Yorkshire Terriers, or Yorkies for short, are unsurprisingly from Yorkshire, England. They are a small breed of terrier and are classified in the Toy Terrier family. Like any breed of dog, especially a purebred breed of dog, there are health afflictions that may arise. If you’re considering getting a dog, especially a Yorkie, this may be helpful information for you to learn so you can know if you would be able to handle these health concerns should they arise.
Health Concerns of Yorkies
The lifespan of a Yorkshire Terrier is higher than the average dog, averaging at 13 to 16 years. However, with any purebred dog, there is likely to be some canine health complications.
It is very important that if you get your dog from a breeder, to choose a reputable breeder and to check the health history of your potential Yorkie’s mom and dad. Some health problems that can affect Yorkies include:
Cataracts in dogs can be diagnosed by cloudiness and a white opaque color in the eyes. This can be due to a change in the protein structure of the lens of the eye. Sometimes this can be hereditary, and other times it can be a caused by environmental factors such as improper nutrition, diabetes, or eye trauma.
The main concern with cataracts is how they affect vision because they will always impede vision. Some cataracts that develop slowly will allow your dog to have a better chance to adjust to the changes in vision.
Fortunately, dogs usually adapt very well to poor vision if it happens slowly. Also, another positive note is that many cataracts can be corrected with surgery, as long as they are caught early enough. T
aking your dog to the vet for yearly checkups is important because the vet will always check your dog’s eyes and be able to help should there be any concerns.
Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, and it can be a common problem in small dogs who are having trouble maintaining proper nutrition.
This can be especially true after a dog has been weaned from a mother’s milk and is adjusting to solid food. Additionally, with hypoglycemia, your Yorkie will have a lot of trouble maintaining proper blood glucose levels.
Again, this is most common with Yorkie puppies and happens after an onset of fasting for 8 hours or more. For this reason, you must make sure your puppy, especially when he is under 4 months old, is eating at least every 8 hours.
Your puppy may have trouble eating because of:
- stress from adjusting to a new home
- illness which makes eating undesirable
- too much activity if your puppy is run down from being overactive
- too much time in cold weather enough energy is spent warming up that he does not have any energy left to eat
Your puppy will become quite lethargic, have pale gums, lose eye focus, and refuse to eat when he is suffering from hypoglycemia. If symptoms are not treated, it could lead to muscle twitching, coma, brain damage, and even death. To prevent and treat this, making sure your puppy does not overexert himself is important, and you should enforce strict feedings time with nutrient-rich foods.
Patellar Luxation is a very common orthopedic issue with dogs. Normally, the kneecap, or the patella, fits nicely in a groove in the femur (thigh bone). Sometimes, the patella slips out of place, which is patellar luxation. This will cause almost immediate canine lameness in your Yorkie.
Your dog’s vet will be able to diagnose this very quickly by feeling the joint to see if it is out of place, possibly using an X-Ray to be certain. This can be treated and in severe cases, surgery may be needed.
Keeping your Yorkie’s weight at a healthy level is important so that he does not have extra stress on his knee and other joints. When left untreated, a luxating patella in dogs will lead to arthritis and pain.
Another joint issue that Yorkies may suffer from is called Legg-Perthes disease. It is a genetic condition that affects the hip joint. Your little pup’s hip joint will be affected as the top of the femur (leg bone) starts to lose blood flow.
Ultimately, this will cause the hip joint to become deformed and develop abnormally. You will not notice this right away, but once your puppy is about 6 months old you might start seeing symptoms of this.
The symptoms would be lameness, limping, and your Yorkie may be in pain. Your vet can properly diagnose this condition and it can be made better through a surgical procedure.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy
Progressive Retinal Atrophy in dogs is a genetic condition that causes a bilateral (two-sided degeneration of the retina in the eye. It leads to partial loss of vision or to complete blindness. Usually, dogs with PRA begin to have degenerative retinas by 2 months old, and they may be blind by 1 year old.
It can be difficult for an owner to initially recognize PRA because it is not painful and does not show outward symptoms such as red eyes. You might notice some personality changes in your dog such as reluctance to go downstairs or into poorly lit areas.
A vet will be able to diagnose PRA in your puppy which is why routine visits are so important. They can look at the retina with tools that allow the vet to see the warning signs of the disease. Unfortunately, there is no cure for PRA. However, dogs can usually manage quite well with progressive blindness as their other senses will take over and become stronger to make up for the loss of one sense.
Jaw & Dental Issues
Because Yorkies are such a small breed, they also have quite small jaws. Because of this, they can suffer from overcrowded mouths. They can also have problems when their puppy teeth do not fall out before their adult teeth. When this happens, it can lead to gum disease and tooth loss as bacteria builds up in the mouth.
This issue can be healed by regularly brushing your dog’s teeth with special dog toothpaste and by bringing your dog to the vet for tooth extraction if his mouth is too crowded. If your dog is suffering from mouth and jaw pain, he will likely have a hard time eating, and he might become malnourished. For a dog that only weighs around 7 pounds, losing any weight can be cause for concern because it can lead to hypoglycemia as well as other health problems.
In small dogs, a collapsed trachea can be a common genetic condition. The trachea is the medical term for the windpipe bringing air to the lungs. In Yorkies with this condition, they will have a narrow trachea, to begin with. Professionals believe that there is a hereditary problem of improper formation of holding the windpipe correctly in the body which causes this condition.
You may notice your pups trachea collapsing when he has noisy and troubled breathing, as well as coughing and gagging.
The collapsed trachea may be brought on by pulling on your dog’s collar, which is another reason why using a harness is better for your dog.
If your dog’s trachea has collapsed, surgery can fix the problem. Surgery may also be used in preventative measures if their trachea is especially narrow.
The symptoms of pancreatitis are diarrhea, vomiting, and abdominal pain. However, just because your dog has these three symptoms does not mean that he has pancreatitis as those symptoms are also the same as the common stomach bug.
But, if you think your dog has pancreatitis, taking him to the vet is critical. It can be treated with medications as well as helped by diet. Pancreatitis is caused by too much inflammation in the pancreas, which may be due to toxicity, fat, or other bad dietary habits.
Portosystemic Shunt (Liver Shunt)
Your Yorkie may have a vein abnormality in their portal vein. The portal vein carries blood from the intestines, gallbladder, and pancreas to the liver. When there is an abnormality in the brain, it can obstruct blood flow to the liver. The main function of the liver is to help remove toxins from the bloodstream. If the liver is not able to do its job because of not receiving proper blood flow, then there will be too many toxins in the blood. This unfiltered blood will be traveling to the brain, heart, and lungs, which is certainly not ideal.
Some symptoms include behavioral changes (because your dog will be feeling unwell), jaundice, seizures, weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss, and cognition issues. This is a life-threatening illness. However, if caught early, it can be treated and managed with dietary control. Surgery can also be done to help repair bits of the portal vein and to make sure the liver is getting proper blood flow.
Although the health problems listed above have been seen in Yorkies, more than likely your Yorkie will not develop any of these issues. With proper nutrition, exercise, and care you can help keep your Yorkie healthy.