Sadly, canines have much shorter life spans than humans. However, with good care, those years may be extended and spent in good health.
This article will cover 3 main aspects of life span:
Life Expectancy of the Yorkshire Terrier – On average, how many years Yorkshire Terriers live, both range and median age; these numbers are compared to other popular toy breed dogs and to canines in general.
Yorkshire Terrier Leading Causes of Death – This is based on a large-scale study by the University of Georgia and includes both puppies and adults. Some of these health conditions and fatal issues can be delayed or prevented with proactive steps.
Top 10 Tips to Extend your Yorkie’s Life Span – There are several things you can do to help prevent common diseases and serious issues seen with this breed and canines in general and greatly increase the likelihood of your Yorkshire Terrier living a long and healthy life.
Life Expectancy of the Yorkshire Terrier
The life expectancy of the Yorkshire Terrier is between 13 to 16 years with a median age of 14.5 years. Female Yorkshire Terriers live, on average, 1.5 years longer than males.
This is considered a reasonably long lifespan and is moderately longer than the average lifespan of domesticated canines in general, which is 12.67 years in the US, 12.8 years in Canada, and 11.08 years in the UK. Note that the figure of 12.67 years in the United States relates to death by natural causes; the number falls to 11.1 years when death by trauma is factored in.
In comparison to some other small breed dogs, the Yorkshire Terrier’s 13 to 16 years is similar to a Pomeranian’s 12 to 16 years and a Papillon’s 13 to 15 years. It is slightly longer than a Maltese’s 12 to 15 years, toy Poodle’s 12 to 15 years, Pug’s 12 to 15 years, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel’s 9 to 14 years or a Shih Tzu’s 10 to 16 years. It is slightly shorter than a Chihuahua’s 14 to 18 years.
Yorkshire Terrier Leading Causes of Death
A very helpful study was conducted by the University of Georgia regarding canine life span that lasted over two decades to record the top causes of death of pet dogs. They documented 82 purebred dogs along with mixed breeds. There were 74,556 dogs in all and within this study group several hundred were of the Yorkshire Terrier breed.
Their goal during this 20-year study was to find mortality patterns that would lead to better health-maintenance practices that may allow dogs to live longer lives. The findings give us a good understanding of what Yorkshire Terriers die of and surprisingly some of the causes of death are preventable.
Results are divided into two groups: Puppies (dogs under the age of 1 year old) and adults (1 year and older).
Based on the above referenced study, the 2 top causes of death seen with Yorkshire Terrier puppies under 1 year old are:
#1 Infection. This includes a variety of diseases including parvovirus which is a highly contagious disease that attacks the gastrointestinal tract and immune system, causing severe vomiting and diarrhea issues that can quickly leading to fatal dehydration. Though there is a vaccine for this, it is given at 6 and then 8 weeks old. Puppies that catch parvo are often in the ‘window of vulnerability’ when antibodies passed down from the dam have waned but the vaccine has not yet had time to completely offer protection. Keeping puppies vaccinated on schedule and using proper cleaning methods in kennel areas can help prevent parvo infection.
Infection also includes leptospirosis. Despite this being a deadly canine disease, the inoculation for this is voluntary in many areas. While there are many forms of leptospirosis, the lethal strain causes liver and kidney damage. It is contracted via contact with infected urine of wild life. For this reason, veterinarians often recommend the vaccine for dogs deemed at risk; this would include any Yorkshire Terriers that live on property that abuts the wildlife habitats of small woodland creatures such as skunks and raccoons.
#2 Trauma – This is a top cause of death for adult Yorkies as well. Many cases of trauma are preventable – see below for details.
Based on the above referenced study, the 4 top causes of death seen with adult Yorkshire Terriers 1 year and older are:
#1 Respiratory disease – 16.1% of Yorkshire Terriers died due to respiratory disease. There are only two breeds that are affected at a higher rate than the Yorkie: the Bulldog (18.2%) and the Borzoi (16.3 %).
Types of fatal respiratory illness include collapsed trachea (a condition this breed is prone to, which can lead to chronic bronchitis and other issues) and pulmonary fibrosis. Seniors are more prone to lung infection due to gradual degenerative changes that disrupt normal lung function can cause the lungs to be more vulnerable to airborne pathogens and toxins.
Note that tracheal collapse is common with toy breed dogs. For some, it can be fatal when its severity causes critical breathing problems and/or leads to chronic bronchitis and other issues. One prevention and treatment step is to have a Yorkie wear a harness in place of a collar any time they are on a leash.
#2 Cancer – 11.2% of Yorkshire Terriers succumbed to cancer. This included a wide variety of cancers such as lymphoma (a tumor of the lymph nodes), mast cell tumors (a form of skin cancer), mammary gland tumors, soft tissue sarcomas (these occur on the surface of the body and within body organs, then slowly grow and metastasize in the lungs and liver), and bone cancer.
It is important to note that 50% of all cancers are curable if caught early and the risk of developing mammary cancer can be decreased dramatically if a female is spayed.
#3 Trauma- This is the 2nd leading cause of death for Yorkie puppies and the 3rd top cause of death for adult Yorkshire Terriers. A dreadful 10.7% of adult Yorkshire Terriers died due to trauma and in many cases this could have been prevented. Avoidable fatal injuries include being stepped on, falling down a staircase, being dropped, being hit by a car, and being the victim of a car accident as a passenger.
#4 Congenital Disease- With 10.5% of Yorkies dying due to congenital disease, this is the 4th leading cause of death for Yorkies 1 year old and older. This category includes all disease and conditions that are present at birth. Notably are liver shunts which the Yorkshire Terrier is prone to, also referred to as portosystemic shunt (PPS) and heart abnormalities, among others.
Keep up with vaccinations and recommended booster shots. Once your Yorkshire Terrier puppy has had their full round of puppy vaccinations, speak to the vet about titer tests to see which booster shots may be needed throughout their life and which non-core (optional) vaccines are recommended based on their personal risk level (may include vaccines for kennel cough, Lyme disease, leptospirosis and giardia).
Proof the house and yard on a regular basis to keep your Yorkshire Terrier safe from choking, injury, poisoning, and other dangers both in and out of the house.
Indoors, pick up any small items (coins, pen caps, paper clips, etc.), keep bags (purses, gym bags, etc.) out of reach, use childproof locks on lower cabinets, use a product like PetCords Cord Protector on electrical cords and wiring, and keep plants out of reach. Outside, use pet-safe lawn care products, keep yard and automobile products out of reach and routinely sweep for sharp objects, choking hazards and toxic plants (such as black walnuts and the sago palm).
When outside, have your Yorkie on a leash or within a secure fence under supervision to help prevent the dangers of dog attack, wild animal attack (coyotes, owls, hawks, and more), escape, injury, poisoning and other threats.
Provide proper dental care. Take proactive steps at home to keep your Yorkie’s teeth clean and free of plaque and tartar which can lead to decay, gum disease, and periodontal disease which can cause tooth loss and jaw bone deterioration (and resulting eating issues and malnutrition) and dangerous infection that can lead to full-body sepsis. Use methods including brushing, sprays, dental wipes, and dental chews.
Spay/neuter. While there is some debate (mostly concerning large breeds such as the Golden Retriever), in general most veterinarians agree that having your dog spayed or neutered is beneficial and helps to increase life span. Males neutered before the age of 6 months old may live 20% longer than their unfixed counterparts. Females spayed before the age of 6 months old may live 25% longer lives than their un-spayed counterparts, in part due to a decrease in ovarian cancer and mammary cancer.
Keep your Yorkie on an all-natural, healthy diet. What your little guy or gal eats will have a significant effect on their health, both now and in the future and it’s never too late to start offering wholesome, all-natural foods.
The most detrimental ingredients are artificial coloring and flavoring and chemical preservatives. Your Yorkie’s main meals, as well as all snacks and training treats, should be free of these, as well as steering clear of fillers, high corn and grain levels, generic meats and oils, and meat and cereal by-products.
An example of a super-healthy dry kibble is Wellness Core for Small Dogs which is 100% all natural and has added benefits including omega-3 fatty acids for skin & coat health and to help boost the immune system and glucosamine for joint health.
Offer filtered or bottled spring water. It’s easy to bypass this tip to help a Yorkie live a long life, since it may seem so natural to give a dog water from the kitchen tap, but there’s nothing natural about the shocking levels of toxins found in drinking water throughout the US including chromium-6 (a carcinogen found in the drinking water of over 200 million Americans as of 2007), disinfectant byproducts, solvents, pesticides, factory run-off, pharmaceuticals including mood enhancers, anti-epileptic and anti-anxiety medications and oral contraceptives, and much more.
Play it safe by giving your Yorkie bottle spring water, connect a filtering device to your sink, or consider a filter device such as the ZeroWater Water Filter Pitcher.
Provide regular exercise. Routine light to moderate cardiovascular exercise will offer a wide range of benefits, many of which will improve health and quality of life and even directly help extend your Yorkie’s life span: improved heart health, better digestion, regular bowel movements, healthy metabolism, muscle maintenance, improved emotional health, a boosted immune system, and decreased chances of developing canine diabetes and cancer, just to name a few.
So, take your Yorkie out for daily walks, grab some size-appropriate toys like Midlee X-Small Dog Tennis Balls and have fun sessions of fetch, head out on ‘easy’ hikes, and otherwise keep your little guy or gal active.
Don’t forget your Yorkie’s size. Have all household members and visitors to your home on guard that this is an ‘under-the-foot’ dog. Children should be taught proper handling methods. Use baby gates or otherwise block off unsafe stairways.
Take your Yorkie to the vet for wellness exams. Early detection of a wide range of canine health issues will play a vital role in helping your Yorkshire Terrier live as long as possible. These visits are done once per year for adult dogs and twice per year for seniors (age 8 and up). Your Yorkie will be screened for common canine diseases and issues including internal parasites, canine diabetes, allergies, thyroid conditions, kidney disease, bone and joint conditions, bladder and bowel problems, digestive health, vision and hearing issues, skin problems, and more. This is also your opportunity to speak to the veterinarian about any (non-emergency) concerns you may have.
There may come a time when you are asked to make a decision regarding vet-assisted euthanasia. This most often happens when a senior dog is diagnosed with a health issue that causes pain or distress that no medication or treatment can relieve.
Needless to say, it is a difficult and heart wrenching decision. However, there are some aspects that may help you as you make the choice. It may put your mind at ease to obtain a second option, no matter how much you trust your current veterinarian, even if this just confirms that the diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan are correct. It can also help to make a list of all the things your Yorkie has been enjoying in life and then see how many they are still able to partake in.
Ultimately, the decision to euthanize a dog should be based on their pain level. Our pets depend on us to care for them and a huge part of that is not to allow suffering. In some cases, this may mean placing their needs ahead of your own. If your Yorkie is in chronic pain or distress, you may opt to take on the emotional pain of saying goodbye in order to give your best friend the gift of freedom from physical pain. This is the most unselfish, loving thing that you can do.
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