9 Common Health Problems Seen in Yorkies

Written by Amber LaRock
Updated: October 18, 2023
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The Yorkshire terrier is one of the most glamourous breeds in the dog world. These stylish pups are used to being pampered, and their adoring owners are usually happy to spoil them! With their stunning locks and affectionate personalities, it’s no wonder so many dog lovers have fallen for the adorable Yorkie!

If you’ve adopted a Yorkshire terrier, it’s time to learn about the potential health complications your little one could face. Understanding their common health issues can help you offer the care this breed has grown accustomed to!

Let’s discuss nine common health issues seen in the Yorkshire terrier! This can help you better understand your Yorkshire terrier companion as they age. Seek prompt veterinary care if you ever notice any of the symptoms we discuss!

9 Common Health Issues Seen in Yorkshire Terriers

Yorkshire terrier playing in the park on the grass

Yorkshire terriers are at risk for luxating patellas, tracheal collapse, dental disease, and liver shunts.

©Birute Vijeikiene/Shutterstock.com

1. Luxating Patellas

A Yorkshire terrier with luxating patellas struggles with a misaligned kneecap that hinders their ease of movement. The abnormal structure of the knee joint causes the kneecap to pop out of place from time to time. This often leads to uncomfortable rubbing and grinding within the joint. Not only is this painful, but it can lead to degeneration and arthritis in the joint over time. The most common symptoms of patellar luxation include occasional limping, skipping while running, temporary lameness, and a bow-legged appearance.

2. Tracheal Collapse

Yorkshire Terrier (Canis familiaris) - three puppies sitting next to each other

Signs of a Yorkie’s collapsing trachea are a honking cough, tiring easily, and difficulty breathing.

©Pelevina Ksinia/Shutterstock.com

Tracheal collapse is incredibly common in the Yorkshire terrier breed. The canine trachea holds its form with the help of rings of cartilage that span across the entire trachea. These rings ensure that air can flow freely through the open trachea and into the lungs. However, tracheal collapse can occur when these tracheal rings begin to weaken. As the tracheal rings lose their rigidity, the trachea can flatten on itself each time the dog takes a breath.

Dogs with severe tracheal collapse can experience respiratory distress due to the inability to move air freely into their lungs. Common signs of a collapsing trachea in Yorkies include a honking cough, tiring easily with exercise, and difficulty breathing.

Amy Nicole Lewis, a veterinarian with Worldwide Veterinary Services, told A-Z Animals that Yorkshire terriers make up the majority of patients diagnosed with tracheal collapse. Many of these pups also struggle with obesity at the time of diagnosis. Excess weight on the body and around the throat and chest can further exacerbate their symptoms. This is why it is so important to help your Yorkie maintain a healthy weight throughout their life.

3. Reverse Sneezing

Reverse sneezing is often confused with tracheal collapse, but it is much less serious. Additionally, it resolves fairly quickly when it occurs. A reverse sneeze occurs when nasal secretions or irritants from the dog’s nose drop onto their soft palate. This causes the soft palate to close over the windpipe, leading to a starling, noisy, snorting fit. It often appears as if the dog is choking. However, you can typically help your dog overcome their reverse sneezing fit by soothing them through the ordeal. Gently stroking them through the fit may work. If it does not work, try to briefly cover their nostrils to encourage them to swallow the irritant.

4. Hypoglycemia

Teacup Yorkie

A Yorkshire terrier experiencing hypoglycemia may display sudden weakness and inability to stand.


Hypoglycemia refers to a condition in which the blood sugar, or blood glucose, is lower than it should be. This is common in Yorkie puppies that do not eat multiple small meals each day. A Yorkshire terrier experiencing hypoglycemia may display sudden weakness, inability to stand, a wobbly gait, confusion, collapse, and even seizures. Hypoglycemia is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical care to resolve.

5. Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Progressive retinal atrophy (PRA) is a degenerative eye disorder that leads to eventual blindness in dogs. PRA occurs due to the slow degeneration of photoreceptors at the back of the eye. The first symptoms are often very subtle. Some of the most common initial symptoms involve difficulty seeing in the dark or challenges maneuvering your home at night. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for PRA in Yorkshire terriers.

6. Cardiac Disease

Yorkshire Terrier (Canis familiaris) - on walk down boardwalk

Yorkies with cardiac disease may struggle with exercise intolerance, chronic cough, and labored breathing.


Cardiac disease is a blanket diagnostic term for a variety of cardiac abnormalities that impact the heart’s ability to function properly. Unfortunately for the Yorkshire terrier, they are predisposed to a few cardiac abnormalities that can lead to cardiac disease.

A Yorkie with cardiac disease may struggle with exercise intolerance, a chronic cough, labored breathing, swelling in the abdomen and legs, and muddy or blue-tinged gums. Medications can manage cardiac disease if your vet diagnoses it early on. For this reason, it’s important to keep up with your Yorkshire terrier’s annual vet exams as they age.

7. Dental Disease

The Yorkshire terrier may struggle with severe forms of dental disease. This is especially the case if they do not have a well-established dental care routine. Dental disease develops as a result of an accumulation of plaque and tartar on the teeth. It ultimately triggers damaging inflammation within the mouth. Dental disease can lead to gum infections, tooth abscesses, bone loss, and tooth loss over time.

Not only is dental disease incredibly painful, but it can lead to serious health complications as well. The most common signs of dental disease include bad breath, difficulty chewing, blood on chew toys or bones, facial sensitivity, discolored teeth, and even facial swelling.

8. Liver Shunt

yorkshie terrier

Common signs of liver shunt in Yorkies include difficulty gaining weight, hypoglycemia, and body tremors.

©Anna Vasiljeva/Shutterstock.com

Portosystemic shunt, or a liver shunt, refers to an abnormal flow of blood between the liver and the body. The liver is responsible for detoxifying the body and metabolizing nutrients, so when the liver cannot detoxify the blood properly, this can cause a buildup of toxins within the body. When left untreated, this can be fatal for the Yorkshire terrier.

Common signs of a liver shunt in Yorkies include difficulty gaining weight, hypoglycemia, body tremors, and seizures. These pups often require special diets and medications to help remove toxins from the body, but severe cases may warrant corrective surgery.

9. Gastrointestinal Disease

Yorkshire terriers struggle with gastrointestinal complications like stomach sensitivities, pancreatitis, and inflammatory bowel disease. Offering your Yorkshire terrier a quality diet that has been approved by your vet is a wonderful way to decrease their risk of experiencing GI upset. Additionally, make sure you are not switching their diet abruptly at any time.

Final Thoughts on Health Issues in Yorkies

The Yorkshire terrier can live a long and healthy lifespan of anywhere from 12 to 16 years, but they can struggle with a variety of health complications throughout their life. The Yorkshire terrier has an increased risk of experiencing patellar luxation, tracheal collapse, reverse sneezing, dental disease, cardiac disease, liver shunt, and more.

Be sure to review the information we discussed on common health issues seen in the Yorkie breed, as this will allow you to seek prompt veterinary care if your little one develops any of the symptoms we discussed.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Shllabadibum Bubidibam/Shutterstock.com

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About the Author

Amber LaRock is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering topics surrounding pet health and behavior. Amber is a Licensed Veterinary Technician with 12 years of experience in the field, and she holds a degree in veterinary technology that she earned in 2015. A resident of Chiang Mai, Thailand, Amber enjoys volunteering with animal rescues, reading, and taking care of her two cats.

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