Genetic Problems in Yorkies

Selective breeding for appearance reduces genetic diversity in dogs.
i Yorkshire Terrier de perfil image by Fotowing from

Yorkshire terriers typically are quite healthy, with few serious inherited genetic health problems for their owners to worry about. They are more prone than other breeds to certain complaints, but with vigilant ownership, you can spot the signs and get your dog the treatment he needs before things get serious.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy

Also known as a retinal degeneration, this is a slowly developing condition that can cause blindness. There is no cure for retinal atrophy, as it simply is the gradual degeneration of nerve cells at the back of the eye. Although ultimately leading to blindness, it typically takes hold later in life and many dogs pass away from old age before the disease takes full hold.

Portosystemic Shunt

Portosystemic, or liver shunt, is a birth defect that makes the vein that should pass through the liver pass around it. The result is diminished liver function, leading to other health problems. The symptoms begin to show early in a dog’s life, and include lack of growth, frequent disorientation and seizures.

Fragile Bones

Some yorkies have fragile bones, which means they are more prone to fractures if they experience trauma. There is no cure for this problem, so Yorkie owners are advised to make alterations to the dog’s environment to reduce the chance of accidents.

Trachea Collapse

The trachea, also known as the windpipe, is formed by a series rings of cartilage. In some yorkies, these rings become progressively weak and eventually the trachea collapses, causing breathing difficulty, honking and exercise intolerance. Reconstructive surgery is the most likely treatment.

Luxating Patella

Luxating patella is a condition that causes the sufferer’s kneecap to move loosely, rather than in the groove of the leg bone. Symptoms include altered gait, hobbling and refusal to put weight on the affected leg.


Hypoglycemia is common in small breeds, including the yorkie. It is caused by low blood sugar, and can result in listlessness, coldness and, in severe episodes, seizures. Your vet will prescribe high sugar syrups to rub on your dog’s gums in emergencies.

Dental Problems

Although your yorkie is small, he is well proportioned. The only exception to this are the teeth, which typically are oversized in comparison with the mouth due to the small size of his jaw. This results in overcrowding, double teeth and early tooth decay.


Entropion is an eye condition caused when the eyelid folds inward, like a roller shutter, and the eyelashes push into the eye. Minor corrective surgery to reduce the size of the lid typically is the best cure.

Other Common Problems

Yorkies also are more prone to contracting certain health problems, such as keratoconjunctivitis sicca and bronchitis. The former, caused by insufficient production of fluids in the eye leading to irritation, also is called "dry eye." The latter is an inflammation of the airways that causes coughing and wheezing. Although these conditions are not strictly genetic, in that the dog is not born with them, the physiology of the breed makes yorkies more prone for these conditions to develop.

Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.

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