Yorkie Life Expectancy and Health Tips

by Sonya | Last Updated:   April 11, 2021

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If you are just beginning to look at an adorable little Yorkie pup as a potential addition to your house, you likely have a lot of questions about the breed. One of the biggest questions most people have when deciding on a pet is regarding the lifespan of the breed.

Many people want dogs that will live a longer period of time. Luckily, the Yorkie, on average, will live anywhere between 11 and 15 years according to the American Kennel Club.

These adorable dogs, which resemble a teddy bear, when taken care of can live a very long time. In fact, the oldest Yorkie on record was named “Jack” and managed to live 25 years! 

Yorkie dog sitting on couch relaxed

Ways to Keep Your Yorkie Happy and Healthy

Everyone wants to make sure that whatever pet they have lives a long healthy and happy life. So, the big question is what exactly needs to be done to ensure that you have the best chances possible of your pet living to the maximum (or exceeding its) expected life span?

The answers are relatively simple: exercise, proper diet, and proper medical care. Just like people, Yorkies (and all other pets) simply need the same things to live long lives. 

Keep Your Yorkie Active!

It shouldn’t come as any surprise that one of the best ways to keep your pet fit and healthy is to make sure they have plenty of exercise. Allowing your dog plenty of physical activity will also promote a happy pet. Why? Just like people, when dogs get plenty of exercise they are able to release any stress and anxiety they may be experiencing.

While dogs don’t have all of the same mental health issues that humans experience; anxiety, stress, and depression in dogs are a real thing. So, not only will regular exercise promote a positive mental state for your Yorkie, but it will also build muscle mass and tone, a healthy heart, and the resilience to better fight off any potential viruses. 

Visit the Veterinarian Regularly

Sometimes vet visits can become very expensive. However, you must make sure to follow up with your vet when required or necessary. Don’t allow a couple of years to go by without making a trip to your trusted pet doctor. Routine annual (or biannual) visits can ensure that your Yorkie is up-to-date on their shots, has no underlying conditions, and is overall healthy and happy.

Often annual veterinarian visits will include making sure your pet is up-to-date on their shots, ensuring that your pet is a healthy weight, along with simply having a conversation regarding the behavior at the home of your Yorkie.

If there are any concerns these are the times to bring them up with the doctor to discuss if there are any other things that need to be done or training plans that need to be started. If you are worried about the ongoing cost of veterinary care for your pet, considering pet insurance may be your best bet to avoid an unexpected large bill for your dog’s care. 

Don’t Underestimate Diet!

Diet is so vitally important to any healthy dog, but it is especially important for Yorkies. Since Yorkies are so small, they are prone to many different types of injuries and diseases. We all know that consuming the right foods can either make our bodies work more efficiently or make them work against us. Why would this be any different for dogs?

Make sure that your Yorkie has a well-rounded diet that isn’t filled with table scraps or any other human foods that could be potentially harmful to them. Do a little research on dog food to determine which one will best meet the needs of your pup. Many dog foods that are cheaper and available at your local retailer are full of fillers that have no health benefit to your dog.

Consider feeding your pet a diet which is more natural to what they should be eating from a biological perspective. 

Leading Causes of Death in Yorkies

You would be surprised to know that, even though Yorkies can live a long time, they are susceptible to a lot of health conditions that could shorten their lives. All of these mentioned below are common diseases and viruses that could potentially be fatal to your little pup.

The genetic make-up and the size of a Yorkie make them more susceptible to viruses, trauma, and other diseases than many large dog breeds. What’s even more unfortunate is the fact that Yorkie puppies under two years old are most susceptible to viruses and infections.

Respiratory Diseases

Because of their size, respiratory issues are very prevalent among Yorkies. This genetic predisposition can have many different signs and symptoms and ultimately leads to the death of many puppies.

Collapsed Trachea

According to the Fetch by WebMD, there isn’t really a clear reason why tracheal occurs. There is also no clear idea on how to prevent or avoid its occurrence. Not really knowing how to prevent something that is such a prevalent cause of death in Yorkies can be a bit unnerving. WebMD goes on to state the following ways to recognize a tracheal collapse in your dog: 

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing when you pick your dog up or apply pressure to their neck
  • Vomiting or gagging
  • Becoming cyanotic (turning blue)
  • Wheezing

If your pup begins experiencing any of these things for any reason, get to your trusted veterinarian immediately, or, to a local pet emergency facility. 

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome is something that is common in dogs with smaller heads and “smooshed” faces. According to an article by VCA Hospitals, this type of syndrome frequently occurs in dog breeds such as Boxers, Pugs, and Yorkshire Terriers. There is a series of abnormalities within this syndrome that cause Yorkies to not be able to breathe properly. In fact, one of the main things that can occur from having this syndrome is the very thing that we listed first in the leading causes of death for Yorkies, tracheal collapse.

Here is where it becomes so very important that you have your dog evaluated regularly by your local veterinarian; Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome can only be diagnosed with a physical examination. Further, there are ways (once your pet is diagnosed) to prevent your pup from having too many issues resulting from the syndrome.

Pulmonary Fibrosis

Because of the many respiratory issues that Yorkshire Terriers can have, one of the comorbidities is pulmonary fibrosis. Essentially, pulmonary fibrosis is scar tissue that is built up in the lungs that makes it difficult for your Yorkie to breathe properly. The only way for this to be diagnosed is by taking your dog to your trusted veterinarian for chest x-rays or potential CT scanning to determine if or how advanced their pulmonary fibrosis is.

Parvovirus

Parvovirus is actually something that all puppies are susceptible to and can cause death in their early weeks and months of life. This virus is highly contagious and is caused simply by a puppy being exposed to other dogs and feces that contain the virus. Like many illnesses within dogs, there are certain things that you will notice quickly that indicate there is a problem. Symptoms can include vomiting, food aversion, diarrhea, and dehydration.

According to the American Kennel Club, puppies should receive several doses of the parvovirus vaccine before 12 weeks of age and then again at about 16 weeks of age. This is where it becomes very important for you to check with wherever you purchase your Yorkie from to ensure that they have received the required doses of the Parvo vaccine.

Distemper

Like parvovirus, distemper is yet another very contagious virus among puppies that can be prevented by following the proper vaccination schedule. As noted by Pets WebMD; “Canine distemper affects the gastrointestinal, respiratory, skin, immune, and central nervous system”. Because Yorkshire terriers are already so susceptible to respiratory issues, viruses like distemper can be especially detrimental and even fatal.

While many of the same symptoms occur with parvovirus as they do with distemper, there are a few differences. You can look for the things listed above within the parvovirus but with the addition of other symptoms like skin sores, coughing, and eye discharge (which are more specific to distemper).  

Leptospirosis

Different from viruses like distemper and parvo, leptospirosis is a bacterial infection that occurs in dogs. This particular infection is far less common than the others listed but can be just as deadly. VCA Hospitals tells us that this disease affects the liver or kidneys in dogs and is most commonly transferred because of eating trash that has rodent urine on it.

Again, while this particular infection is far less common, little Yorkies are already susceptible to a myriad of other issues, so making sure they don’t eat garbage or come into contact with any rodents is very important. 

Trauma

This one, in particular, is the most upsetting out of all of these on this list because it is caused primarily by being dropped or accidentally tripped over or stepped on. Because Yorkies are so small and fragile they can easily be harmed when these accidents occur. One of the best ways to avoid trauma to your dog is to make sure to look where you’re going when you’re walking and if there are children in the home make sure they know how to handle the dog properly.

Cancer

Unfortunately, cancer is one of the leading causes of death not only in dogs but also in humans. Many forms of cancer in dogs occur because of improper diet, lack of exercise, or other predispositions that become more serious with lack of proper care. However, sometimes cancers occur in pets, despite all correct care being taken. and there’s absolutely nothing that could have been done to prevent it.

Fetch by WebMD states that “50% of dogs over the age of 10 will develop cancer at some point”. This website goes on to state that, while many cancers cannot be prevented, with proper medical care your pet can go on to live for quite some time after being diagnosed.

Other Congenital Diseases

Many Yorkshire Terriers are predisposed to certain types of genetic and congenital diseases as well as other health issues that may not be detrimental. For example, Yorkies are predisposed to having the issue of hypoglycemia, eye problems, heart disease, diabetes, as well as other bone and joint issues.

Because veterinarians are fully aware of all of the predisposed issues that Yorkies can have, they are going to be your absolute best source of information and the first line of preventative care for your little Yorkie pup. 

yorkie dog laying on carpet with sun shining onto them

Are There Different Kinds of Yorkies?

Many breeds have different variations according to size. For example, there are standard size dachshunds and miniature size dachshunds, teacup Chihuahuas and standard size Chihuahuas, and the list goes on and on. This is the same case with Yorkies, or more formally, Yorkshire Terriers.  

Teacup vs. Standard

Do not be fooled by Yorkies advertised as being “teacup” as this is not actually a separate/specific type of Yorkie. A teacup Yorkie is simply one that weighs less than 4 pounds as an adult. A typical Yorkie doesn’t usually weigh more than 5 to 7 pounds fully grown, which is already quite small.

Final Thoughts

Yorkshire Terriers are very popular and for good reason! They are sweet, loveable, cuddly, and loyal little teddy bear-like dogs. It is vitally important for a Yorkie owner, or potential Yorkie owner, to truly understand many of the common issues that can keep a Yorkie from living a long full life. So, with all that being said, let’s recap on the salient points mentioned:

  1. Yorkies can live, on average, up to 15 years.
  2. A proper diet, living an active lifestyle, regular medical care, and vaccinations can help your Yorkie live a long happy and healthy life. 
  3. Don’t be fooled by someone advertising the “breed” of toy/teacup-sized Yorkies. Yorkies are considered “teacup” if they are smaller than 5 pounds; but this is not considered to actually be a separate breed. 
  4. Yorkies are predisposed to many different types of health issues simply because of their size and genetic makeup. 
  5. Do your very best to ensure that your pup does not incur any trauma-based injuries. Watch your step and make sure children and others around you know how to properly hold or play with your Yorkie.

Overall, just taking the basic simple steps in caring for your Yorkie will help you and your pup have a long-lasting, happy relationship!

Sonya is a software engineer by day and recently earned her MBA degree, but she also loves spending her free time writing about her favourite passion, dogs! Click here to read more.
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