Yorkshire Terrier - Health Concerns

Yorkshire Terriers, as with other breeds, are susceptible to some health problems, some of a genetic nature, others viral. The following is a listing of some of the known health issues that affect the Yorkshire Terrier breed. For more indepth information, references are listed at the end of this article.

Please note that this section is intended as a source of information only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional care. Always consult with your Veterinarian about health related matters. The information provided here is a brief outline only of some of the health issues which may be of concern for the Yorkshire Terrier breed and should not be considered as a complete listing.


Campylobacteriosis is a bacterial imbalance in the digestive tract and produces acute infectious diarrhea in puppies and kittens. Commonly mistaken for Parvovirus, this disease, however, requires different treatment. If you suspect that your dog is affected, have him specifically tested for "Camby". It should also be noted that the disease can be transferred between humans, cats, dogs and other livestock. Initial signs include fecal mucus sheath and gets progessively softer until watery and may also contain blood. Symptoms may also be accompanied by vomiting which may or may not also contain blood. Feces are usually mustard in colour and have a sweet/flowery aroma.


Coccidia are microscopic parasites that live within cells of the intestinal lining causing diarrhea in puppies and occasionally, adult dogs. Because they live in the intestinal tract, coccidia is commonly mistaken for worms.

Collapsing Trachea

Collapsing Trachea is a problem common to Toy breeds. Symptoms of the condition include shortness of breath, coughing and fatigue, and usually appears after the age of five years but they can begin as early as birth.

For more information, see: Collapsed Trachea: The Health Problem Every Owner of a Small Dog Should Understand

Cushing's Disease

Cushing's disease is the result of the overproduction of cortison, a natural steriod hormone, by the adrenal glands. In the majority of cases, the disease is caused by a lesion in the pituitary gland at the base of the brain that overstimulates the adrenals, while in about 20 percent of cases one of the adrenal glands itself will have a tumor that excretes cortisol independent of what's happening in the body. About half of those tumors are malignant and spread, and about half of them are benign and generally remain small.

Typical signs of Cushing's Disease include increased thirst and urination, panting, hair loss (usually on the trunk) and weakness. It is rare for a dog under the age of five years to have Cushing's Disease.


Eclampsia is an acute, life-threatening disease caused by low calcium levels (hypocalcemia) in dogs and more rarely in cats. A lactating animal is especially susceptible to blood calcium depletion because of lactating. Signs of Eclampsia are most often seen 1-3 weeks after giving birth, but it can occur anytime, even while pregnant. Smaller breed dogs are at a high risk. Initial signs include restlessness and nervousness, followed by a stiff gait or wobble when walking and she may also appear disoriented. Eventually, the dog may be unable to walk and will exhibit extreme rigidity in the legs. Her body temperature may increase to over 105°F and respiration rate will increase. At this point, treatment is absolutely necessary. Seek veterinary attention immediately and prevent the puppies from nursing for a minimum of 24 hours (use a milk replacer supplement for the pups). Eclampsia can be rapidly corrected through the use of intravenous calcium supplementation.

Hemorrhagic Gastric Enteritis (HGE)

HGE is particularly dangerous to Toy and smaller breed dogs. Any kind of bacterial diarrhea can quickly dehydrate a dog, and the little dogs are at greater risk of dehydration as they have little weight to lose. It may take two to ten days after exposure before signs of HGE are apparent. Symptoms start with vomiting, lethargy, refusal to eat, and progresses to mucous covered stools, loose stools, severe diarrhea, and bloody diarrhea. A culture should be done as soon as possible to determine the exact bacteria to be treated.


Hypoglycemia occurs when the blood sugar levels (glucose) fall below normal. Glucose is what the body uses as fuel and is necessary for the brain tissue and muscles to function. Hypoglycemia is common in Toy breeds and frequently seen in young Toy puppies. The affected puppy may appear confused, disoriented, drowsy, have the shivers, stagger, collapse, fall into a coma, or have seizures. Typical signs include listlessness, depression, staggering gait, muscle weakness and tremors. Hypoglycemia must be treated.

Legg-Calve-Perthes (LCP)

L'egg Perthes, also known as Legg-Calve-Perthes disease, is a disease of the hip joints of small breeds of dogs. The head of the femur begins to die and disintegrate causing limping, pain, and eventually, arthritis. It usually appears between the ages of six and twelve months. Treatment of the condition varies depending on the severity of the signs seen. In mild cases, enforced rest may be sufficient to allow healing while more sever cases may require surgery.

Liver Shunt

Liver Shunt, also known as Portosystemic Shunts, are abnormal veins that allow blood from the intestine to bypass the liver. When a shunt is present, blood bypasses the liver with disastrous and often fatal consequences. Ammonia and other toxins are not metabolized or removed from the circulation, resulting in signs of hepatic encephalopathy (type of brain inflammation caused by high levels of ammonia and other toxins in the blood). Symptoms can include stunted growth, persistent vomiting and diarrhea, weight loss and seizures. However, it is possible for symptoms to be very subtle as well — increased urination, thirst and salivation. Liver shunts are operable but not always successful. The errant blood vessels may be inside or outside the liver and those that are inside are much more difficult to repair.


Pancreatitis is an inflammation of the pancreas. When digestive enzymes that are normally excreted into the intestinal tract are activated in the pancreas instead, they cause inflammation. Foods high in fat, or a lot of greasy table scraps, tend to trigger pancreatitis.

This is a serious and potentially life-threatening disease. Affected animals will have severe abdominal pain, loss of appetite, lethargy, depression, vomiting and diarrhea. Dehydration is also a danger.

Patella Luxation

Patella Luxation, also known as slipping kneecaps, slipping stifle, is a relatively common condition in the Yorkshire Terrier and often results in intermittent lifting of one or both hind legs when walking or running. It may be recessively inherited and therefore, afflicted animals should not be bred. Corrective surgery is usually very successful.

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.


- Health & Nutrition Section of the Canada's Guide to Dogs website.
- Legg Calvé Perthes Disease by Fred Lanting
- Canine Inherited Disorders Database
- Patellar Luxation in Small Breed Dogs by Teri Dickinson, DVM