yorkshire terrier health problems

For those who prefer smaller dogs, the Yorkshire Terrier (or Yorkie) is a popular choice. Often seen on the laps or in the purses of the well-to-do, it may be surprising to find that the Yorkshire Terrier has working class roots.

Though they may seem like “yippy” spoiled brats, Yorkies used to be less than pampered; in fact, their main purpose was to chase rats out of mills and mines.

Yorkie’s History

The Yorkie has a long and storied history, created for a simple purpose, but bred from a mixture of pre-existing breeds. Its official name came from the area in England in which the dog was first bred. Those that bred and kept Yorkies, did so because they worked in industrial fields; places like fabric mills and mines were always troubled by both large and small rodents.

At the time, it seemed as if the Yorkie had found its ultimate purpose. However, as the Yorkie breed gained popularity, interest in the dog expanded beyond the working classes.

Since the late nineteenth century, this breed has been a popular companion for the upper classes and has since lived in the literal lap of luxury. Today, the Yorkie is known for its energy, loyalty, and occasional dictatorial behavior; those who do not properly train their dogs will end up with a little Napoleon.

However, when properly trained and socialized, this dog is perfect for families with children and even other pets. Yorkies do not require a great deal of exercise, but they thrive on affection and attention, so play time is a must. Their silky coats have been a prominent feature since the inception of the breed; as such, these pups require a moderate amount of grooming.

sad yorkie

Yorkie’s Health

Yorkies have a good deal of positive traits, but like every breed have their share of health problems. Yorkies have a chance of developing health problems that are common to all dogs! Nonetheless, they have a few health risks that are specific to their breed and have far more dire consequences. When deciding whether or not a dog fits into your life, it is important to weigh the positives against the potential negatives. If you are interested in owning a Yorkie, there are serious health risks that should be considered.

The following is a list of the top 4 common health issues that one should take into consideration before buying or adopting a Yorkshire Terrier.

1.Portosystemic Shunt

The Portal Vein collects blood and carries it to the liver, where toxins are filtered out. When a dog has a portosystemic shunt, its Portal Vein has an additional connection to another vein or one of its own branches and thus bypasses the liver. This means that the liver isn’t operating at full capacity and the dog may develop liver disease. Portosystemic shunts are a congenital disease (meaning the dog is born with this problem) and there are two classifications for this problem: extrahepatic and intrahepatic. Extrahepatic shunts (literally meaning “outside the liver”) are common to small breed dogs, such as the Yorkie.

Symptoms of a Portosystemic Shunt

  • Stunted growth
  • Disorientation
  • Seizures
  • Extended recovery period from Anesthesia
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Excessive urination
  • Bloody urination

Treatment for Portosystemic shunts

  • Restricting protein intake: many of the toxins produced in intestines comes from proteins. Affected dogs need to ingest proteins from milk or vegetables rather than meat.
  • Neomycin to decrease the bacterial build up if a restricted diet doesn’t help.
  • Lactulose to promote bowel movements and decrease bacterial load in the colon.

yorkie on sofa

2.Tracheal Collapse

The trachea is a tube made of rings of cartilage. A tracheal collapse occurs when the rings of the windpipe begin to collapse and block the airway. There is no definitive explanation as to why this occurs, but it is suspected to be a congenital abnormality that causes weaker cartilage rings.

Symptoms of a Tracheal Collapse

  • Honking cough
  • Labored breathing
  • Blue-tinted gums

Treatments for Tracheal Collapse

  • Cough suppressants in order to help open the airway.
  • Corticosteroids to help reduce any inflammation.
  • Weight loss helps to decrease pressure on the airway.
  • Surgery: If the above treatments do not work, surgery is used in order to insert prosthetic rings onto the outside of the trachea, which will improve the dog’s ability to breath.

3.Patellar Luxation

Patellar Luxation may sound like a complicated disease, but it is, in fact, just a term for kneecap dislocation. Normally, the patella (kneecap) rests in a groove within the femur. Patellar luxation occurs when the kneecap rests outside of this groove and is thus, dislocated.

This disease is common in small breed dogs and is diagnosed in approximately 7% of puppies.

Symptoms of Patellar Luxation

  • Dog won’t put weight on limbs or carries limb up all the time
  • Limb shakiness

Treatment of Patellar Luxation

  • Surgery: This is the only way to correct placement and movement of kneecap as therapeutic/medicinal treatment has little to no effect on this disorder.

questioning yorkie


The blood supply to the femoral head is interrupted, thus causing the death of bone cells. This, in turn, causes the hip joint to disintegrate, while bones and joints become inflamed, which is otherwise known as osteoarthritis. The cause of the condition is unknown, but is most common in small breed dogs and is diagnosed in puppies 6-7 months of age. Some researchers have suggested this disease is caused by the inability to supply blood equally to all parts of the body. Researchers also believe that this is a genetic condition; it is suggested that dogs diagnosed with Legg-Calve-Perthes do not participate in breeding programs.

Symptoms of Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

  • Carrying or keeping weight off limbs
  • Gradual onset of lameness
  • Limb stiffness
  • Muscle atrophy

Treatment of Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

  • Painkillers may be used to ease the dog’s pain, but will not cure the core issue.
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Cold-packing the joints helps improve “lameness”, but again, will not cure the core issue.
  • Physical therapy will also help with pain, lameness, and flexibility; but will not cure the core issue.
  • Surgery, more often than not, is the solution to this problem. When combining surgery with post-surgical Physical Therapy, dogs often get better results.

Choosing the dog that is right for your lifestyle is a difficult decision and a lifelong commitment. In the case of the Yorkie, your commitment will be, on average, 14-16 years. The above health problems are serious considerations that could affect the life of your dog as well as your emotional and financial well-being. While the vast majority of Yorkies are neither born with nor develop the aforementioned diseases, enough dogs do end up with these problems that these outcomes should be considered.

It is important to note that “surgery” is listed as a treatment for three of the four common health problems in Yorkies. If you cannot afford pet health insurance or the out-of-pocket costs for the surgery, perhaps it is wise to consider other breeds, especially those that present fewer health problems. Surgery for pets can be just as expensive as it is for humans.

In Closing

In spite of these common health problems in the Yorkie, as stated above, the breed tends to be happy, loyal, and playful. Based on the temperament, energy level, and size this breed would be a good fit for nearly any family, especially those who live in urban areas. If you take care to train your Yorkie, they will be a faithful pet until the very end.

While it is wise to weigh the pros and cons when making the important decision to buy or adopt a puppy, it should be noted that the positives far outweigh any negatives. The common health problems discussed above may sound frightening or even painful for the dog, but it is important to note that it is not guaranteed that your Yorkie will have any of these issues. In fact, there is a very good chance that if you adopt or buy a Yorkshire Terrier puppy, it will live a long and happy life, always by your side.

Before you go, check out this doctor’s advice regarding tracheal collapse:

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