Since lymphanagiectasia is so hard to pronounce, it's probably easier to think of this disease as a "protein-losing enteropathy." That means that your Yorkie's body is not absorbing proteins and other vital nutrients. Since lymphangiectasia is hereditary in Yorkies, affected dogs shouldn't be bred.
Lymphangiectasia refers to dilated lymph vessels, according to VeterinaryPartner.com. Lymph fluid circulates throughout the body via muscle activity, working to clean tissues. When lymph vessels are dilated in the intestines, this vital flow can become blocked. The lymph vessels found in the intestines, called lacteals, absorb nutrients. When lymphangiectasia damages the lacteals, nutrients are lost. While your Yorkie's intestines might reabsorb some nutrients at other points, widespread disease shifts the balance to "nutritional loss rather than gain," according to VeterinaryPartner.com.
While chronic diarrhea is the most common symptom of lymphangiectasia in Yorkies, some affected dogs don't suffer from loose bowels. Other symptoms include weight loss—which in a tiny dog quickly becomes serious—breathing difficulties, vomiting and a general malaise. The breathing issues might stem from fluid buildup in your little dog's abdominal cavity, which can also give him a bloated appearance. Take your Yorkie to the vet at once if he develops any of these symptoms. Lymphanagiectasia is potentially fatal, but prompt treatment might mean a better prognosis.
Besides a physical examination, your vet will take blood and urine samples from your Yorkie for testing. She might also conduct an ultrasound or X-ray of your dog's abdomen. A fecal sample can rule out parasites or other possible diarrhea triggers. Your vet might examine your dog's gastrointestinal system endoscopically, taking samples for a biopsy.
While lymphanagiectasia might prove fatal in the long run, veterinary and dietary treatment can put the disease into remission for a long time, giving your Yorkie a good quality of life. Your veterinarian might prescribe steroids such as prednisone for inflammation, while putting your dog on a low-fat but high-calorie diet. Antibiotics might clear up an intestinal infection. While most affected dogs don't require surgery, if your Yorkie's lymph vessels are totally blocked, your vet might recommend surgery to open them.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.