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Health Issues in Yorkshire Terriers
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Collapsing Trachea (CT) is an inherited condition when the cartilage of the trachea (windpipe) is weak and can easily flatten out inhibiting the amount of air into the lungs. CT is a progressive, non-curable condition affecting the entire airway. It is characterized by its unmistakable “goose honk” sound. CT can lower the resistance to respiratory stress. Airborne irritants, heat, heart disease, respiratory infections and anesthetic breathing tubes can all irritate CT.

There is no cure for CT however medical management and, in extreme cases, surgically inserted tracheal shunts can treat on-going symptoms.


Luxating Patella (LP) is caused by the rotation of the tibia and the curved formation of the lower femur resulting in the structural misalignment of the knee cap causing slippage out of the trochlear groove. LP can be congenital or trauma induced. Females are one and half times more likely to have LP than males, though it is unknown why. LP is progressive and worsens with age as repeat dislocation of the knee cap cause permanent cartilage damage which can lead to osteoarthritis. LP is a graded condition from 1 to 4 with levels 1 and 2 being relatively minor and manageable to levels 3 and 4 necessitating surgical correction.

Symptoms include rear lameness, running and screaming in sudden pain as the knee cap dislocates, the holding up of the leg, and the inability to bear weight on the knee.

Due to the complications of surgery on elderly dogs, those with level 3 and 4 LP in their senior years usually have the condition managed with Prednisone. Great strides have been made in the medical management of LP with hydrotherapy which has proven to be a beneficial treatment for low grade LP.


Allergies are becoming more and more common in dogs. They can be broken down into inhalant, contact and food allergies. Most common to Yorkies are flea, grass, and environmental toxins. Medical maintenance is required in the treatment of allergies. Eliminating food sources, contact with grass, and keeping up with flea and tick prevention are the best way to avoid irritation. In severe cases corticosteroids are often prescribed, but should only be sought out as a last resort as they can cause severe side effects over time and exposure. Alternative medicines such as Holistic Medicine and Acupuncture can often provide effective treatments.


Cataracts are the whitening of the eye lens. While common in old age, an inherited form of Juvenile Cataracts is inherited and must be surgically corrected to prevent blindness.


Idiopathic Epilepsy is the reoccurrence of seizures with no active underlying disease occurring in the brain. It typically begins between 3 and 5 years of age and can range in severity, occurrence, and duration. Light seizures and long spans between episodes are usually manageable without medication. More intense and commonly occurring episodes can usually be controlled with medications such as Phenobarbital, Dilantin, and Primidone.



Hyperadrenocorticism or Cushing’s Syndrome is the overproduction of cortisone, a naturally produced steroid hormone, by the adrenal gland which in turn inhibits the body’s ability to regulate the metabolic functions such as fat production and distribution, the body’s ability to counteract shock and inflammation, and the regulation of the skin and immune systems.

Cushing’s is caused by one of three factors: tumor in the adrenal gland, tumor in the pituitary gland, or overly prescribed corticosteroids used to treat allergies. Symptoms include increased thirst and hunger, increased urine output, changes in skin and coat such as dandruff, thickening and darkening of the skin and hair loss of the flanks of the dog. It can also include abdominal pain and distention, elevated alkaline phosphate levels, and diabetes has been known to develop as a secondary symptom.

Treatments include the medications Anapryl, Lysodren, and Vetoryl or Trilostane. For dogs that develop Cushing’s as a result of corticosteroids, discontinuation of the drugs can often time lead to a complete recovery.



All dog breeds are susceptible to heart defects. Most congenital heat defects can be detected by a veterinarian in a six week old puppy. Cardiomyopathy, Patent Ductus Arteriosus, and Valvular Endocardiosis can affect Yorkies.

Cardiomyopathy or heart muscle disease, is the weakening of the heart muscle for any reason. Dogs with Cardiomyopathy are at risk for Arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death.

Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) is a failure of the Ductus Arteriosus to adapt the body from breathing amniotic fluid to breathing oxygen by not closing off the connection between the aorta and the pulmonary artery. The effect to which the dog is affected is dependant on how much of the duct remains open.

Valvular Endocardiosis, or Chronic Myxomatous Valvular Heart Disease, commonly effects Yorkies. It is the degeneration of the heart valves and usually affects middle age to elderly Yorkies. The cause is unknown.


Hemorrhagic Gastric Enteritis (HGE) is a bacterial infection of the gastrointestinal tract causing mucousy, then bloody diarrhea. In small breeds it can lead to severe dehydration and should be treated with antibiotics immediately. HGE can be picked up anywhere and has an incubation period of 2 to 10 days.


Hydrocephalus, more commonly called water on the brain, is actually a build up of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain cavity. Hydrocephalus can be congenital or acquired due to another disease which blocks the normal drainage of fluid.

Symptoms include an enlarged dome which progressively worsens, aimless walking and slow to mental development.

Dogs born with this condition usually die at a very early age. Those that live with the condition can be treated with early intervention of appropriate medications minimizing brain damage.


Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar level, is very common in all small breeds but is especially prevalent in Yorkies. If the body’s blood sugar levels drop too low it can result in permanent neurological damage.

Symptoms include confusion, disorientation, drowsiness, shivers, seizures, collapse, and coma.

The best treatment for Hypoglycemia is prevention. Immediate treatment to an effected puppy can prevent long term or permanent damage. Making sure a puppy eats frequently and has significantly long rest periods and having products such as Nutri-cal, Nutri-drops on hand can all help in preventing the onset of Hypoglycemia.


Hypothyroidism is an under active thyroid gland. Symptoms include poor coat, infertility, lethargy, intolerance for cold, and weight gain. Once the underlying cause to Hypothyroidism has been identified, the condition can often be successfully treated with hormones.


Idiopathic Tremor Syndrome is also known as White Dog Shaker Syndrome. It develops in dogs between six months and three years. The entire body of the dog shakes, head tilts, there is weakness in the limbs, and in worse cases, seizures. It is often times accompanied with rapid eye movements. It seems that excessive handling of the dog, over excitement will increase the symptoms while the symptoms diminish with relaxation.

It is believed to be caused by a deficiency of neurotransmitters due to an auto immune reaction or disease.

Studies to determine a genetic predisposition to Idiopathic Tremor Syndrome have proven inconclusive. Most dogs recover completely with early intervention and treatment with corticosteroids and/or benzodiazepines.


Legg-Calve Perthes is an inherited disease which causes the degeneration of the hip from a loss of blood flow to the joint resulting in Avascular Necrosis (tissue death) of the bone.

Symptoms are not always noticeable and often do not present until middle to elderly age. There is often times little to no pain and is often caught in an x-ray.

Non-surgical treatments include slings to rest and immobilize the joint and anti-inflammatory medications. A surgical option is the removal of the bony formation causing the painful smashing of the femur head to the hip joint. While this can reduce pain in the joint, it is usually only resorted to in extreme cases as the recovery time for good use of the leg can take up to an entire year.

As Legg-Calve Perthes is a definite inherited disease, dogs diagnosed with it should not be bred. Great strides have been made in the medical management of Legg-Calve Perthes with hydrotherapy which has proven to be a beneficial for many affected dogs.


Pancreatitis, as in humans, is the inflammation of the pancreas. While Pancreatitis is usually a result of excessive alcohol consumption for humans, a high fat diet or dietary indiscretion is the prime culprit in dogs. Other conditions such as diabetes, cancer, and complicated surgical recovery have also been known to cause Pancreatitis. Pancreatitis is a life threatening condition as it inhibits the pancreas’ ability to regulate the body’s insulin levels and insulin production.

Symptoms include vomiting, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, and the over all “sick dog”.

Diagnosing Pancreatitis is problematic. No test is 100% accurate. A measurement of the body’s levels of lipase and amylase are taken and a ultrasound can be somewhat effective.

There is no cure for Pancreatitis and treatment includes hospitalization and fluid IVs for food and liquids to allow the pancreatic inflammation to subside. Painkillers can be administered for comfort.


Pharyngeal Gag Reflex or Reverse Sneezing is characterized by it unmistakable “goose honk” sound. It is an irritation of the soft palate of the throat that results in a spasm. It does not require medical attention and usually corrects itself on its own. It is often caused by a period of over excitement, pulling excessively on a lead, or drinking too quickly.


If for any reason a dog is poisoned call your local emergency vet immediately. Collect any vomit and take it to the vet with you for analysis. If a veterinarian is not available at the time of poisoning contact the Animal Poison Control Center (ASPCA) by phone. 888-426-4435.


Retinal and Vitreal Dysplasia with Skeletal Abnormalities (Dwarfism) is the inherited combination of Retinal Dysplasia and Dwarfism. Studies have shown that one is not inherited without the other. However, dogs can exhibit signs of Retinal Dysplasia without exhibiting signs of a Skeletal abnormality outside of the eye sockets. Dogs can be tested for Retinal Dysplasia at eye clinics held by AKC Kennel Clubs across the United States by a certified canine Ophthalmologists. Dogs found to be affected are not issued certificates by the Canine Eye Research Foundation.

Early signs of the condition are visible as early as 8 weeks of age when the retarded growth and bowing of the front legs with the rear legs growing excessively stiff and straight caused by the delayed growth of the bone growth plates. Unusually large eyes usually accompany the condition. As the conditions are inherited and have no cure, affected dogs should not be bred.


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