Yorkshire Terriers & Medical Problems

He's tiny, but Yorkies are tough little terriers.
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Don't let a hair bow or his small size fool you. Yorkshire terriers are spunky, energetic dogs, true to their terrier heritage. As with all breeds, beware of possible health issues in your little pal. Some Yorkshire terrier medical problems are specific to the breed, while others affect toy dogs in general.

Portosystemic Shunts

Yorkies have a significantly higher incidence of congenital portosystemic shunts than any other breed. Also known as a liver shunt, this blood-carrying vessel bypasses the liver while puppies are in utero, because their mother's liver performs filtering duties. The shunt should close after birth, but it doesn't in affected Yorkies. Portosystemic shunt signs include poor growth, behavioral problems, seizures, excessive drinking and urination, and blindness. Your veterinarian can diagnose a shunt through X-rays or ultrasound. While dietary changes can buy your Yorkie some time, surgical correction generally is needed for the dog to live a normal life span.

Eye Problems

Eye problems in Yorkies usually occur as the dog ages, although distichiasis --ingrown eyelashes -- affect younger animals. Surgical correction is necessary to stop the irritation, which also can cause corneal abrasion. Aging Yorkies are prone to cataracts, which can be removed surgically. Dry eye, formally known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca, results from insufficient tear production. Symptoms include redness and a mucous discharge. Your vet can prescribe medication to moisten the eyes and stimulate tear production.

Tracheal Collapse

A dog's trachea consists of small cartilage rings lining the tracheal tube, along with a tissue membrane around each ring. If the rings or membrane weaken over time, tracheal collapse can occur. Symptoms include constant coughing, which sounds more like honking, exercise intolerance and fainting. Your vet can prescribe medication to ease symptoms. Serious instances of collapse require surgery. To help avoid tracheal collapse, use a harness when walking your Yorkie rather than the lead attached to his collar.

Leg Issues

Yorkies are prone to luxating patellas, or slipped kneecaps. While some dogs are only mildly affected as the kneecap slips easily back into place, Yorkies with severe lameness require surgery to correct the problem. Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, a hereditary condition, occurs when the head of the femur degenerates because of poor blood circulation. This painful condition requires surgical correction.

Other Yorkie Medical Problems

Male Yorkies might suffer from cryptorchidism, or retained testicles. That means neutering requires abdominal surgery. It's a good idea, however, because dogs with retained testicles have a higher rate of testicular cancer. Yorkies are prone to bladder stones, or urolithiasis. Such stones often require surgical removal, although some can be removed via catheterization and flushing. Because of his small size, any severe vomiting or diarrhea in a Yorkie requires prompt veterinary attention. A Yorkie dehydrates much faster than a larger canine.