AKC Yorkshire Terriers, Ocala, Florida

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What are some of the serious health issues in Yorkshire Terriers

Your Yorkshire Terrier will probably stay pretty healthy most of his/her life, but every dog can have health problems. Get to know the more serious issues with Yorkshire Terriers and although not common it is good to know abut them so you can get the right treatment quickly. When addressed promptly, most conditions can be treated successfully.

As a breed, Yorkshire Terriers are predisposed to certain conditions, but that doesn't mean that every Yorkie will get sick. Most never have one of these illnesses, but if you recognize any of these symptoms, call your veterinarian immediately. 

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Portosystemic (liver) shunt

Some Yorkies are born with this congenital condition in which the blood bypasses the liver. When this happens the toxins never get cleaned out of the blood. Two healthy Yorkie parents can produce a Liver Shunt puppy.  The genetics of how a liver shunt are produced are purely speculative at this point.  There is absolutely no proven methodology for a breeder to determine a genetic predisposition for this condition.  Research is being conducted to attempt to find a DNA marker.  If your Yorkie is diagnosed with a liver shunt, confirmed on Scintigraphy, please notify your breeder immediately.

Detecting and Ruling out a Shunt

First, a determination needs to be made as to whether there are clinical signs/symptoms consistent with liver shunt. There are many clinical signs that may be seen in animals with Portosystemic shunts. All of these symptoms may also be seen with various other disease processes. Therefore, a diagnosis cannot be made on symptoms alone! The liver plays an important role in the metabolism of drugs.  This is also one of the most commonly misdiagnosed conditions based upon blood testing alone.

Clinical Signs of Portosystemic Shunts

Drooling, vomiting, pacing, circling, inability to sit still, drinking lots of water, a stuperous look, head pressing, staggering, listlessness, running nose, blank look, stare and or lethargy.

In many animals the signs are seen 1-3 hours after eating meat. Proteins in the food are broken down by intestinal bacteria to ammonia and other toxins which are absorbed and, instead of being filtered by the liver, are allowed to reach the brain.


A Blood panel is obtained to look for poor liver function, such as low protein, albumin, and blood urea nitrogen, which are chemicals produced by the liver. Urine sediment is examined for ammonium biurate crystals, which look like starfish or spiky balls.

Even more accurate are bile acid concentrations. A blood sample is taken after a 12 hour fast, and then the puppy is fed a normal meal. Two hours later another blood sample is taken. Bile acid concentrations are high in most types of liver disease, including shunts. Bile acid concentrations are altered by hemolysis (breakage of the blood cells) and lipemia (fat in the blood)  Samples drawn incorrectly will result in a false reading and should be rechecked.

To be 100% sure that a shunt is present it must be differentiated by the use of scintigraphy and/or ultrasound.

Bile acids and blood ammonia levels cannot be used alone to diagnose a Portosystemic shunt. In addition, blood draw methodology, and lab errors are common. Unfortunately, these tests can have false positive results, and no puppy should be labeled as having a PSS based solely on the results of a blood test.

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Legg-Perthes Disease

A degeneration of the dog's hip joint (also called avascular necrosis of the femoral head and neck).  Symptoms of the disease start appearing when the dog is 4 to 11 months old, and they include lameness in the affected leg, pain, ranging from mild to severe, and wasting away of the muscle.

The prognosis for dogs treated surgically for Legg-Perthes disease is very good to excellent, as long as owners are diligent about post-operative physical rehabilitation and supportive care. After treatment and rehabilitation, most dogs regain pain-free function of the affected hind leg and hip and are able to enjoy normal canine activities such as running, jumping, walking and playing throughout the course of a normal life span.

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Luxating Patellae

It is not uncommon in this small breed for a puppy to have a loose knee and usually with proper diet and joint supplements, it will tighten up by the time the puppy reaches 4 months of age. 

Symptoms can include kneecaps slipping when the vet handles it (Grade I); kneecap slips out of place when walking or running (Grade II); kneecap slips out of place frequently enough to cause lameness (Grade III), and kneecap slips and stays out of place (Grade IV).

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Hypoglycemia is the medical term for blood sugar concentration below normal levels.  You may have heard of people suffering from hypoglycemia, but did you know that dogs can also suffer from it?   Hypoglycemia in Yorkies or underweight puppies, or in smaller Yorkies can be common and must be monitored carefully.

It is not a disease but a potentially dangerous medical condition that you can prevent.  Yorkies and other toy breeds are particularly prone to canine hypoglycemia.

Transient Juvenile Hypoglycemia:

The primary fear of every Yorkie owner is that the puppy will have Transient Juvenile Hypoglycemia.  This condition is often due to lack of glucose (sugar) and inadequate nutrition.  It usually happens when a puppy is not eating as much as they should.  Yorkie puppies under 4 months of age are often affected by this type of hypoglycemia.

Transient Juvenile Hypoglycemia is common in toy dog breeds such as the Yorkshire Terrier, Pomeranian and Toy Poodle.  It can also occur in puppies 5 to 16 weeks of age.  Puppies bred for their tiny size are more predisposed to transient juvenile hypoglycemia in dogs because insufficient muscle mass makes it difficult for the body to store glucose and regulate blood sugar properly.  For this reason, Yorkies and other small dogs should be fed a high quality diet several times a day.

Symptoms of Hypoglycemia in Dogs

If your Yorkie suffers from hypoglycemia you will be able to tell at once.  Early signs of hypoglycemia in dogs include weakness, confusion, frothing or drooling, and wobbly gait.  The puppy may be shivering and trembling, and the body temperature will drop. The gums and tongue will appear pale and grayish white rather than a healthy pink.

As the condition progresses the Yorkie may appear limp and lifeless.  His eyes may become unfocused and unresponsive.  If not cared for properly and promptly, Yorkie puppies can go into a coma or convulsions.

Causes of Hypoglycemia in Yorkies

Transient Juvenile Hypoglycemia in Yorkies is often caused by not eating.  Generally, hypoglycemia can occur after just eight hours of not eating.  For small puppies and toy breeds, it can occur in less time. If your Yorkie puppy does not eat for a long period of time, a hypoglycemic attack is likely to happen.  Make sure your pet is eating in regular intervals.  Puppies might not eat, but it is never intentional. There can be many reasons why your Yorkie may not be eating, including:

• Stress – Visiting a veterinarian, traveling too much, change of home environment, a thunderstorm, etc. are all things that add stress to your puppy and in turn he may not want to eat.

• Activity and Play  –  If a puppy is more captivated with playing than eating then he may not be getting the rest and nourishment he needs.  Every couple of hours, take away his toys and be sure he gets some food and rest.  Avoid over-handling young puppies so they can get enough rest and sleep.

• Exposure to lower temperatures for longer periods of time can cause hypoglycemia in dogs.  A Yorkie’s body will adjust its body temperature to compensate and this can lead to a change in metabolism. All of which leads to hypoglycemia.  Keep your Yorkie in areas where it stays around 72 to 74 degrees.

• Illness – A sick puppy may not want to eat.  Your Yorkie may have a fever due to a communicable illness, reaction to a vaccination, congenital defect, etc. Bacterial infections or intestinal parasites can also lead to loss of appetite.


When it comes to hypoglycemia in Yorkies, it is best to avoid an attack in the first place.  Make sure your puppy gets enough rest and let him feed freely.  You may also feed him 4 or 5 times a day with a diet that is high in protein. 

Always keep the right room temperature. It is important to know your Yorkie and his or her personality as well as the routine they have. If your Yorkie shows symptoms of hypoglycemia, treat it immediately before the condition gets worse.  To treat hypoglycemia in dogs, the initial thing you have to do is elevate the blood sugar. Buying a supplement such as Nutrical is the easiest way to do this.  If you do not have any supplement on hand, use any food that has sugar. 

Put sugar in water or use maple syrup, honey or Karo syrup to treat your Yorkie’s hypoglycemia.  Place the supplement or sugar on the tongue and gums.  Make sure your puppy stays warm.  If necessary, wrap your puppy in a blanket.  Lack of fluids and hypoglycemia in Yorkies often go together.  If your puppy refuses to drink liquids then do your best to get fluids inside him yourself.  You can make use of an eye dropper to get the necessary fluids into your Yorkie’s body.

A hypoglycemic puppy will usually get better fast when given sugar.  If for some reason your Yorkie does not get well within a couple of minutes, take the puppy to see the veterinarian right away. Hypoglycemia in Yorkies rarely persists beyond age 4 or 5 months. 

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Collapsing trachea

A collapsing trachea is a windpipe that periodically closes on itself. This condition typically appears as your dog gets older.  Symptoms include shortness of breath, honking coughing fits (attempts to re-open the trachea), and, because of the restricted air flow, fatigue. There is a possibility that physical strain on the neck might cause or contribute to trachea collapse. Since this is usually caused by an energetic Yorkie pulling against his collar, many veterinarians recommend use of a harness for leashed walks.

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Retained primary teeth

Yorkie's often don't lose their baby teeth on their own. When your Yorkie's around 6 or 7 months old, have your vet check to make sure all her baby teeth are gone. If they're not, they need to be pulled and at the same time the Vet will do a thorough cleaning.  See dental for more information.

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Reverse Sneezing (Pharyngeal Gag Reflex)

Pharyngeal Gag Reflex is a dramatic, rapid inhalation and exhalation of air through the nasopharynx.  Dogs may do this when they have a mild irritation at the back of their throat. Often confused with seizures or gasping for air, it is usually a harmless event.

Reverse sneezing is not really a health problem but it is very common in Toy breeds and owners should be aware of it. Characterized by honking, hacking, or snorting sounds, it usually happens when a dog is excited or after drinking, eating, running around, or pulling on a leash.  The dog will usually extend his neck while gasping inwards with a distinctive snorting sound.  Usually, gently rubbing the throat of the affected dog will help stop the spasms.

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Ear Infections

You notice your dog scratching his ear, shaking his head, whining, and generally being less frisky than usual. The ear may appear red, warm to the touch, and seem swollen. If discharge and a really foul odor are also present, it's a pretty good guess that the dog has an ear infection of some type. The problem could originate from bacteria, mites, fungus, matted hair, yeast infection or a foreign object lodged in the ear. 

Prevention of yeast infections:  Clean ears with 50/50 white vinegar solution (cotton ball and careful Q-tip) and every time you bathe your dog be sure and thoroughly blow dry his ears.  

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Helpful for Prevention of most Health Issues

  1. Feed your dog a high quality dog food:  Proper nutrition helps formation of cartilage especially in the puppy years.  Make sure the brand is specific for your breed and low in grain and high in meat.  Good food is your most important health adjunct for growth and overall excellence. 

  2. Don't overfeed, however, as overweight dogs are affected by illnesses, infections, joint issues more than dogs kept at proper weights.  Just as in humans obesity is a risk factor for many illness many of which can be fatal.

Use a harness rather than a collar when walking your dog:  He can wear a collar with his tags but don't attach a leash that adds pressure and pulling around his neck.

  4. Don't smoke around your dog:  You wouldn't smoke around a human baby, would you? Remember that it doesn't take much smoke to damage the airway of a 5-pound dog.

  5. Keep vaccinations up to date.  This helps prevent respiratory infections. Schedule regular veterinarian appointments.

  6.  Use a high quality heartworm and flea prevention medication monthly.

  7.  Frequent exercise and walks and yard play.

  8.  Make sure you have your dog's teeth cleaned on a regular basis.  The first dental appointment should be between 6 month and 1 year as Yorkies are very prone to having extra teeth.  Tartar will build up between these teeth and can cause more serious infections.  Dental care should be done yearly.

NOTE: A puppy should sleep 80% of the day without being disturbed, never wake a sleeping puppy.  Puppies need a regular schedule of rest, meals, play and potty.

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More Frequently Asked Questions

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