What Do Yorkies Die From? 11 Causes You Should Know About

Yorkies make great companions, it’s not hard to see why they are so popular. Yorkies usually live for 12-15 years which is fairly old compared to many other breeds. Sadly though, as with every breed, eventually there will come a time when we have to say goodbye.

The most common causes of death can differ from breed to breed. Understanding the common risks that Yorkies face will help you give your pup the best chance in life. So what do Yorkies typically die from? In no particular order, here are 11 causes of death in Yorkies you should know about.

1. Heart Disease

Yorkies are sadly quite susceptible to various types of heart disease, which can occur at any point in their life. It is one of the leading causes of death in Yorkies.

Your Yorkie may have heart disease if they:

  • Have trouble breathing
  • Are lethargic
  • Get tired easily when exercising
  • Collapse or faint
  • Have weight loss
  • Have swelling of the abdomen

If your dog has any of these symptoms, take them to the vet immediately. They may take an X-ray or ECG to understand exactly what is going on.

Luckily though, veterinarians can usually detect heart problems just by listening to the heart and so if you take your dog to the vet regularly, they will likely detect heart problems in their early stages.

If your Yorkie has heart disease, they will probably need to take medication for the rest of their lives to prevent it from becoming worse.

2. Portosystemic Shunt (PSS)

If your Yorkie develops PSS it will likely die from it eventually. PSS, otherwise known as Portosystemic Shunt, is a liver disease that affects blood flow through the liver.

PSS causes some of your dog’s blood to go around their liver rather than through it. This means that toxins are not removed from the bloodstream effectively, and the liver can’t properly do its job.

Common signs of PSS in dogs include:

  • Poor muscle development
  • Stunted growth
  • Disorientation
  • Staring into space
  • Head pressing (pushing their head against walls and other objects)
  • Seizures

If your dog has PSS, you will need to take them to the vet. They will test their liver and see if your dog’s case needs surgery.

Most of the time dogs who have PSS can live a fairly normal happy life if they have the right diet and exercise. However, they will need to go to the vet regularly to get their liver tested.

3. Dental Disease

Surprisingly, dental disease can potentially shorten your Yorkie’s lifespan considerably. Yorkies are more prone to get dental disease due to their small jaws and tightly packed teeth.

When dental disease sets in, it can cause your dog’s gums and the roots of their teeth to become infected which can cause major health issues.

After the teeth and gums become infected, it can spread through your dog’s bloodstream and start damaging their kidneys, liver, joints, and heart.

If any of these organs become damaged, they can shut down and cause your Yorkie to die, even if they are relatively young. Luckily, dental disease is easily identifiable and can be prevented.

Dental disease begins when your dog’s teeth have a large amount of tartar on them, and that tartar buildup starts to affect the gums and teeth, infecting them.

To prevent your dog from getting dental disease, take it to the vet periodically to get its teeth checked and thoroughly cleaned if required. If necessary, your vet may also add a sealant that will prevent tartar buildup and damage to your dog’s teeth.

Better still, if your Yorkie will let you, you should brush their teeth at home as often as possible. Starting brushing while your Yorkie is still at a young age will give you the best chance of training them to accept this practice and will give you the best success.

Only use toothpaste that is specially formulated for dogs. Human toothpaste usually contains fluoride which is extremely toxic for dogs.

Another way to help keep your dog’s teeth clean is to give them teeth-cleaning treats. However, dental treats are usually nowhere near as effective as regular brushing.

Keeping your Yorkie’s teeth clean at home will help prevent dental issues and reduce the chances of high veterinary bills for dental treatments.

For a great guide that includes many ways to care for your Yorkie’s teeth please read my article Bad Breath in Yorkies – Is It Normal? 10 Remedies and Tips.

4. Diabetes

Diabetes is fairly common in dogs of any breed. However, the rates of diabetes in Yorkies are slightly above average.

Although many dogs with the disease can live a happy life, it can result in death if not carefully managed.

Additionally, some dogs are resistant to insulin, the drug that keeps their blood sugar at a healthy and normal level. Because of this, they can suffer greatly while living with the disease.

Signs of diabetes include:

  • Lethargy
  • Excessive drinking
  • Excessive urination
  • Increase in appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Cloudy eys
  • Recuring skin and urinary infections

It should also be noted that in some cases, dogs will stop eating, drinking, and playing entirely if they have severe diabetes.

If you suspect your dog has diabetes, take them to the vet. They can test your dog for the disease and tell you how you can treat and manage it.

5. Infections: Bacterial and Viral

If your Yorkie gets a bacterial or viral infection, they can die if it is left untreated. Some infections that Yorkies are susceptible to include parvo, distemper, and rabies.

Luckily all of these infections can easily be prevented with vaccinations that your dog can get from your veterinarian, but you still need to look out for warning signs that your dog is sick with an infection.

Parvo Symptoms:

  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Abdominal pain
  • Fever or hypothermia
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Distemper Symptoms:

  • Watery/gunky eyes
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Vomiting

Rabies Symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Excessive drooling
  • Foaming at the mouth
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Staggering
  • Seizures

If you think that your dog may have rabies, keep them isolated from people and animals because it can be spread from animal to animal and also to human. Call your veterinarian if you witness any of the above symptoms and ask them what you should do next.

6. Trachea Collapse

If you have a Yorkie you will need to keep an eye out for a tracheal collapse or narrowing. Yorkies are especially weak in their trachea, more commonly known as a windpipe.

It’s possible that this could collapse because sometimes it does not develop properly, so they become weak or incorrectly shaped. In turn, this causes their trachea to collapse or start to narrow.

Luckily, symptoms of an issue with a Yorkie’s trachea are easy to notice. These include:

  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Vomiting
  • Gagging
  • Coughing

If your dog is having trouble breathing, take them to the vet immediately.

If your Yorkie has really bad issues with their trachea, then they will likely need surgery. If your dog does not have surgery when the veterinarian recommends it, then your dog will likely die quickly.

7. Obesity

Yorkies are so adorable and have a face that just cries out “insert treats here!” It can be hard for loving owners to turn them down sometimes. However, extra snacking can often cause these small dogs to become overweight and develop obesity.

Although obesity in itself may not be a direct cause of death in Yorkies, it can cause them to develop metabolic and digestive disorders as well as heart disease, which will kill them eventually.

If you want to prevent your dog from becoming obese, limit their food intake accordingly. Your dog food should have recommended feeding quantities listed on the packaging. Stick to the recommendations and avoid feeding scraps and treats where possible.

You should also ensure that your Yorkie is receiving the proper amount of exercise. Yorkies have little legs, and it doesn’t take a lot of work to keep them in shape.

Exercise is good for all dogs, and a proper amount will keep them very happy and healthy. For more info on this, please check out my article on How to Meet a Yorkie’s Exercise Requirements.

Again, during regular visits to the vet, they should tell you if they are concerned about obesity. They will also recommend various approaches to help your dog stay fit and keep them at a healthy size.

8. Hemorrhagic Gastroenteritis (HGE)

Another common issue in Yorkies is hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, otherwise known as HGE. It is a gastrointestinal disease that often occurs in small toy breed dogs like Yorkies.

Symptoms of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis in dogs include:

  • Sudden onset of bloody diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Severe dehydration
  • Stomach pain
  • Fever
  • Collapsing
  • Loss of appetite

Most of the time hemorrhagic gastroenteritis can be treated with medication, but if it is left unchecked and untreated, it can eventually kill your dog as its symptoms become more severe.

9. Cancer

Cancer in dogs, including Yorkies, is unfortunately very common. Particularly in older dogs.

My own Yorkie had cancerous tumors removed around five years ago and fortunately, she is still going strong. However, not all dogs are so lucky.

As cancer comes in many forms, there can be many symptoms to look out for. These include:

  • Sores that won’t heal
  • Lumps and bumps under the skin
  • abnormal smells from the ears or mouth
  • Low energy levels
  • Signs of pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased drinking
  • Changes in toilet habits
  • Coughing and difficulty breathing

If your dog shows any of these symptoms, take them to the vet and have them checked. If you catch it early enough and you are lucky, their cancer may be treatable too.

Some common forms of cancer in dogs can be avoided or at least have their risks minimized. For example, around one in three male dogs will get some form of testicular tumor in their lifetime. This can be avoided through castration.

Similarly, in females, ovarian and mammary cancer are extremely common but their chances of developing these common forms of cancer can be drastically reduced if they are spayed early on. Particularly before their first menstrual cycle.

10. Bleeding Disorder

Many dogs can develop bleeding disorders, but one that is commonly found in Yorkies is called Von Willebrand’s disease.

Your dog’s vet will likely do a DNA test to see if they have a blood disease, but these can oftentimes be missed in the early stages.

Signs of bleeding disorders include:

  • Nosebleeds
  • Bleeding gums
  • Blood in stool
  • Blood in urine
  • Excessive bleeding after a cut or an injection

If your dog does have Von Willebrand’s disease, their veterinarian may perform surgery to stop any bleeding that they have. Unfortunately, there is not currently a cure so you will need to keep an eye out for any bruising and bleeding that your dog has and keep track of how long they last.

Von Willebrand’s disease is not the only bleeding disorder that your Yorkie can suffer from, but it is the type that is most commonly found in Yorkies. Your vet may want to do a blood test for various bleeding disorders when you bring your Yorkie to them for the first time.

11. Cushing’s Disease

If your Yorkie develops Hyperadrenocorticism, otherwise known as Cushing’s disease, they can die from it. However, they can also live with the disease for a long time if they are given the correct medication.

Cushing’s disease causes the adrenal glands to start malfunctioning. When they start malfunctioning, they produce too many steroid hormones.

Symptoms of Cushing’s in dogs include:

  • Increase in appetite
  • Increased drinking,
  • Excessive urination
  • Low energy levels
  • Potbelly
  • Hair loss
  • Recurring skin sores

If they have Cushing’s disease, your dog will, unfortunately, have to take medication for the rest of its life.

Most of the time, issues that Yorkies have can be managed with the right medication, but the issues have to be caught relatively early in order for the medication to work properly.

When Should you put a Yorkie Down?

In some cases, treatment is not enough to improve a Yorkie’s quality of life. Under ideal circumstances, Yorkies will live for 13 years or more but sometimes their lifespans need to be cut short to prevent further pain and suffering.

Old age, infections, injuries, and disease can all affect your dog’s comfort and quality of life. It’s always a very hard decision for us owners when we try to determine whether euthanasia is the best option.

It’s a highly personal choice, but if your Yorkie is having difficulty moving, eating, or breathing, you may have to consider your options carefully.

If you are struggling to know if the time is right, I would suggest taking a quality of life questionnaire such as this one.

It can be very difficult to know if you are making the right choice for your beloved pet. Taking these questionnaires can be extremely valuable in helping you come to the right decision.

To Conclude

If your Yorkie starts behaving or eating abnormally and you are worried about them, it is always best to take them to a veterinarian. They will be able to tell you if your dog has any health issues and what you can do to treat them or at least reduce their pain.

Subtle symptoms can sometimes show that there is a big health issue affecting your dog. They may need medical treatment in order to live a long and happy life with you and your family, so don’t hesitate to reach out to professionals whenever you’re worried.

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Mark Ingram

Thanks for taking the time to read this article. I hope that it was informative and useful in some way. I love all of my pets and their care is paramount to me. I hope that my writing will help others in caring for their pets also.

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