If you’re researching dog breeds, you might want to see how long each different breed lives. The good news is that Yorkies have an above average life expectancy compared to a lot of other dog breeds.
That doesn’t mean they’re immune from health conditions and there are a few things to bear in mind when it comes to owning and caring for one of these characterful little dogs. There’s also plenty you can do to prolong the life of your Yorkie, and keep them happy, healthy and active for as long as possible.
The American Kennel Club lists Yorkshire Terriers as having a life expectancy of between 11 – 15 years. The combined data from two scientific studies carried out in the United Kingdom and Japan found this breed to have a life expectancy of between 12.6 – 14.5 years.
Female Yorkies live slightly longer than males, with their life expectancy being 1.5 years longer.
Do Yorkies Live Longer Than Other Breeds?
Aging in dogs depends on a lot of different factors, but smaller breeds like the Yorkshire Terrier tend to have a longer life expectancy than larger breeds like Great Danes.
Larger breeds more commonly die from gastrointestinal and musculoskeletal issues, with smaller breeds like Yorkies having a higher chance of dying from issues with their endocrine system, including health problems relating to their pancreas, pituitary glands, and thyroid gland.
Researchers found that the average lifespan of dogs is between 12 – 13.7 years. With a life expectancy of 12.6 – 14.5 years, the Yorkie does on average, live longer than other breeds.
In this article we’re focusing on the standard-sized Yorkshire Terrier, but it’s worth a quick mention of their pint-sized cousin, the Teacup Yorkie.
These tiny dogs have a significantly lower life expectancy at just 7 – 9 years. This is partly due to the increased risks of trauma-related injuries. It’s also down to the fact that they’re at a higher risk of suffering from health-related complications.
Teacup Yorkies aren’t officially accepted by the breed standard for the Yorkshire Terrier, so there could be a higher potential of unscrupulous breeders who prioritize small size over the general health of the parent dogs. This can lead to an increased incidence of congenital health problems that may lead to a lower life expectancy.
By the time a Yorkie reaches between 8 – 11 years old, they will now be considered a senior dog. By this age, your Yorkie may need a little more support in terms of their diet, and they might not be as active as they once were.
As Yorkies are generally a very healthy breed, they can often live well past 11 years old.
Yes they can! While living to 20 for a Yorkie is unusual, it’s not unheard of. Bonny, a Yorkshire Terrier lived to the ripe old age of 28. That’s pretty good going especially compared to the Guinness World Record Holder as the Oldest Dog Ever, an Australian Cattle Dog by the name of Bluey who lived for 29 years and 5 months.
Yorkies are quite a bit healthier than some other breeds, but there are specific health issues that can cause the death of these little dogs.
Puppies of any breed, including Yorkies, are at the highest risk of death during the first four years of their life. There are a few different health issues, from infectious diseases to low blood sugar levels and even trauma that can cause puppies to be at risk of dying. As soon as you bring your Yorkie puppy home, you should schedule an appointment with your vet to talk about how best to protect your tiny pup from these risks.
Canine distemper is a contagious viral disease that has symptoms which can look like rabies. It affects the nervous system as well as the gastrointestinal and respiratory systems.
Any puppy is at risk of distemper, so this isn’t a cause of death that’s specific to Yorkies. Its most often spread through contact with an infected dog or wild animals. Coughing and sneezing can spread distemper, as can sharing water or food bowls. Symptoms of distemper include:
Yorkie puppies can recover from distemper, but they often suffer permanent damage to their nervous system.
All puppies are at risk of contracting parvovirus. Transmission is usually from an infected dog, or coming into contact with poo from an infected dog. Parvovirus is highly resistant to many household cleaners and disinfectant and can survive for up to two months indoors. Outdoors it can survive for years if not exposed to sunlight.
The majority of puppies recover from parvovirus, but if left untreated it can cause death. Symptoms include:
You can reduce the risk of your Yorkie puppy becoming infected by parvovirus by limiting their contact with other dogs until your puppy is at least six months old. It’s also recommended to have your puppy vaccinated when they’re 14-16 weeks old.
This disease is caused by a bacteria known as spirochete. It’s commonly found in muddy areas and where there’s standing water. It can be carried by racoons, rats, and domestic animals. The urine of infected animals can contaminate water courses too.
While there is a vaccine for leptospirosis it’s not one that’s routinely offered. If you’re concerned your Yorkie pup may be exposed to this bacteria ask your vet about the possibility of them vaccinating your puppy.
Yorkies are far more likely to die from trauma than larger breeds, simply due to their tiny size. Yorkie puppies are small and fragile. They can easily suffer trauma from being dropped, falling off the couch, or being trodden on because they weren’t seen. A Yorkie puppy left unsecured in the car can also get injured if you have to brake sharply or are in a crash.
This is an even higher risk for Teacup Yorkshire Terriers due to their even tinier size.
This can occur pretty frequently in Yorkie puppies less than 6 months old. Their small size and low Body Mass Index (BMI) means their blood-sugar levels can drop rapidly. Hypoglycemia requires rapid veterinary intervention or it can be life-threatening.
As your Yorkie grows into an adult dog, the risk of them dying from medical issues common in puppies drops. But adult Yorkies are prone to a few health conditions that if left untreated can cause death.
Respiratory disease is a leading cause of death for Yorkies, with one study finding that it caused 16% of deaths in the breed. There are three main respiratory diseases that can be fatal for adult Yorkies:
Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome. Yorkies are classed as a moderately brachycephalic breed, as their facial bones are somewhat shortened. This can lead to difficulties breathing, as well as airway inflammation and heart problems. Surgery is available for certain cases, and symptoms will usually become evident in dogs between the ages of 1 – 4 years.
Many dog breeds, including Yorkies, can start to develop cancer as they age. The good news is that if this is caught and treated early enough, the prognosis for most dogs is very good. Studies show that cancer is the second leading cause of death in adult Yorkies, after respiratory diseases. 11% of Yorkies were found to die from cancer over the course of the study.
Even once they’re fully grown, adult Yorkshire Terriers are still very small dogs. This means they can always be prone to accidental trauma from falls, being trodden on, rough play with other dogs, being knocked over, dropped, and more.
Trauma is the third most common cause of death in Yorkies, so owners always need to be extremely vigilant.
Congenital diseases are the fourth most common cause of death in Yorkies. The most common congenital disease to affect Yorkies is a liver shunt. This is condition where the blood doesn’t reach the liver correctly, leading to a build-up of toxic chemicals and waste. This condition can lead to your Yorkie showing the following symptoms:
While Yorkies can be born with liver shunts they may show no symptoms until they’re over one year old. You may see changes in your dog’s behavior up to three hours after a meal, as toxins from their blood system cannot be excreted via the liver.
Your vet will diagnose a liver shunt using x-rays, dye tests, ultrasound, or blood tests. Minor cases can usually be treated with medications and dietary changes but more complicated cases may need surgery. This is usually successful but Yorkies with liver shunts who have had surgery will still have a drastically reduced life expectancy.
Yorkies are more likely to die from congenital diseases than most other breeds, with researchers finding that 10.5% of Yorkies died from congenital diseases over the course of their study.
As your Yorkie ages, you’ll start to see some changes to their behavior and body. These can include:
As your Yorkie starts to approach their senior years at 11 years of age, watch out for any of the above signs. If your Yorkie seems in pain, discomfort or otherwise just not quite right, speak to your vet for advice.
One of the best ways you can get off to a great start maximizing your Yorkie’s life span is to select a reputable breeder. They will have a clear breeding program and be happy to share any details about each puppy’s lineage with you. The Yorkshire Terrier Club of America recommend that breeders carry out the following health tests:
Reputable breeders will be more than happy for you to meet both parent dogs, as well as show you results of their health tests and those of their puppies. They will also answer any questions you may have about the breed, and provide references from previous buyers.
While Yorkies do have a pretty good lifespan, there’s always things you can do to keep them in tip-top health. From the moment our new Yorkie puppy joins your family, there’s plenty you can do to keep them in the best of health and do your best to make sure they live a long and healthy life.
Keep vaccinations up to date
Starting your puppy on a regular schedule of vaccinations is a great way to protect your Yorkie against infectious diseases. The standard vaccinations include:
Depending on your location and potential exposure to other infectious diseases, your vet may also recommend that your Yorkie be vaccinated against:
Until your Yorkie puppy’s vaccinations are completed, it’s a good idea to keep contact with other dogs to a minimum. So avoid the temptation to head to the dog park or sign up for puppy training classes until your veterinarian gives you the all clear.
Maintain regular vet checks
It’s a good idea to schedule a wellness check for your Yorkie once a year, your vet can check over their general health, their body condition, dental health and more. This is a great way to make sure your Yorkie is in strong health, or to tackle any minor health conditions before they become a more serious problem. You can schedule this check to take place at the same time as your Yorkie’s annual vaccination boosters.
As your Yorkie heads towards middle age, your vet may recommend six-monthly wellness checks especially if your dog has a health condition that they want to monitor.
Feeding the right diet
One of the very best ways you can keep your Yorkie healthy is to pay attention to their diet. Giving your dog the best possible food will help them develop strong bones and muscle, a healthy immune system, and give them plenty of energy.
A lot of commercial dog foods contain fillers including a lot of carbohydrates. Make sure you choose a food that has real meat (not meat by-products) as the first ingredient. Your vet can help you select an appropriate food for your Yorkie, but online dog food reviews are also a great place to find out more information. You can also buy dog foods that are specifically formulated for Yorkshire Terriers.
The Yorkie’s small size means some standard kibble can be too large for them to eat comfortably. They can also be a little bit picky about what they eat, so brands designed for Yorkies will be extra palatable but not too high in fat.
That’s another thing to look out for – as Yorkies are so small they can easily put on weight if fed even a little bit too much food. Studies have shown that Yorkies kept as a healthy weight can outlive their overweight counterparts by up to three years. That’s the perfect reason to keep an eye on your Yorkie’s portions!
Avoid fatty table scraps that can quickly add too many calories to your Yorkie’s diet. If you use food rewards as part of your positive reinforcement training then remember to account for these when calculating your dog’s daily rations. Yorkie’s are so small that you can break treats into smaller sized pieces to make them last longer.
As your Yorkie starts to get older, you may decide to switch them onto a food designed specifically for senior dogs. These can contain higher levels of omega fatty acids to help maintain healthy joints and bones. They might also have a reduced phosphorous level to help with kidney health.
As your dog’s teeth may start to deteriorate with age, you can also rehydrate their dry kibble with warm water to make it easier for them to chew.
Maintain Good Dental Hygiene
Toy breeds like the Yorkie can be more prone to dental problems than larger breeds. They might have small mouths, but their teeth are relatively large in comparison. This means their teeth are packed in pretty tightly – creating the perfect conditions for dental disease.
Plaque and tartar can easily start to build-up and if left untreated this can lead to periodontal disease. Infections can easily affect their jawbones too. Regularly brushing your Yorkie’s teeth is recommended, as are regular dental checks by your veterinarian. They may decide to anesthetise your Yorkie to give their teeth a thorough clean as and when needed. By keeping on top of cleaning your dog is much less likely to suffer from serious dental health issues.
Reduce risks of trauma
The majority of injuries to Yorkies from some kind of trauma are avoidable. Making sure that your family and friends know how to properly
Children should be shown how to handle a Yorkie carefully and gently. Picking up a Yorkie and then dropping them when they squirm can cause your dog to suffer avoidable injuries. Always supervise visiting children when they’re with your Yorkie.
Don’t allow your Yorkie to jump down from a height. What might seem reasonable for a larger dog, say jumping down from the couch to the floor, can cause injuries to a smaller and more fragile Yorkie. You can install pet stairs to allow your Yorkie to safely access higher areas like beds and couches.
Always use a harness to prevent any excessive pressure across your Yorkie’s delicate windpipe. Make sure all family members know this is an essential part of your dog’s routine, not optional. Even a short walk without a harness could damage your Yorkie’s trachea if they suddenly pull against the pressure of their collar.
Yorkies are so small that it can be easy to step backwards to find your dog immediately behind you, and you didn’t even know they were there! Putting a dog bell on your Yorkie’s collar can give you an indication that they’re approaching and may be underfoot.
Use a dog car seat, travel crate, or other device to keep your Yorkie safe and secure on car journeys.
If you’re walking with your Yorkie in a very crowded area, don’t allow them on the ground. They could easily feel threatened or unsafe and it’s all too easy for them to get trampled underfoot by accident. You can invest in a pet purse specifically designed for small dogs, or simply pop your Yorkie under your arm until it’s safe to put them back on the ground.
Monitor interactions with other dogs
Yorkies do love to play and can be pretty spirited around other dogs, but they don’t always realize they’re far more likely to get hurt than larger dogs! A playful yet extremely bouncy larger puppy can easily cause an injury to a small Yorkie, if they roll or jump on them during a play session.
Try to carefully monitor interactions with larger dogs until you know how they and your Yorkie will play together.
Yorkies can sometimes be a target for other dog’s aggression, due to their tiny size and the fact that they sometimes don’t accept that they’re quite so small! Keeping an eye on the body language of both your Yorkie and other dogs can help you see if an altercation may be brewing, so you can step in and prevent it before it happens.
Keep your Yorkie fit and healthy
They might not need as much exercise as some larger breeds, but it’s still important to keep your Yorkie active. Two walks of around 20 minutes per day should be enough, although some Yorkies will prefer a short training session or gentle games in the backyard for one of those!
Spaying and neutering
For any breed, spaying and neutering at an appropriate age can increase their lifespan. A study carried out by the University of Georgia found that neutered males lived 14% longer than non-neutered males. Spayed females lived 25% longer than their un-spayed counterparts.
While sterilizing increases lifespan on average, the study also found that it decreases the risk of death from trauma and infectious diseases. One thing to bear in mind is that the same study did find that sterilizing can increase the risk of death from autoimmune diseases and cancer.
Unless you’re planning on using your Yorkie as part of a breeding program, most vets will recommend they be sterilized. While it used to be standard practice to spay female dogs before six months of age, it’s often now recommended to leave this until they’re one year old, or have reached their first heat cycle. Dogs who are spayed younger are at a higher risk of contracting parvoviral enteritis, so it can make sense to wait. Speak to your vet and they can recommend the optimum time to carry out this procedure.
Taking a little time now to think about how you can best care for your Yorkie will give them the best possible chance of living a long, healthy, and happy life. These energetic and intelligent little dogs have a higher life expectancy than many other breeds, but there are still health issues that can mean they don’t live as long as we would like.
Luckily, there are plenty of ways that us dog owners can keep our precious pups as healthy as possible. From regular vet checks, to daily tooth brushing and not feeding to many fatty treats, you can maximise your Yorkie’s life expectancy by taking the best possible care of them.
And who knows, maybe your Yorkie has already exceeded expectations and is heading into their twenties. If they are, we’d love to hear more about them!