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Breed & Health Resources

Yorkshire Terriers

With bright, intelligent shoe-button eyes revealed from a silky coat with a ribbon, it’s no surprise the Yorkshire Terrier has long been identified as the preferred companion of the kind of wealthy older woman who lives in a building with a doorman, dahhhling, and can’t bear to be late for the arts fund-raiser. Of course, there aren’t enough society dames to account for the popularity of the Yorkie, who appeals to the hearts of dog-lovers that can’t help but adore these distinctive little charmers.

Traits, Personality & Behavior

The Yorkie is alert, trainable and insatiably curious – another of those "little dogs in a big dog's body." Typically less than 7 pounds, Yorkies are the darling of the purse-dog set, but they need their ground time. He’s happy to be on his own four feet, and he loves to play, retrieve and dig if allowed. He’ll happily take as long a walk as you can handle, and he's quite a determined – and noisy – watchdog as well.

Playful, tough-minded personality aside, the Yorkie isn’t a good choice for families with children simply because the small size of these dogs puts them at risk of injury. They can also be nippy with children, aggressive with other dogs and a challenge to house-train. Consistent and structured but gentle training is a must for the Yorkie. He needs to learn that he can't challenge every other dog he sees, for his own safety if nothing else, and to accept all the attention such a small, cute dog will inevitably attract. His yappiness will also need to be calmed – although he can never be fully silenced.

A low-maintenance dog he is not: Yorkies have demanding grooming requirements. If you keep their coats show-dog long, they need to be brushed daily and their long topknot tied up and out of their eyes. Most pet-owners keep their Yorkies in a "puppy" clip, with the facial hair left a bit longer than the hair on the body. If you're not comfortable clipping your dog yourself, that means regular trips to a professional groomer.

On the plus side, they don't shed a great deal, which in some cases makes them slightly less problematic for people with allergies. However, this varies a great deal from dog to dog and person to person, so don't count on it, and don't believe anyone who tells you Yorkies are "non-allergenic."

Variations of the Yorkshire Terrier

Don’t believe a seller who tells you a "teacup Yorkie" is more valuable or desirable than a properly-sized dog. Extreme miniaturization brings with it nothing but health problems and a shortened lifespan, not to mention it’s cruel and abusive. The Yorkshire Terrier Club of America specifically prohibits its members from marketing their puppies with terms like "teacup," "doll-faced" or "tiny specialist," and language like that is a huge red flag that you're dealing with a seller more interested in money than the good of the dogs or the broken hearts of the people who buy them.

Health Issues Common to Yorkshire Terriers

Yorkshire terriers can suffer from the condition known as a "collapsing trachea," where the windpipe becomes weak and closes off, making it hard for the dog to breathe. Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is also a common problem in the breed (especially in the smaller Yorkies and in puppies), as are certain types of bladder stones, hair loss, cataracts and ingrown eyelashes.

Tiny mouths frequently mean there's no room for proper development of teeth, and it's essential that Yorkie owners get regular veterinary dental care for their dogs. The kneecaps of most very small dogs, including the Yorkie, can very easily become displaced, a defect known as "luxating patellas." Ask your veterinarian to examine your dog's knees regularly, especially if you notice him limping or "hopping" while running.

Yorkshire terriers have a high incidence of a liver defect known as "portosystemic shunt," which can only be treated with expensive surgery. According to a study published in JAVMA in 2003, with a 2.9% prevalence rate, Yorkies are 58.7 times more likely than all other breeds to be at risk for portosystemic shunts.

The Yorkshire terrier is also one of the breeds of dog that suffers from Legg-Calvé-Perthes disease. In fact, Yorkies are 35.8 times more likely to be at risk for this condition than other breeds, as published in the Journal of the American Animal Hospital Association in 2002. Dogs with this condition have reduced blood supply to the head of the rear leg bone, which begins to shrink. It usually shows up by the time the dog is around 6 months old, and the first sign is limping. While it can be treated with surgery, affected Yorkies are at great risk of developing arthritis later in life. The sooner it's caught and treated, the greater the chances the dog will have a full recovery.

To protect yourself from the expensive vet bills associated with these conditions, you'll want to purchase pet insurance for your Yorkshire Terrier before they show symptoms or are diagnosed.

Condition Risk Profile Cost to Diagnose and Treat
Entropion High $300-$1,500
Patellar Luxation
High $1,500-$3,000
Portosystemic Shunts
High $2,000-$6,000
Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease
High $1,000-$3,000
Hydrocephalus Medium $5,000-$10,000
Estimates based on claims paid by Embrace Pet Insurance.

5 Tips to Bring Home a Healthy Yorkshire Terrier Puppy

  1. Don't ever buy a Yorkie puppy from a pet store or Internet retailer. Like all very small, very cute and very popular breeds, Yorkshire Terriers are a favorite among puppy millers and other disreputable breeders.If you buy a puppy from these sources, you’ll be more likely to get an unhealthy, unsocialized and difficult to house-train puppy and will be supporting the cruelty of high-volume puppy mills.
  2. Start your puppy search by finding a breeder who is a member in good standing of the Yorkshire Terrier Club of America, and who has agreed to abide by the club's Code of Ethics. It specifies that its members should not place puppies prior to 12 weeks of age.
  3. Consider an adult dog from a shelter or a rescue group. Many of the health and behavior problems in Yorkshire Terriers aren't apparent in puppyhood, but by adopting an older dog, most of them can be ruled out. In addition, Yorkshire Terriers can live 15 years or longer, so an adult dog will still be a part of your family for a long time to come.
  4. Puppy or adult, take your Yorkshire Terrier to your veterinarian soon after adoption. Your veterinarian will be able to spot visible problems, and will work with you to set up a preventive regimen that will help you avoid many health issues. Ask specifically about dental care, as most toy breeds suffer from dental problems.
  5. Make sure you have a good contract with the seller, shelter or rescue group that spells out responsibilities on both sides. In states with “puppy lemon laws,” be sure you and the person you get the dog from both understand your rights and recourses.

Pet Insurance for Yorkshire Terriers

Pet insurance for Yorkshire Terriers costs more than for mixed breed dogs. This is because Yorkshire Terriers are more likely than mixed breed dogs to make claims for hereditary conditions that are expensive to treat.

Embrace pet insurance plans offer full coverage for all breed-specific conditions (excluding those that are pre-existing) to which Yorkshire Terriers are susceptible. The best time to get pet insurance for your Yorkie is when he’s a healthy puppy. You can’t predict what will happen in the future, and pet insurance is the one thing you can’t get when you need it the most.

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