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Yorkshire Terrier (Yorkie): A Small Dynamo with Attitude

Yorkie in a Tux

Looking for a self-confident small dog with attitude?  Not ready to retire to the couch, the Yorkshire terrier is emotionally secure and a regular dynamo around the house.  In direct contrast to the pampered house pet we think of today, the Yorkshire terrier or the “Yorkie” as they are fondly referred to, were developed in Yorkshire England back in the 19th century.  The breed was originally developed to catch rats in clothing mills. 

Yorkies do not have the submissive temperament of many lap dogs and may therefore not be suitable for small children.  This 4 to 7-pound pet is often overprotective and can prove to be quite the watch dog.   This breed is intelligent, scoring 27th on Stanley Coren’s “The Intelligence of Dogs.” 

The Yorkshire terrier is currently a member of the AKC toy group.   The life span of this companion is generally from 13 to 16 years of age.

They sport a long luxurious coat. The hair itself is straight and silky.   The Yorkie is considered to be hypoallergenic and does not shed.  The Yorkshire terrier is considered to be one of the top 10 breed choices for people who suffer from pet allergies.  The AKC allows for four choices in coat color:  blue and tan, blue and gold, black and tan, and black and gold. 

Due to their small size the Yorkie often has problems shedding their baby or deciduous teeth.  It is quite common for baby teeth to require removal by your veterinarian.  Deciduous teeth that are not removed will result in abnormal placement of the permanent teeth and may lead to dental disease.  Even when no deciduous teeth are present the Yorkie is one of the top ten breeds to have periodontal disease.  It is best to brush their teeth on a regular basis and begin when they are young thereby allowing them to become accustomed to the procedure.  Yorkshire terriers with poor oral hygiene often have to deal with congestive heart failure as they age secondary to valvular endocarditis.

Male Yorkshire terriers have an increased incidence of cryptorchidism (retained testicles) and should not be used for breeding.  Retained testicles will be more susceptible for the development of testicular tumors and the pet will be less fertile than dogs that have testicles secured in the scrotum. 

Puppies in particular, are prone to hypoglycemia (low blood glucose levels).  Curious and active puppies will often forget to eat, suddenly collapsing on the floor.  Karo syrup can help in a pinch to increase blood glucose levels as well as regular feedings.

Several orthopedic problems plaque the breed including:  medial patellar luxation (MPL), Legg-Calve-Perthes disease and hip dysplasia.   Medial patellar luxation occurs the most commonly having the highest incidence at 17.6%, followed by hip dysplasia which affects 5% of the breed and Legg-Calve-Perthes causes hip problems in another 5.1% of all Yorkshire terriers. 

With medial patellar luxation there is a sex predilection with the risk of a female dog being one and one-half times more common than that of a male Yorkshire terrier.  The Yorkie believed to be the 4 th most commonly affected breed by medial patellar luxation.

Legg-Calve-Perthes disease pertains to aseptic necrosis of the head of the femur.  The circulation to the ball part of the hip joint is impaired leading to remodeling of the femoral head.  Surgery is typically required to relieve the pain and return function to the hip joint.

Female Yorkies have and increased incidence of mammary gland tumors.  The incidence may be decreased by spaying before the first heat cycle in pets.

This breed is affected by several heritable eye problems such as dry eye or keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), cataracts, and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA).  They are also prone to entropion which is suspected to have a heritable tendency.

Blepharitis is chronic inflammation of the eyelids caused by an overgrowth of normal bacteria living along the lid margins and the base of the eyelashes.  This overgrowth is due primarily to Staphylococcus or Staph bacteria which manufactures a biofilm trapping bacteria and debris which in turn causes swelling, itching and irritation of the eyes.  The Yorkshire terrier is one breed of many that suffers from an increased occurrence of blepharitis.  Almost 35% of all dogs suffer some type of blepharitis symptoms.    Several dermatologic (skin) problems are seen more commonly in the Yorkshire terrier including:  atopy (allergic dermatitis), Pituitary-dependent form of Cushing’s syndrome and they appear to be more sensitive than may other breeds to dermatophytosis or ringworm fungus

The Yorkie is noted to have a delicate digestive system and when fed anything outside of their normal diet may result in GI upset including vomiting and diarrhea.  Overweight, middle-aged and older especially female Yorkshire Terriers are predisposed for the development of pancreatitis.

The Yorkshire terrier sufferers disproportionately from other breeds with lymphangiectasia.  This is a chronic protein-losing enteropathy also known as lymphatic lymphangiectasia.

This breed is predisposed for the development of Intracranial Arachnoid Cyst (IAC).  This is an infrequently reported developmental disorder seen primarily in small-breed dogs especially males. This syndrome is most commonly seen clinically with the pet presenting with generalized seizures and/or cerebellovestibular (balance problems) dysfunction.

Single Congenital Extrahepatic Portosystemic Shunts connect the portal vein (main vein leaving the liver) or one of its tributaries to the caudal vena cava or the azygos vein. This type of shunt is typically found in small breeds of dogs such as Yorkshire terrier. 

Like many small breeds of dogs Necrotizing Encephalitis or NE has been reported in Yorkshire terriers.  NE typically manifests from 4 months to 10 years of age with most cases developing when the pet is approximately 4.5 years of age.  Clinical signs include changes in behavior, seizures, circling, blindness, deficits in cranial nerve function, and difficulty walking.

Hydrocephalus is one of the most commonly seen neurologic disorders in the Yorkshire terrier.  It is suspected that many with open fontanelles suffer from subclinical disease and when stressed may exhibit clinical disease. 

References:

  • http://akc.org
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/Yorkshire_Terrier
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/Lymphangiectasia
  • Birchard, Stephen and Michel Nappier.  “Cryptorchidism”.  Compendium Continuing Education for Veterinarians. Vol 30(6) June 2008. Pp. 325-336.
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  • Dewey, Curtis. Et al. “Intracranial Arachnoid Cysts in Dogs.”  Compendium:  Continuing Education for Veterinarians.  April 2009.  Pp. 160-168.
  • “Heightened Risk for Periodontal Disease.”  DVM. March 2010.  P. 3.
  • Hoerlein, BF.  Canine Neurology.  Third Edition.  W.B. Saunders Company:  Philadelphia. 1978. P. 736-740.
  • Kowalczyk, Graciella and James Rynerson.  “A Targeted Approach to Treating Blepharitis.”  The Education Center.  Veterinary Practice News.  March 2015. P. 38.
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  • Laverdure, Donna. “Watch Out for Pancreatitis”.  Dog Fancy.  June 2013.  P18.
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  • Pendergraft, Jennifer. “Canine Perioral Dermatitis.” Clinician’s Brief.  August 2013.  Pp. 55-60.
  • “PPN Now Trends.”  Pet Product News International.  May 2015.  P. 66.
  • Rosenthal, Marie. “FDA Grants Marketing Approval for Cushing’s Syndrome Drug.”  Veterinary Forum. January 2009. P 10.
  • Severin, Glenn.  Severin’s Veterinary Ophthalmology Notes.  Communications Inc. 3rd Edition. 1996. P. 526.
  • Tobias, Karen. General Surgery Topics.  Ralph Lee’s Great Smokies Veterinary Conference Notes. 2009.  P. 318-319.
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