for this energetic, affectionate, and playful breed:
Hypoglycemia, a condition where blood sugar levels drop, is common among toy breeds, including Yorkshire Terriers. This issue usually affects puppies under five months and can be life-threatening. Regular veterinary checkups during early puppyhood are crucial for detecting and managing this condition.
While symptoms of Hypoglycemia vary greatly, you may notice the following:
- Fast breathing
- Rapid or fast heart rate
- Twitching, especially in the facial muscles
To prevent hypoglycemia, ensure your Yorkie puppy is eating small, frequent meals. If they are not eating, vomiting, having diarrhea, or displaying any of the signs above it is important to have them see a veterinarian ASAP.
Yorkies, like other small breeds, are prone to dental issues due to their small jaws and overcrowded teeth. Poor dental hygiene can lead to plaque buildup, tooth decay, and disease, which can spread to other organs. Regular dental care and cleanings can help prevent serious dental problems.
- Bad breath
- Difficulty eating
- Difficulty holding toys in their mouth
- Aggression when touched near the face
- Red, swollen, and inflamed gums
- Loss of teeth
This disease affects the hip joint when the top of the femur bone begins to die. Legg-Perthes usually occurs in Yorkies between four and 12 months of age.
These dogs can generally tolerate management with pain medication for some time, but inevitably, they need surgery to alleviate discomfort.
- Inability to properly use one or more limbs
- Cannot bear weight properly
- Decreased joint function
- Loss of muscle mass
Retinal dysplasia is a health issue inherited through genetics and involves the abnormal development of the retina. This condition will be present at birth or soon after, making it identifiable from a very early age.
The retina will have matured enough by 12 -16 weeks to notice any imperfections. In severe cases, this condition can eventually lead to blindness and commonly affects both eyes.
There will often be no physical symptoms; however, you may be able to tell that your puppy is having trouble seeing.
Luxating patella, or kneecap dislocation, occurs when the kneecap cannot be held in the patellar groove due to its shallow depth. This condition can be genetic or caused by trauma and usually appears in young Yorkies between 2-3 years of age.
While many dogs can live comfortably with this condition, surgery may be necessary for severe cases.
- Crying when kneecap dislocates
- Inability to walk
- Stretching its leg backward
- Walking in a skipping gait
This common condition in toy breeds causes the C-shaped trachea to become thin, potentially leading to a life-threatening situation. Using a harness instead of a collar can help prevent tracheal collapse caused by pulling.
Treatment usually involves medication to alleviate coughing, but in severe cases, a stent may be required to keep the trachea open.
- A cough that sounds more like honking
- Difficulty breathing
- They gag when they eat
Liver Shunts are a congenital abnormality and occur while the dog is still a fetus inside its mother. A Liver Shunt occurs when part of the puppy’s blood vessels to the liver does not form appropriately.
There are two major types of liver shunts: intrahepatic and extrahepatic. Yorkies most commonly experience shunts outside the liver (extrahepatic).
- Appearing unresponsive
- No longer thriving/thin body condition
- Abnormal neurological signs after meals
- Takes up to three times the length of time to recover from anesthesia
Pancreatitis is, unfortunately, one of the most common and serious Yorkie diseases. Pancreatitis is often brought on by a high-fat diet as the result of inflammation of the pancreas but can occur for other reasons.
While this disease may not be evident for several years, it can also be a sudden and life-threatening illness. This disease can be both prevented and remedied by feeding your Yorkie a low-fat, high-quality diet.
- Abdominal pain
- Decreased appetite
Like many small breeds, Yorkshire Terriers can be prone to various skin allergies. These can be caused by a variety of things, such as food, environmental factors, or specific materials.
One of my Yorkies deals a lot with skin allergies. Making his food has helped some but he still has them.
- Skin irritation
Yorkies, especially those with floppy ears can be susceptible to ear infections. Regular ear checks and cleanings can help prevent this issue.
- Bad smell
- Tiny black specks like coffee grounds
Yorkies are known to have a variety of eye issues, including cataracts, progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), and dry eye.
Regular check-ups with your vet can help to catch these conditions early.
Yorkshire Terriers are more prone to developing bladder stones than some other breeds.
- Blood in urine
- Difficulty urinating
- Pain and discomfort
Although not a disease per se, obesity can lead to other health issues, such as heart disease and diabetes. It’s important to maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise routine for your Yorkie.
Should I Be Worried About My Yorkie Developing Health Issues?
Unfortunately, you’re never going to be able to prevent every possible health issue from occurring, whether you’ve chosen to adopt a Yorkie, another purebred dog, or a mixed breed dog. Ensuring that you give your Yorkie a healthy diet, plenty of exercise, and a stress-free environment can make the biggest difference in terms of your dog developing unnecessary health issues down the line.
It’s important to remember that genetically inherited health issues are not yours or your Yorkie’s fault and that veterinary help is only a phone call away to treat and combat these issues as best you can.
This article has been reviewed, fact-checked and approved by Dr. Paula Simons DVM. You can read more about her on our About page.
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