Yorkshire terrier health problems

Teeth problems

Dental Disease

Dental disease is one of the most common problems in dogs, especially small and toy breed dogs. Yorkshire Terriers are very prone to get problems with their teeth. Plaque and tartar build up on their teeth very quickly and this then progresses to infections of the gums and the tooth roots. Luckily, there are many options to keep your dog’s teeth in good condition to prevent the development of dental disease.

Feeding your dog specific food and treats or chew toys as well as regularly brushing their teeth can help keep their teeth clean. It is best to discuss this early with your trusted vet or vet nurse to find a good dental care routine that works for your dog.

Joint problems

Luxating Patella

One of the most common joint problems in small and toy dogs like the Yorkshire Terrier is a luxating patella. With this condition, the kneecap slips out of the groove from the centre of the joint. The signs of lameness and the pain that come with this condition can vary from mild to severe, and they are usually noticed for the first time in young dogs before the age of two years. If the lameness persists or keeps reoccurring, then orthopaedic surgery is recommended.

A luxating kneecap in small-breed and toy dogs is considered an inherited condition and several genes are involved. It is recommended that dogs with this condition should not be bred, to try and prevent the inherited condition from affecting more dogs.


There is another joint condition that affects the Yorkshire Terrier more often than other dogs. It has the peculiar name ‘Legg-Calve-Perthes’ disease. With this condition, the top part (head) of the thigh bone (femur) does not get enough blood supply, which causes it to degenerate and shrink. This leaves the hip joint nonfunctional and painful.

Early signs can be recognised in puppies when they are limping. The cause of this condition is unknown, and treatment options range from frequent medication to orthopaedic surgical intervention.


Hormonal problems

Cushing’s Disease

A hormonal problem that tends to occur in Yorkshire Terriers more often than in other breeds, is a disease called 'Cushing's'. With this condition, the dog produces too much of the hormone 'cortisol'. It is caused by a tumour on either one of two important glands in the cascade of cortisol production. Classic symptoms include increased thirst and urination, potbelly abdomen and hair loss or thinning of the coat, but there can be a broader spectrum of symptoms present as well.

Basic laboratory work with blood, urine and faecal tests can give strong indications that this disease is present. The vet will then do further testing with more specific blood tests and ultrasound. Once diagnosed daily medications are necessary and – depending on the cause of the hormonal overproduction – surgery can be recommended.


Diabetes is also a fairly common disease in many dogs, but it is seen more often in Yorkshire Terriers than other breeds. Just like in humans, dogs with this condition are unable to produce or utilize the hormone 'insulin' adequately. It results in the blood sugar being too high and it can’t enter into the body cells, where it would be needed as an essential source of energy.

It is a serious health risk that can be fatal if left untreated. Primary symptoms are increased appetite and drinking as well as increased urination and muscle loss. If your dog shows these signs, it is best to have it checked by your vet. Blood tests, and ideally a urine test, are necessary to diagnose the disease.

Treatment involves a specialist diet and a daily exercise routine, as well as daily injections of insulin. Well-regulated diabetic dogs have a life expectancy very close to other dogs.

Urinary tract problems

The Yorkshire Terrier is more prone to bladder and kidney stones than other breeds. There are several types of stones and if untreated it can lead to severe health problems, such as infections and obstructions, which can lead to life-threatening conditions such as jammed kidneys or a blocked bladder.

It is advisable to periodically have the urine of your Yorkie checked by a vet and in the event that little stone crystals are found in the urine, your vet can recommend a specific diet or nutritional supplements that help with the prevention of bladder or kidney stones.

Liver problems

Portosystemic Shunt

The Yorkshire Terrier is more likely than other breeds to have a liver disorder called portosystemic shunt (PSS). It means that some of the blood that should pass through the liver is actually bypassing the organ. Usually, symptoms for this condition are detected in the first 6 months of the dog’s life, but sometimes it can be much later.

The symptoms are very broad and unspecific, from a slow-growing and less active puppy compared to its littermates, to vomiting and loss of appetite, or even mental disorders and seizures. It takes exhaustive tests to diagnose this condition and can involve complex surgery for treatment.

Only sometimes can affected dogs be clinically managed with medication and specific diets. The genetic basis of this liver disorder is currently not fully understood but affected lines have been recognised in a variety of breeds.


One of the key responsibilities for dog ownership is regular checks for health conditions that the breed is prone to, but unfortunately sometimes the worst can happen - see our "Yorkshire Terrier insurance" page for further information on insuring your Terrier with our dog insurance policies.

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