Breed breakdown: An in-depth look at the Yorkshire terrier
The vet’s office
By Dr. Beth Engelbert, DVM
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC
The Yorkshire terrier is the seventh-most popular breed in the American Kennel Club (AKC). “Yorkies,” are considered toy breeds, making some people forget they come from terriers. They are often called sprightly and tomboyish but also affectionate. According to the breed standard, they should hold their heads high and confident, giving “the appearance of vigor and self-importance.” They may be little in size but are big in personality.
The Yorkie history is mostly unknown. Three breeds thought to be the foundation are now extinct. These breeds are the Clydesdale terrier, the waterside terrier, and the old English terrier. The history also includes many changes and intrigue including dog thefts.
Ultimately, this long haired dog was refined in Yorkshire, England, and officially named in the 1870s. The Yorkie was entered into the AKC in 1885. A link to the known history can be found on the Yorkshire Terrier Club of America website.
During breed refinement, the Yorkie became a small dog with flowing hair with few accepted coat colors, most commonly black and tan. Yorkies have silky hair, not fur. They require regular grooming as they are low shedding dogs. While most pet owners keep the hair trimmed short, show dogs are kept with flowing coats that touch the ground. A top knot can be used to keep the hair out of their eyes.
Yorkies went through many size variations in their development, but the breed standard calls for the dogs to weigh less than seven pounds. They are compact little dogs but not necessarily dainty.
Like all dogs, Yorkies have a list of potential health problems. Some Yorkies are born with a portosystemic shunt, an extra blood vessel causing blood to bypass the liver. Some cases can be controlled with careful diet and medications, but surgery is generally recommended if possible.
Yorkies can develop intestinal problems such as irritable bowel disease, protein losing enteropathy, and pancreatitis. These can be very serious but can usually be managed with food and medications.
Yorkies are prone to many eye diseases, including glaucoma and dry eye. Yorkies can also develop progressive retinal atrophy, a genetic disorder causing blindness, and primary lens luxation, which can lead to vision problems and glaucoma. Veterinary specialists are helpful in managing these conditions.
Although a toy breed, Yorkies can have orthopedic conditions as well. While “typical” hip dysplasia is less common, deformities such as Leggs-Calve-Perthes disease can occur. Yorkies are also prone to luxating patellas — loose knee caps.
Other diseases seen in Yorkies include allergies affecting the skin and ears and collapsing trachea, a progressive disease that causes coughing and difficulty breathing.
As with any breed, finding parents that have been screened for any genetic diseases can help find a healthy canine member of your family.
Wildwood Animal Hospital and Clinic LLC is located at 210 Airpark Road in Marshfield and online at wildwoodanimalhospital.net.