Yorkshire Terrier (Yorkie)

Virginia LaMon, DVM
By Virginia LaMon, DVM on Dec. 9, 2022
long-haired yorkshire terrier lying on the floor

In This Article

General Care

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The tiny Yorkshire Terrier, affectionately known as the Yorkie, is a brave and often entertaining companion. Prior to his role as a lapdog, Scottish weavers who migrated to England in the mid-1800s are thought to have used the Yorkie to chase rodents in textile mills, according to the Yorkshire Terrier Club of America. Today, they are popular lapdogs.

A full-grown Yorkie stands all of 7-8 inches tall and weighs roughly 7 pounds, but his energetic and feisty personality does not reflect his small stature. Perhaps the most notable physical characteristic is the Yorkie’s long, straight blue and tan hair that’s often trimmed short into a “puppy cut.”

Caring for a Yorkie

Yorkshire Terriers make wonderful family pets, whether you live in an apartment or a big house with room to run. They are affectionate, playful, and sometimes bossy little dogs that have a lot of energy and need to be mentally stimulated. Yorkies have extensive grooming needs due to their long, hair-like coats, and they don’t tolerate cold weather well—so you might need to protect them with dog coats or stylish sweaters.

Yorkie Health Issues

Yorkshire terriers are a mostly healthy breed, but they do have their share of medical issues. Pet health insurance might be a good investment when bringing home a Yorkie puppy.


Small-breed and toy dogs are at risk for hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Puppies are especially sensitive and should be fed frequently. Signs of hypoglycemia may include:

  • Weakness

  • Lack of appetite

  • Disorientation

  • Tremors

  • Seizures

If hypoglycemia is suspected, call your veterinarian. They may instruct you to put a high-sugar liquid, like corn syrup, on your dog’s gums while heading to the clinic.

Dental Disease

Dental disease is one of the most common conditions seen in dogs as they age, especially in small breeds like the Yorkshire Terrier. Bacterial tartar and plaque lead to inflammation of the tissues around the teeth, and eventually to tooth and bone decay. The best way to prevent dental disease is with daily toothbrushing using a pet-specific toothpaste.

Routine dental cleanings under anesthesia are recommended for Yorkshire Terriers to evaluate the mouth, remove plaque and tartar, polish teeth to prevent future buildup, and treat or extract teeth that are significantly unhealthy.

Patellar Luxation

The patella (kneecap) is a small bone that normally sits in a groove within the femur at the knee. In dogs with patellar luxation, the patella moves (or “luxates”) outside of its designated groove when the knee is flexed.

This inappropriate movement can cause discomfort and may lead to osteoarthritis. In small breeds, anti-inflammatory medications and joint supplements may be sufficient to control pain. In cases of severe luxation, your dog might need surgery to secure the kneecap.

Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal collapse occurs when the trachea (windpipe) flattens. This can happen due to weakening of the cartilage rings or sagging of a membrane along the trachea. Symptoms include a dry cough that may be worse when your Yorkie finishes eating or when he’s excited. Most cases are treated using medications, but in severe cases where breathing is impeded, surgical intervention may be necessary.

Yorkshire Terriers are likely genetically predisposed to tracheal collapse. To prevent and manage this condition, weight control is a necessity. When on walks, use a harness instead of a collar, as pressure on the trachea can cause further damage.

Liver Shunt (Portosystemic Shunt)

A liver shunt occurs when an abnormal connection between the blood vessels around the liver exists and blood bypasses (or “shunts”) the liver. Because the blood doesn’t get filtered by the liver, toxins (like ammonia) build up in the bloodstream. Signs of a liver shunt include slow growth, disorientation, circling, and sometimes seizures. These symptoms tend to be worse after a high-protein meal.

Most cases of liver shunts in Yorkies are caused by a birth defect. Diagnosing a liver shunt may require numerous blood tests, abdominal ultrasound, CT/MRI scans, or even exploratory surgery. In some cases of liver shunts, the only necessary treatment is a diet change plus a medication to absorb ammonia. In other cases, surgery is required.

What To Feed a Yorkie

Feeding a commercial kibble or wet food approved by the Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) is a good way to ensure that your Yorkshire Terrier receives a complete and balanced diet. 

Puppies should be fed a diet formulated specifically for puppies or designated for “all life stages.” For adults, dental-focused diets may be recommended by your veterinarian to help prevent dental disease.

How To Feed a Yorkie

Because Yorkies are small dogs, the do well with two to three feedings per day. Yorkie puppies, however, should eat three to four small meals per day to help maintain their blood sugar.

How Much Should You Feed a Yorkie

Just like in humans, the recommended caloric intake for a Yorkie varies from dog to dog and depends on your pup’s physical size, metabolism, neuter status, and activity level. The best way to determine the feeding quantity is to talk with your veterinarian, who can calculate your Yorkshire Terrier’s caloric needs.

Additionally, the feeding guide labels on dog food provide valuable information. Just remember: In small breeds like the Yorkie, calories in treats add up quickly.

Nutritional Tips for Yorkies

Yorkshire Terriers require a balance of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to stay healthy and lean. The Yorkie may benefit from the addition of omega-3 fatty acids (DHA/EPA) into their diets. Omega-3 fatty acids act as natural anti-inflammatories that help to support the skin, coat, kidneys, joints, and heart, and they can be found in skin and joint supplements, fish oil, and some specially formulated dog foods.

Behavior and Training Tips for Yorkies

Yorkie Personality and Temperament

The Yorkshire Terrier is a brave and bossy breed that’s exceptionally affectionate with family and strangers alike. They are usually gentle with children and most other pets, though adult supervision is always important when dogs are around children or other animals. This is especially important with little Yorkies, who can accidentally be hurt when playing with kiddos.

Yorkie Behavior

Despite the Yorkie’s small stature, their oversized personality means they think of themselves as watchdogs, and they  can be excessive barkers. But if you teach them to be quiet, Yorkshire Terriers are easy partners for apartment living, as long as they get a lot of mental stimulation and chances to play. For the most part, Yorkies are curious and confident companions.

Yorkie Training

Despite their remarkable intelligence, Yorkies are not always easy to train. They can be stubborn and many are not especially food-motivated, which can make training more difficult. It is most successful when based on positive reinforcement with praise and tasty treats.

Fun Activities for Yorkies 

  • Nose work

  • Puzzles

  • Agility

  • Fetch

Yorkie Grooming Guide

Yorkies have a long, silky coat that’s sometimes trimmed short in a “puppy cut.” They require a significant amount of grooming and home care, especially if they have a full-length coat.

Skin Care

Some Yorkies will develop a dry, flaky skin. Bathing your dog with a moisturizing shampoo and/or giving them an omega-3 supplement will help prevent this. That said, they should not be bathed more than every two weeks, as this may strip the natural oils from the skin.

Yorkies are prone to blocked pores in their skin, which can cause bumps and inflammation. Special shampoos, such as those that contain benzoyl peroxide, can be used to help flush out the pores.

Coat Care

If the coat is kept full-length, daily brushing is needed to prevent tangles and knots. If the coat is in a short puppy cut, once-a-week brushing is enough. Professional grooming is frequently used to help maintain a healthy and attractive coat. 

Eye Care

Yorkies often collect a large amount of debris at the corners of their eyes. Wiping their eyes with a wet cloth or using a saline solution daily will help prevent buildup. No matter the coat length, a Yorkie’s hair around the eyes should be kept short.

Ear Care

Cleaning ears every 2-4 weeks helps prevent ear infections. If you notice a heavy amount of debris or redness, schedule a vet visit.

Considerations for Pet Parents

Yorkies are wonderful family dogs who are generally affectionate and patient with children, if a little bossy and barky. Before you bring home a Yorkie puppy, research pet insurance plans, as this small breed is prone to a few health conditions like liver shunts and hypoglycemia. Special attention should be given to their oral hygiene, too, as daily tooth brushing will delay dental disease. And remember: Yorkshire Terriers require frequent brushing and regular grooming, even if you keep their coat cut short.

Yorkie FAQs

How big do Yorkies get?

Yorkies usually reach a height of 7-8 inches and weigh around 7 pounds.

How long do Yorkshire Terriers live?

The Yorkie lifespan is 11-15 years on average.

How much do Yorkshire Terriers cost?

Purchasing a Yorkshire Terrier puppy from a breeder can cost between $800-$2,500. Dogs of certain lineage may cost more. Many Yorkies and Yorkie mixes can also be found in rescues and shelters.

Where are Yorkies from?

Yorkshire Terriers were developed in the United Kingdom. They were used to chase rodents by Scottish weavers who migrated to England in the mid-1800s.

Are Yorkies a good family dog?

The Yorkie is an excellent dog for families. They are loyal, playful, and affectionate. Most individuals do well around young children.

Are Yorkies high-maintenance?

Yorkies can be high-maintenance in regard to their grooming needs. This is especially true if they keep their long floor-length coat, which needs to be brushed daily to prevent knots and remain shiny. A short “puppy cut” is much easier to manage for the busy pet parent.

Featured Image: iStock/VioletaStoimenova

Virginia LaMon, DVM


Virginia LaMon, DVM


Dr. Virginia LaMon graduated from Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine in 2013. She completed her clinical year at Auburn...

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