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Yorkshire Terrier Health Care & Feeding

By Michele Welton, Dog Trainer, Breed Selection Consultant, Author of 15 Dog Books

Yorkshire Terrier

Start your Yorkshire Terrier puppy off on the right foot by feeding the right food, giving the right vaccinations, finding the right vet, and if you're going to spay or neuter, don't do it too early.

Jump down to this list of
Yorkshire Terrier Health Problems

Or check out my advice for raising a healthy Yorkie puppy or adult dog:

Obedience instructor and author Michele Welton Dog Health Care – The Sensible Way
Read my advice on daily health care so your Yorkshire Terrier lives a long, healthy life and seldom needs to see the vet... [read more]

numeral 33 Best Ways To Feed Your Dog Healthy Food
You can dramatically increase your dog's chances of living a long, healthy life by feeding the right food. Cutting right to the chase, the best foods for your Yorkshire Terrier are... [read more]

Real homemade dog food A Quick Way To Make Homemade Dog Food
Your Yorkshire Terrier will love real chicken, turkey, beef, fish, eggs, yogurt, broccoli.... this is not just "people food" and I'll tell you why... [read more]

Dry kibble and canned dog food 5 Best Kibble and Canned Dog Foods
Some are better than others, but I must be honest – I'm not a huge fan of dry or canned dog food. Here are my concerns... [read more]

Information on booster shots for your German Shepherd. Vaccinations and Booster Shots: Needed or Not?
How many vaccinations does your Yorkshire Terrier puppy really need? Does your adult dog need yearly booster shots? The vaccination guidelines have changed! Find out what some vets aren't telling you... [read more]

Information on spaying Spaying Your Female Dog: Pros and Cons
Should your female Yorkshire Terrier be spayed? Current research says, "The AGE at which you spay can be vitally important to your dog's future health." So what's the best age? [read more]

Information on neutering your male dog. Neutering Your Male Dog: Pros and Cons
Have you been told that you must neuter your male Yorkie? Current research shows that the issue is not so simple. Pet owners are not being told about some risks associated with neutering male dogs, especially neutering too early... [read more]

Information on choosing the best vet Make Sure Your Vet is the Best!
Is your current veterinarian really the best choice for your dog? Here's how to tell... [read more]

Assisi Loop Assisi Loop Review
Does your Yorkshire Terrier suffer from arthritis, hip dysplasia, disk disease, colitis? My honest review of a veterinary device you can use at home to reduce inflammation and pain. [read more]

Yorkshire Terrier dog breed

Complete list of Yorkshire Terrier health problems

Like most toy breeds, Yorkshire Terriers are usually long-lived, with a typical lifespan of 12-15 years.

Accidents and injuries

The leading health issue in toy dogs is INJURY. You must keep Yorkshire Terriers under constant surveillance and leash/arm control. Too much can happen to these small creatures in the blink of an eye.

  • Bone fractures or a concussion can occur from jumping off furniture, or falling or leaping from your arms, or being hit on the head by a thrown or falling object, or being stepped on.
  • Yorkies can choke on the tiniest object and it takes very little to overdose them with anything toxic.
  • Yorkies can squeeze through the smallest crack of a door or fence and be gone.
  • If you allow them to act foolishly aggressive toward larger dogs, their neck can be broken with a single grab.
  • If you let them off-leash, their excitable chasing instincts may send them under the wheels of a car.

Liver shunt

After accidents, the major concern in Yorkshire Terriers is liver shunt. The liver's job is to remove toxins from the bloodstream. You might wonder how toxins get into the bloodstream in the first place? They're the waste by-products that result from eating food. They're not harmful as long as the liver does its job of filtering and eliminating them.

But when a Yorkie has a liver shunt, the blood that's supposed to be filtered bypasses the liver. That means the waste products aren't filtered out. Instead they build up in the bloodstream and have toxic effects on the dog's brain and other organs.

Occasionally, a liver shunt is mild enough (just a partial bypass) that it can be managed with a careful diet. But usually it requires surgery – very tricky and expensive surgery.

At one veterinary teaching hospital, a full one-third of their liver shunt patients are Yorkies. As a prospective Yorkie owner, you're taking a big risk if you buy or adopt a Yorkie without doing a simple blood test that tests for a healthy liver.

Orthopedic disorders

Many toy breeds inherit loose knee joints, where the kneecap pops in and out of its socket. It's called luxating patella, which means dislocating kneecap. It can be mild, causing temporary bouts of lameness, or it can be crippling and require expensive surgery.

Yorkshire Terriers have the 2nd highest rate of luxating patella of all breeds, with 1 in 5 Yorkies affected.

Even more serious are two degenerative hip diseases that occur in Yorkies – hip dysplasia and Legg-Calve-Perthes disease.

Dental disease

Miniaturized dogs often don't have enough room in their mouth for strong, healthy teeth. Instead we see teeth pointing in various directions, malformed teeth, and teeth crammed together. Plaque and tartar build up rapidly on those teeth, causing gum disease. Then the teeth wiggle around in their loose sockets and need to be extracted by the vet.

Repeatedly putting a small Yorkshire Terrier under anesthesia to have teeth pulled is both worrisome and expensive. You should brush your little dog's teeth weekly and scrape the tartar off his teeth before it builds up.

Collapsing trachea

Tiny breeds such as Yorkies, Chihuahuas, and Maltese can have a genetically weak trachea (the windpipe through which they breathe). A windpipe is a long tube and if it's weak, it can temporarily collapse in on itself, limiting the amount of air that gets through. Then the dog coughs and gasps, producing a distinctive goose honking sound.

Collapsing trachea is a serious condition that always gets worse over time. Sometimes surgery can help, but more often not.

To make matters confusing, Yorkshire Terriers are also prone to a condition that resembles collapsing trachea, but is completely harmless. It's called reverse sneezing. It tends to occur when the dog is excited or when he's eating or drinking.

Eye diseases

In Yorkies, we see cataracts (often progressing to blindness), retinal dysplasia, dry eye, and occasionally progressive retinal atrophy (PRA), which always leads to blindness.

Heart disease

The Big 3 heart diseases in Yorkshire Terriers are patent ductus arteriosus, mitral valve disease, and cardiomyopathy.


Tiny dogs can have difficulty regulating their blood sugar. In Yorkshire Terriers, tiny not only means a young puppy, but even an adult Yorkie who weighs less than 3 or 4 pounds.

If blood sugar drops too low, a tiny dog can have a hypoglycemic attack, which might be mild if immediately treated, or which can progress to coma and death.

Other health concerns in Yorkshire Terriers

  • epilepsy
  • thyroid disease
  • Cushing's disease
  • diabetes
  • allergies (which cause itchy skin)
  • urinary stones
  • colitis

Preventing health problems

Some health problems are inherited. For example, if both parents of your Yorkshire Terrier have certificates proving they were tested and cleared of luxating patella and eye diseases, your Yorkie has less risk of developing those conditions. And the dog himself should have a simple bile acids blood test that tests his liver function.

Dog feeding and health book by Michele Welton Other health problems can be prevented, or partially prevented, by the ways you raise your dog.

FREE eBOOK! My free online health care program, 11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy shows you how to raise your Yorkshire Terrier puppy (or adult dog) in all the right ways. It will help you be your dog's health care champion!

Michele Welton with BuffyAbout the author: Michele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.

My best-selling books – now available  FREE  on my website

book coverRespect Training For Puppies: 30 seconds to a calm, polite, well-behaved puppy is for puppies 2 to 18 months old. Your puppy will learn the 21 skills that all family dogs need to know. Click here to read for free.
book coverTeach Your Dog 100 English Words is a unique Vocabulary and Respect Training Program that will teach your adult dog to listen to you and do what you say. Click here to read for free.
book cover11 Things You Must Do Right To Keep Your Dog Healthy and Happy helps your dog live a longer, healthier life. Get my honest advice about all 11 Things before you bring home your new puppy, because some mistakes with early health care cannot be undone. Click here to read for free.