Most dogs live to the age of 12 to 13.7, according to two different studies completed in the UK and Japan.4, 3 But Yorkshire Terriers come out slightly ahead of these findings. Keep reading to learn more about how long Yorkies live and how to prolong their life expectancy.
In this guide:
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How long do Yorkies live?
The average Yorkie life expectancy is between 12.6 and 14.5 years.6, 3 However, it is not uncommon for Yorkshire Terriers to live to 17 or 18 years if cared for properly.
These findings are based on two studies. The first study,6 conducted in the UK in 2010, gathered owner-reported information on over 15,000 dogs to determine age and cause of death.
The second study,3 conducted in Japan, evaluated 12,039 dogs that died from January 2012 to March 2015. The data, including the dogs’ breed, sex, and age, were collected to determine the average lifespan of specific breeds and the most likely cause of death.
Yorkies live longer than many other dogs because they are generally a healthy breed. And of the common health problems they face, those issues are usually not fatal. Additionally, smaller breeds tend to outlive larger breeds by several years.7
According to a 20-year study,1 large breeds died more often of musculoskeletal and gastrointestinal causes, while small dog breeds, like the Yorkshire Terrier, were more likely to die of endocrine-related issues, such as complications with pancreas, thyroid, or pituitary glands.
What do Yorkies usually die from?
While Yorkies are generally a healthy dog breed and tend to live longer than many other breeds, there are a few Yorkie health issues to be aware of. Although these health issues are usually treatable, they can become fatal if not monitored and addressed early.
Leading causes of death in Yorkie puppies
Yorkie puppies, like puppies of all breeds, are more likely to die of disease in the first year than in the next four years.3
One of the diseases puppies are susceptible to is parvovirus.10 Dr. Staci Brigham states parvo is usually transmitted through direct contact with an infected dog or through infected animal waste.12 While 90% of puppies survive with medical assistance, the symptoms are not pleasant: severe diarrhea, vomiting, dehydration, pain, weight loss, and inflamed tissue of the eyes and mouth are just a few.
This disease typically affects puppies under 6 months of age and can lead to death. Few cases occur in dogs older than two. There is an effective vaccine that is given between 14 to 16 weeks of age.11
Another contagious and serious disease is canine distemper. It’s caused by a virus that attacks the respiratory, gastrointestinal, and nervous systems of puppies and dogs, and it closely resembles rabies.
Infected dogs or wild animals usually spread the virus by coughing or sneezing, but sometimes it can be transmitted by shared food and water bowls.13 Symptoms include: vomiting, nasal discharge, coughing, fever, lethargy, convulsions, seizures, and paralysis. Survivors of distemper usually have permanent nervous system damage.
Leptospirosis is caused by the spirochete bacteria found widespread in the environment, particularly in damp areas with standing water or mud. It is usually carried by wildlife like rats, racoons, or even domestic animals.
Dogs can become infected by coming into contact with the urine of infected animals or from drinking contaminated water. Not all unvaccinated dogs will become ill when exposed to this bacteria,14 and the disease is most severe in unvaccinated puppies less than 6 months old.
Puppies are not routinely vaccinated against leptospirosis. If your Yorkie may regularly be exposed to areas of water where wildlife lives, you may want to speak with your veterinarian about this vaccination.
Unfortunately, trauma to a Yorkie puppy is a leading cause of death. Often, children find Yorkie puppies irresistibly cute (who doesn’t?), but they don’t understand the puppy’s fragility when playing. It’s easy to unintentionally injure a Yorkie puppy by being too rough.
Due to their small, fragile bodies, a fall from being dropped, a tumble down the stairs, or being stepped on can be fatal. Yorkies can too easily find their way underfoot without you noticing, and they can also get hurt if you slam on the brakes or have a collision in your car.
Hypoglycemia is most common in Yorkie puppies under 5 months old. When the puppy’s blood sugar levels drop too low, the puppy can quickly become distressed. If not quickly corrected, it can become life-threatening.
Leading causes of death in Yorkie adults
A large study by the University of Georgia categorized the cause of death of 74,556 dogs from 1984 and 2004. They found that 16% of Yorkshire Terriers died of respiratory disease.1 Here are a few common respiratory diseases that can prove fatal:
This narrowing of the cartilage rings within the trachea can cause severe breathing difficulty. Collapsed trachea is common among small breeds, so it is recommended to attach leashes to a Yorkie’s harness rather than their collar.
Pulmonary fibrosis is a disease that produces scarring of lung tissue. It is a progressive disease that causes the lungs to thicken and become stiff. Eventually the lungs lose their ability to move oxygen efficiently into the bloodstream.15 It usually affects middle-aged to older dogs, especially the terrier breeds, with the West Highland White Terrier being the most prone.15
Brachycephalic airway syndrome
Another respiratory disease sometimes mentioned in literature is brachycephalic airway syndrome, which is a collective name for the abnormalities in the upper airway of the nose or soft palate.16 This usually occurs in dogs with shortened facial bones giving the face a pushed-in appearance, like that of a Boxer, Bulldog or Chinese Pug, but it can affect Yorkshire Terriers as well since they’re technically a brachycephalic dog breed.19
Symptoms tend to be visible between one and four years of age. Often, the syndrome will develop into inflammation of the airway or strain the heart due to increased effort to breathe effectively.
Scientific studies disagree when it comes to cancer rates in Yorkies. A 2017 study found high incident rates in the Yorkie breed.18 However, a 2013 review of the scientific literature by Jane Dobson suggests that number is closer to just 1.34%.17 Either way, it appears that many of the cancers are treatable if found early enough.
As with puppies, trauma is also a leading cause of death in adult Yorkies since even full-grown Yorkies are fairly small. See above for more information.
According to the University of Georgia study, Yorkshire Terriers are the fourth most likely breed to die of a congenital disease.1 The study found that 10.5% of Yorkies will die of a congenital disease, and it lumped together all diseases or conditions that are present at birth.
Of these congenital diseases, liver shunts is a prominent one amongst the Yorkie breed. In short, the Yorkie’s blood is unable to reach the liver, resulting in the liver being unable to detox chemicals and waste from the body. This problem results in inadequate growth and development.
How to extend the Yorkie lifespan
Stay on top of vet visits and vaccinations
You can greatly reduce the chance of your puppy contracting diseases by fully vaccinating according to your vet’s recommendations and avoiding gaps in the immunization schedule.
Veterinarians will most likely recommend the core vaccinations: parvovirus, distemper, canine hepatitis and rabies. Depending on your dog’s risk of exposure, your vet may also recommend vaccinations against leptospira, bordetella bronchiseptica and borrelia burgdorferi.
Until all shots are completed, veterinarians usually recommend keeping your puppy away from dog parks, doggy daycares, obedience classes, and other places where unvaccinated dogs may gather.
In addition to vaccinations, you should keep up with regular wellness visits with your vet, especially in cases where you notice something wrong with your pup. An early diagnosis can save their life and, quite possibly, a lot of extra vet bills down the road.
Minimize the chance of trauma
Injuries from trauma are usually avoidable. Take proper precautions with your Yorkie to ensure a long and happy life. We have found the following tips helpful in keeping our Yorkie safe.
- Not only should owners closely monitor children’s interactions with the dog, but they should also teach children how to properly handle Yorkies. They require different handling than a large dog.
- Limit the height from which the dog jumps. As we have learned from personal experience, Yorkies can significantly injure themselves by jumping from too high a height. Pet steps or cushions are useful if your Yorkie likes to hop on and off the sofa or bed.
- Use a body harness with a leash rather than attaching the leash to the collar. This reduces the likelihood of collapsed trachea.
- Attach a small dog bell or similar device to the dog’s collar to avoid accidentally stepping or tripping on the dog
- Use a pet car seat to reduce the likelihood of your dog accidentally being tossed around the car.
Spay or neuter your Yorkie
Getting your Yorkie spayed or neutered could increase your Yorkie’s lifespan.
A group of researchers from the University of Georgia looked at a sample of more than 40,000 dogs.8 They found that dogs that were surgically sterilized or fixed had a longer lifespan—14% longer for males, 25% longer for females. For the average dog, a sexually intact dog will live 7.9 years, while a spayed or neutered dog will live 9.4 years.
This same study found that in addition to sterilization increasing lifespan, it also reduced the risk of death from infectious disease or trauma. However, sterilization increased the risk of dying from cancer or autoimmune disease.
When it comes to getting your Yorkie fixed, timing does matter. One study found that dogs sterilized before 6 months of age were more likely to contract parvoviral enteritis than dogs who were sterilized later, at around 1 year old.9 Talk to your vet about when to spay or neuter your Yorkie.
Feed your dog a nutritious diet
Most likely, the number one way to increase your Yorkie’s lifespan is to give them what their body needs to fight off potentially deadly viruses and diseases. A healthy body can reduce, if not prevent, harmful diseases from occurring. A healthy body starts with your Yorkie’s diet.
Many dog foods on the market today are filled with overly processed ingredients and fillers. There is little nutritional value left in this food, leaving dogs lacking the necessary vitamins and minerals essential for a healthy immune system and normal bodily function. Proper diet acts as a stabilizer, reducing swings in blood-sugar levels that produce hypoglycemia.
It’s also too easy to mistakenly give your dog food that is too calorically dense. This usually happens when giving your Yorkie table food, which tends to be richer and fattier than dog food. It also can happen when you give your Yorkie too many dog treats. These foods can have a big impact on such a small body. In fact, one study found that healthy-weight Yorkies outlived overweight Yorkies by almost three years (16.2 vs. 13.7).2
Keep your dog active
Exercise keeps Yorkies healthy just as it does with humans. One-to-two walks a day or 20 minutes chasing a stuffed squirrel around the living room should be enough to keep your Yorkie on the right track (although our Yorkie, Max, prefers real squirrels).
>> Keep reading:
- Teacup Yorkie Life Expectancy: How Long Do Teacup Yorkies Live?
- Are Yorkies Hypoallergenic?
- All About Yorkie Ears: Up or Down, Cropped or Floppy, How to Tape Them & More
- Fleming, J.M., Creevy, K.E., Promislow, D.E.L. “Mortality in North American Dogs from 1984 to 2004: An Investigation into Age-, Size-, and Breed-Related Causes of Death”. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, 2011; 25 (2): 187 DOI: 10.1111/j.1939-1676.2011.0695.x
- Salt, C., Morris, J., Wilson, D., Lund, E., German, A. “Association Between Life Span and Body Condition in Neutered Client-Owned Dogs”. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine, January 2019; 33 (1): 89-99. doi: 10.1111/jvim.15367.
- Inoue, M., Kwan, N.C.L., and Sugiura, K. “Estimating the life expectancy of companion dogs in Japan using pet cemetery data”. Journal of Veterinary Medical Science. July 2018; 80(7): 1153–1158. doi: 10.1292/jvms.17-0384
- O’Neil, l D.G., Church, D.B., McGreevy, P.D., Thomson P.C., and Brodbelt, D.C. “Longevity and mortality of owned dogs in England.” Veterinary Journal. 2013, Sept. 25. 198: 638–643. doi: 10.1016/j.tvjl.2013.09.020
- Lewis, T.W., Wiles, B. M., Llewellyn-Zaidi, A.M., Evans, K. M., O’Neil, D.G. “Longevity and mortality in Kennel Club registered dog breeds in the UK in 2014”. Canine Genetics and Epidemiology. 2018; 5: 10. doi: 10.1186/s40575-018-0066-8. – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6191922/
- Adams, V.J., Evans, K.M., Sampson, J., and Wood, J.L. “Methods and mortality results of a health survey of purebred dogs in the UK.” Journal of Small Animal Practice. 2010. 51: 512–24.
- Fleming, J.M., Creevy, K. E., Promislow, D.E.L. “Mortality in North American Dogs from 1984 to 2004: An Investigation into Age, Size, and Breed‐Related Causes of Death”. Journal of Veterinary Internal Medicine. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/j.1939-1676.2011.0695.x
- Hoffman, J. M., Creevy, K. E., & Promislow, D. E. (2013). “Reproductive Capability Is Associated with Lifespan and Cause of Death in Companion Dogs.” PLoS ONE,8(4). doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0061082
- Howe, L.M, Slater, M.R., Boothe, H.W., Hobson, H.P., Holcom, J.L., and Spann, A.C. “Long-term outcome of gonadectomy performed at an early age or traditional age in dogs.” Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association. 2001, Jan 15; 218(2):217-21.
- Creevy, K., Austad, S., Hoffman, J., O’Neill, D. and Promislow, D. “The Companion Dog as a Model for the Longevity Dividend”. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Medicine. http://perspectivesinmedicine.cshlp.org/content/6/1/a026633.full
- American Veterinary Medical Association. “Canine Parvovirus”. https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/canine-parvovirus
- Brigham, Staci. “Parvo: Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention”. Vet Med. https://vetmedaz.com/2015/04/01/parvo-symptoms-treatment-prevention/
- American Veterinary Medical Association. “Canine Distemper”. https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/petcare/canine-distemper
- Stokes, J. E., Kaneene, J.B., Schall, W., Kruger, J.M., Miller, R., Kaiser, L., Bolin, C.A. “Prevalence of serum antibodies against six Leptospira serovars in healthy dogs”. Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association. 2007, June 1; 230(11):1657-64. doi: 10.2460/javma.230.11.1657.
- Clercx, C., Roels, E., Fastrès, A. “Idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.” http://www.caninepulmonaryfibrosis.ulg.ac.be/about-ipf/
- Williams, K. “Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome in Dogs”. https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/brachycephalic-airway-syndrome-in-dogs
- Dobson, J. “Breed-Predispositions to Cancer in Pedigree Dogs”. ISRN Veterinary Science. 2013, January 17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3658424/
- Baioni, E., Scanziani, E., Vincenti, M. C., Leschiera, M., Bozzetta, E., Pezzolato, M., . . . Ru, G. (2017). Estimating canine cancer incidence: Findings from a population-based tumour registry in northwestern Italy. BMC Veterinary Research,13(1). doi: 10.1186/s12917-017-1126-0
- Bofon, A., Ionaşcu, I., Șonea, A. “Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome in Dogs”. Scientific Works. Series C. Veterinary Medicine. Vol. LXI (1) ISSN 2065-1295; ISSN 2343-9394 (CD-ROM); ISSN 2067-3663 (Online); ISSN-L 2065-1295