What Are the Health Risks of Anesthesia in Yorkies?

Your Yorkie's small size can lead to anesthetic complications.
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Yorkshire terriers make wonderful pets but are problematic anesthetic candidates. Yorkies undergo routine and specialized surgeries, including spays, neuters and dental cleanings, and veterinarians are trained to minimize risks during procedures. Ask how your vet how she plans to minimize your Yorkie’s health risks during her next surgery.

Cardiovascular Problems

Your veterinarian should perform a physical exam before every surgery; many problems can be identified this way. Yorkies are prone to degenerative heart valves, which can result in murmurs and enlarged hearts. An enlarged heart can compress on your pet’s trachea, leading to coughing. Cardiac problems can be deadly under anesthesia.

Respiratory Problems

Yorkies also are prone to collapsing tracheas, which can be exacerbated under anesthesia. Make sure your veterinarian is going to intubate your furry friend under anesthesia. You can ask if lidocaine will be used during intubation to minimize tracheal irritation, which makes coughing worse. Your pup can be given oxygen before surgery to help prevent apnea, or lack of breathing, as the high oxygen concentration helps maintain high levels of oxygen. Your Yorkie should also be on oxygen during the surgery to minimize complications.

Systemic Problems

Your Yorkie, as a small breed dog, is susceptible to becoming hypoglycemic, especially as a young puppy. Most dogs are fasted before surgery, but your veterinarian may want to minimize fasting time to prevent your puppy from becoming hypoglycemic. For long surgeries, blood glucose should be checked regularly, in case your Yorkie needs to have her fluids supplemented. Yorkies are prone to liver shunts, which can complicate anesthesia. Blood work should be performed on your Yorkie to check for such problems. Your veterinarian may postpone surgery to have diagnostics performed.


Yorkies are prone to hypothermia while under anesthesia. Anesthesia can decrease the body temperature of any pet, but Yorkies are small enough to have difficulties thermoregulating. She will lose body heat during surgical procedures or if she gets wet, as may happen during dental cleanings. Fluids, when not kept warm, will lower your pet’s body temperature. These fluids are important for maintaining blood pressure, blood perfusion and, in the case of your Yorkie pup, blood sugar levels. Your veterinarian should have equipment such as fluid warmers and heating blankets to help your puppy maintain her body temperature.

Minimizing Risks

The most important components to minimizing anesthetic risks are a good physical exam performed by your veterinarian and pre-anesthetic blood work. Discuss both of these with your veterinarian, as you are your Yorkie’s advocate. Your veterinarian should be comfortable discussing the steps she will take to minimize Fluffy’s health risks. Make sure to communicate any changes or problems you have noticed with your pup, as changes at home could be signs of an underlying condition that should be handled prior to anesthesia. Always consult an experienced veterinarian regarding the health and treatment of your pet.

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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