While Yorkshire Terriers are generally known as a healthy dog breed with a long lifespan, they are unfortunately prone to several inherited diseases.
Not only are they prone to Yorkie specific medical ailments, but they are also more likely to get common health issues that plague smaller dog breeds in general.
When choosing to adopt a Yorkshire Terrier, it’s important to be well informed on this breed’s most common health issues and how to treat or prevent these problems from occurring in the future.
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.
The 8 Most Common Yorkshire Terrier Health Issues
As stated, not every Yorkshire Terrier will have any one of the below health issues in their lifetime. However, the following are the most known medical issues for this feisty, affectionate and playful breed:
Hypoglycemia is a condition in which blood sugar levels drop. It is a common health condition experienced by several toy breeds, including Yorkshire Terriers.
This is not typically a health issue that affects senior Yorkies, but instead usually occurs in puppies under the five-month mark. Hypoglycemia can prove to be a life-threatening condition for your Yorkie, so it’s incredibly important to be sure your Yorkie is checked routinely by your vet in the early puppy stages.
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 avoid 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.
Tiny breeds are typically prone to dental issues, with the Yorkshire Terrier being no exception. Yorkies have smaller jaws and overcrowded teeth that can lead to plaque buildup if not cared for properly. This can result in tooth decay and disease, which nearly always spread to other organs.
. Routine dental care and cleaning may help keep serious dental disease at bay.
- Bad breath
- Difficulty eating
- Difficulty holding toys in their mouth
- Aggression when you get too close to the face
- Red, swollen, and inflamed gums
- Loss of teeth
Legg-Perthes disease is a disease that affects the hip joint. It occurs when the top of the femur bone begins to die. This is another condition that plagues Yorkie’s from a young age, usually occurring 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 is a kneecap dislocation. This health issue occurs when the muscles and tendons can’t hold the kneecap in the patellar groove because the groove is too shallow. While this is usually a genetic health issue, it can also occur with trauma to the knee. Luxating patella most typically occurs in young Yorkies; the symptoms are often not evident until they are between 2-3 years old.
Many dogs can live with disease comfortably, but if your Yorkie is seriously affected, he or she may need surgery.
- Crying when kneecap dislocates
- Inability to walk
- Stretching its leg backward
- Walking in a skipping gait
A Collapsed Trachea is a common condition in toy breeds. This health issue causes the C-shaped trachea to become thin. While this may only occur in just one or two cartilage rings, the entire trachea can collapse in more serious cases, resulting in a life-threatening condition. This can also occur when a dog pulls against their collar, so it’s important to attach your Yorkie to a harness instead of a collar around their neck.
This condition is often managed with medication to alleviate coughing, but in severe cases a stent may be needed to hold 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
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 fact-checked and approved by Dr. Paula Simons DVM. You can read more about her on our About page.
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