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Yorkshire Terrier - breed information and advice

Originally used to catch rats in mills, Yorkshire Terriers have a hunting instinct and are bold, fearless characters. They make good companions for those living alone and are fine with families, as long as children are taught how to handle them with respect. They are energetic and enjoy time spent off the lead and playing games.

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Breed information


Size: Small

Coat: Yorkshire Terriers are a long-haired, non-shedding breed. They need grooming every day, even if the coat is cut short.

Exercise: About 30 minutes a day for adult dogs

Life span: 12+ years. Yorkshire Terriers are one of the longer-living breeds and can live into their late teens.

Breed group: The word terrier comes from ‘terra’, meaning ‘earth’, as these dogs were bred to control vermin, pursuing them below ground. They tend to be fun but feisty, and love to chase!

Dislocating lens

Among the various eye problems that dogs can suffer from, Yorkshire Terriers are prone to dislocating their lens (this is called ‘lens luxation’). It occurs when the lens capsule inside the eye becomes detached from the tiny ligaments that hold the lens in place. This can lead to a blockage of the normal drainage channels within the eye, causing a build-up of pressure that is painful and may result in blindness if it is not attended to. The condition can be treated with surgery or, occasionally, eye drops. While the surgery can provide a cure, the drops may be required on and off for the rest of the dog’s life.


We paid £1,398 to treat Cracker the Yorkshire Terrier for an eye disorder in 2016

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Gum disease

Gum disease occurs when some (or all) of a tooth’s deep supporting structures become inflamed. This begins when food, bacteria and minerals accumulate along the gum line, leading to the build-up of a brown scale known as tartar. When this undermines the gum the condition is called gingivitis. Eventually, small spaces can form between the gums and the teeth creating pockets of space for bacteria to grow, resulting in what is known as periodontal disease. The bacteria from infected gums can spread around the body and damage the liver and kidneys. This condition can be prevented by brushing the teeth and ensuring dental descales, helping the dog to lead a normal, pain-free life.


Mouth problems are the second most common illnesses we see in Yorkshire Terriers

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Breathing problems

A dog’s respiratory system runs from the nose to the air sacs in the lungs. Any part of this system can become diseased. Pneumonia, for example, means ‘inflammation of the lungs’, and is caused by infections or parasites such as lungworm. Tracheal collapse is a common cause of airway obstruction in small breeds such as Yorkshire Terriers. The trachea (or windpipe) is a tube made up of sturdy rings of cartilage through which air is transported to and from the lungs when the dog breathes. Sometimes the tracheal rings begin to collapse, and air is squeezed through, resulting in a characteristic honking cough. Treatment may include surgery if the dog’s breathing is severely compromised.


In our experience, tracheal collapse is the most common respiratory problem in Yorkshire Terriers

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Liver conditions

Yorkshire Terriers can be more susceptible than some other breeds to liver disease (hepatitis). This can be caused by several different factors, including infections such as leptospirosis, as well as drug and chemical poisoning. Yorkshire Terriers can also be prone to a specific type of liver issue called a hepatic shunt, whereby the blood bypasses the liver’s processing system. Treatment can take the form of surgery, special diets and supplements to prevent any long-term damage to the liver.


In our experience, Yorkshire terriers are twice as likely to need treatment for liver conditions than all dogs we insure

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Dislocating kneecap

The kneecap (or ‘patella’) sits in a groove at the end of the femur (thigh bone). A dislocating (or ‘luxating’) kneecap is one that pops out of its groove. A relatively common condition in Yorkshire Terriers and other small breeds, dislocation happens because the alignment of the bones from the hip through the knee to the ankle is not straight, which pulls the kneecap to one side. Treatment depends on the severity of the condition, but surgery may be required to reduce the likelihood of arthritis and enable the dog to live a normal life.


In our experience, a dislocating kneecap is the most common condition in Yorkshire Terriers

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