Breed of the Month: Yorkshire Terrier, Shedding Light on the Little Mystery Dogs

We Love Them For Their Ups and Downs!!! As any Yorkie owner can tell you they are such a character ranging from timid to brazen. There sizes can range from medium size to . Each has its own unique characteristics and personalities that makes many different people avid Yorkie owners. I wanted to take some time and discuss some of their history and more importantly as a veterinarian shed some light on some of the genetic and breed specific issues that owners of this lovable breed may face so together we can do our best to prevent issues before they start. First lets take a moment to discuss some of the basic personality perks and flaws.


  • Brave and ready for adventure
  • Always on the go
  • Small and travels well
  • Loving and loyal to their owners
  • Protective of family; good watch dog
  • Quirky, entertaining personality


  • Can be difficult to house train
  • Suspicious of and aggressive toward strangers and other dogs if not socialized properly
  • May have a tendency to bark excessively
  • Can be snappy with children
  • Determined and has a mind of her own


It’s hard to envision the Yorkshire Terrier as a blue-collar dog, but they were in fact once a working breed! They were bred as ratters by the employees of mine shafts and clothing mills in Northern England. They made their way to North America in the 1870’s and were acknowledged by the AKC in 1885. They have adjusted to a more laid back lifestyle and enjoy spending time mostly indoors with their family. They do need a enjoy daily walks. Yorkies are not big shedders, for those owners with allergies, but her silky coat does need regular brushing and grooming.

Taking Care of Your Yorkshire Terrier at Home

Much of what you can do to keep your dog happy and healthy is common sense, just like it is for people. Watch her diet, make sure she gets plenty of exercise, regularly brush her teeth and coat, and call us or a pet emergency hospital when something seems unusual. Be sure to adhere to the schedule of examinations and vaccinations that we recommend for her. This is when we’ll give her/him the necessary “check-ups” and test forny diseases and conditions that are common in Yorkies. Another very important step in caring for your pet is signing up for pet health insurance. There will certainly be medical tests and procedures they will need throughout her life and pet health insurance will help you cover those costs.

Routine Care, Diet, and Exercise

Build routine care into your schedule to help your Yorkie live longer, stay healthier, and be happier during her lifetime. We cannot overemphasize the importance of a proper diet and exercise routine.

  • Supervise your pet as you would a toddler. Keep doors closed, pick up after yourself, and block off rooms as necessary. This will keep her out of trouble and away from object they shouldn’t put in their mouth.
  • Daily brushing and regular trimming is recommended to prevent mats and keep her long coat beautiful
  • Clean her ears weekly, even as a puppy. Don’t worry—we’ll show you how!
  • Highly active indoors, they are well suited to apartment living and traveling.
  • They has a tendency to chase small animals; always leash walk your Yorkie. A harness is recommended!
  • Can be sensitive to cold, so a warm winter wardrobe is necessary.
  • Keep your dog’s diet consistent and don’t give them people food.
  • Feed a high-quality diet appropriate for their age.
  • Exercise your dog regularly, but don’t overdo it at first.


Dental Disease:

Dental disease is the most common chronic problem in pets, affecting 80% of all dogs by age two. And unfortunately, your Yorkshire Terrier is more likely than other dogs to have problems with her teeth. It starts with tartar build-up on the teeth and progresses to infection of the gums and roots of the teeth. If we don’t prevent or treat dental disease, your buddy will lose his/her teeth and be in danger of damaging their kidneys, liver, heart, and joints. In fact, your Yorkie’s life span may be cut short by one to three years due to dental disease! MVH is dedicated in helping you clean your dog’s teeth regularly and letting you know what you can do at home to keep that colgate smile.


Yorkshire Terriers are susceptible to bacterial and viral infections—the same ones that all dogs can get—such as parvo, rabies, and distemper. Many of these infections are preventable through vaccination which we will recommend for you based on their exposure risks.


It is a serious disease that may cause or worsen joint problems, metabolic and digestive disorders, back pain and heart disease. Though it’s tempting to give your Yorkie food when they look at you with those soulful eyes but there are healthier alternatives like brushing or going out for a walk that are better for her long term.


All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Yorkie’s body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest their skin and ears. Hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can infect them in a number of ways: drinking unclean water, walking on contaminated soil, or being bitten by an infected mosquito. Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or a family member and are a serious concern for everyone. For your canine friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even death, so it’s important that we test for them on a regular basis. We’ll also recommend preventive medication as necessary.

Spay or Neuter

One of the best things you can do for your Yorkie is to have her spayed (neutered for males). In females, this means we surgically remove the ovaries and usually the uterus, and in males, it means we surgically remove the testicles. Spaying or neutering decreases the likelihood of certain types of cancers and eliminates the possibility of your pet becoming pregnant or fathering unwanted puppies. Performing this surgery also gives us a chance, while your pet is under anesthesia, to identify and address some of the diseases your dog is likely to develop. For example, if your pet needs hip X-rays or a puppy tooth extracted, this would be a good time. Routine blood testing prior to surgery also helps us to identify and take precautions for common problems that increase anesthetic or surgical risk.

Genetic Predispositions for Yorkshire Terriers

Hyperadrenocorticism (Cushing’s)

Cushing’s Disease is a malfunction of the adrenal glands or pitutary gland causing them to produce too much steroid hormone. This is a common problem in dogs and your Yorkie is more likely than other dogs to be affected. The condition usually develops slowly and the early signs are easily missed. Symptoms include drinking and urinating more than normal, increased appetite and reduced activity level. Later, a potbelly, thin skin, and hair loss are characteristic. Treatment usually includes oral medications and requires close coordination with us to ensure correct dosing.


Cataracts are a common cause of blindness in older Yorkies. We’ll watch for the lenses of their eyes and monitor them to see if they become cloudy instead of clear. Many dogs adjust well to losing their vision and get along just fine. Surgery to remove cataracts and restore sight may also be an option.

Dry eye

Also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca or KCS, is common in Yorkshire Terriers. The tear glands no longer produce enough tears to keep the eye moist, which results in sore, itchy, red eyes and infections. This can be really painful and uncomfortable. Symptoms include a thick discharge, squinting, pawing at the eye, or a dull, dry appearance of the eye. We can easily measure your dogs tear production and determine if he/she has dry eye or is at risk. If they have this disease, we’ll prescribe ointment that you’ll need to apply for the rest of your dog’s life and it will help the tear gland to start producing more tears.

Liver Problems

Your Yorkie is more likely than other dogs to have a liver disorder called portosystemic shunt (PSS). Some of the blood supply that should go to the liver goes around it, depriving the liver of the blood flow it needs to grow and function properly. As a result the liver cannot remove toxins from the bloodstream effectively. To check for this problem, we’ll conduct a liver function test in addition to a standard pre-anesthetic panel every time he/she undergoes anesthesia. If he/she develops symptoms such as stunted growth or seizures, we’ll test his blood and possibly conduct an ultrasound scan of his liver. Surgery may be needed, but in some cases, we can treat with a special diet and medication.

Heart Disease

Yorkshire Terriers are prone to multiple types of heart disease, which can occur both early and later in life. We’ll listen for heart murmurs and abnormal heart rhythms when we examine your pet. When indicated, we’ll perform an annual heart health check, which may include X-rays, an ECG, or an echocardiogram depending on your dog’s risk factors. Early detection of heart disease often allows us to treat with medication that usually prolongs your pet’s life for many years. Veterinary dental care and weight control go a long way in preventing heart disease.


Yorkies are susceptible to a condition called Patent Ductus Arteriosis, in which a small vessel that carries blood between two parts of the heart does not close shortly after birth as it should. This results in too much blood being carried to the lungs, fluid build-up, and strain on the heart. Outward signs may be mild or you may see coughing, fatigue during exercise, weight loss, shortness of breath, or weakness in the hind limbs. We listen for a specific type of heart murmur to diagnose this problem during his examinations. If your pal has this condition, we may recommend surgery to close the problematic vessel.


Heart failure is a leading cause of death among Yorkshire Terriers in their golden years. Most heart disease in dogs is caused by weakening of a valve . A heart valve slowly becomes deformed so that it no longer closes tightly. Blood then leaks back around this valve and strains the heart. Pets with heart valve disease (sometimes called mitral valve disease) have a heart murmur. If your dog has a heart murmur or outward signs suggesting heart problems, we’ll perform testing to determine the severity of the disease. The same tests will need to be repeated at least every year to monitor the condition. If heart valve disease is diagnosed early, we may be able to prescribe medications that could prolong his life for many years. Veterinary dental care and fatty acid supplementation can help prevent heart disease and weight control can help diminish symptoms.

Bone and Joint Problems

Medial Patellar Luxation

Sometimes your Yorkie’s kneecap (patella ) may slip out of place (called patellar luxation). You might notice that he/she runs along and suddenly picks up a back leg and skips or hops for a few strides. Then she/he kicks their leg out sideways to pop the kneecap back in place, and they are fine again. If the problem is mild and involves only one leg, your friend may not require much treatment beyond arthritis medication. When symptoms are severe, surgery may be needed to realign the kneecap to keep it from popping out of place.

Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease

Young Yorkshire Terriers may be prone to a painful degenerative hip condition called Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease. The exact cause of this condition is still not completely understood, but it is thought to be a problem with blood supply to the hip, which causes the femoral head (the top of the thigh bone) to become brittle and easily fracture. Usually this occurs between six and nine months of age, it causes pain and lameness in one or both rear legs, and often requires surgery.

Spinal Problems

Intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) is a common condition in Yorkies. The disease is caused when the jelly-like cushion between one or more vertebrae slips or ruptures, causing the disc to press on the spinal cord. If your dog is suddenly unable or unwilling to jump up, go up stairs, is reluctant to move around, has a hunched back, cries out, or refuses to eat or go potty, they are likely in severe pain. They may even drag their back feet or be suddenly paralyzed and unable to get up or use their back legs. If you see symptoms, don’t wait. Call us or an emergency clinic immediately! For less severe cases, rest and medication may resolve the problem. In many cases involving paralysis, we’ll recommend surgical removal of the ruptured discs (within 24 hours of the onset of symptoms to get the best results). As with so many other diseases, weight control helps to prevent this problem. You should also use ramps or steps from puppyhood on so that your dog doesn’t spend a lifetime stressing his back by jumping on and off of the furniture.

Bladder or Kidney Stones

There are a few different types of stones that can form in the kidney or in the bladder, and Yorkshire Terriers are more likely to develop them than other breeds. We’ll periodically test his/her urine for signs indicating the presence of kidney and bladder stones; they are painful! If your buddy has blood in his/her urine, can’t urinate, or is straining to urinate, it is a medical emergency. Call us immediately!


Diabetes mellitus is a fairly common disease in dogs. Any breed can be affected, but Yorkies have an above average incidence. Dogs with diabetes are unable to regulate the metabolism of sugars and require daily insulin injections. It is a serious condition and one that is important to diagnose and treat as early as possible. Symptoms include increased eating, drinking, and urination, along with weight loss. If he/she shows signs, we will conduct lab tests to determine if he/she has this condition and discuss treatment options with you. Treatment requires a serious commitment of time and resources. Well regulated diabetic dogs today have the same life expectancy as other canines.


In humans, an allergy to pollen, mold, or dust makes people sneeze and their eyes itch. In dogs, rather than sneeze, allergies make their skin itchy. We call this skin allergy “atopy”, and Yorkies often have it. Commonly, the feet, belly, folds of the skin, and ears are most affected. Symptoms typically start between the ages of one and three and can get worse every year. Licking the paws, rubbing the face, and frequent ear infections are the most common signs. The good news is that there are many treatment options available for this condition.

Bleeding Disorders

There are several types of inherited bleeding disorders which occur in dogs. They range in severity from very mild to very severe. Many times a pet seems normal until a serious injury occurs or surgery is performed, and then severe bleeding can result. Von Willebrand’s disease is a blood clotting disorder frequently found in Yorkshire Terriers. We’ll conduct diagnostic testing for blood clotting time or a specific DNA blood test for Von Willebrand’s disease or other similar disorders to check for this problem before we perform surgery.

Retained Puppy Teeth

Dogs normally begin to lose their primary (“puppy”) teeth at around 4 months of age. When the primary teeth don’t fall out as the adult teeth come in, infection or damage to the adult teeth may develop. Retained teeth are common in small breeds like Yorkies. The retained puppy teeth trap food and hair between the normal adult tooth and the primary tooth. Painful gums, bad breath and adult tooth loss can result if untreated. We’ll monitor his growing teeth and recommend removal of the puppy teeth if they are present alongside his adult teeth.

Tracheal Collapse

The trachea, or windpipe, is made up of rings of cartilage, making it look something like a vacuum cleaner’s ridged hose. Just as in the hose, this structure provides flexibility and strength. In Yorkshire Terriers, the cartilage rings are sometimes weak or have formed incorrectly. The trachea can collapse and become too narrow, which leads to coughing and difficulty breathing. Most cases of tracheal collapse are mild and are treated symptomatically with medication. When symptoms are severe, surgery may be an option.

Low Blood Sugar

Hypoglycemia, also known as low blood sugar, is a common condition in young, small-breed dogs, including Yorkshire Terriers. It can be caused by many conditions. The physical signs include weakness, collapse, and seizures. These signs may occur after exercise, excitement, or after missing a meal. If your little one shows any of these signs, call us right away! Fortunately, once controlled at this young age, most out-grow this condition.

Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis

Most commonly seen in small and toy breeds like your Yorkie, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis (HGE) is a serious and sometimes fatal disease in dogs which is characterized by bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and severe dehydration. Extensive treatment may be necessary to treat dogs suffering from hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. Some dogs may not survive the disease, particularly those left untreated. There are many causes of gastrointestinal disease in dogs. Any dog with symptoms should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible.

What to Watch For

Any abnormal symptom could be a sign of serious disease, or it could just be a minor or temporary problem. The important thing is to be able to tell when to seek veterinary help, and how urgently. Many diseases cause dogs to have a characteristic combination of symptoms, which together can be a clear signal that your Yorkshire Terrier needs help.

Give us a call for an appointment if you notice any of these types of signs:

  • Change in appetite or water consumption
  • Tartar build-up, bad breath, red gums, or broken teeth
  • Itchy skin (scratching, chewing, or licking), hair loss
  • Lethargy, mental dullness, or excessive sleeping
  • Fearfulness, aggression, or other behavioral change

Seek medical care immediately if you notice any of these types of signs:

  • Scratching or shaking the head, tender ears, or ear discharge
  • Inability or straining to urinate; discolored urine
  • Cloudiness, redness, itching, or any other abnormality involving the eyes
  • Drinks and urinates more, eats more, potbelly, poor haircoat
  • Slow or stunted growth; sometimes seizures after eating
  • Coughing, exercise intolerance, rapid breathing at rest
  • Increased hunger and thirst, weight loss
  • Leg stiffness, reluctance to rise, sit, use stairs, run, jump, or “bunny hopping”

Thank you, Meadowlands Veterinary Hospital is here to answer any questions you may have or to call and schedule an appointment to have your little guy or girl examined!


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By |August 1st, 2017|