It’s not uncommon for Yorkshire Terriers to experience skin issues at some point. They are known to have delicate skin. In fact, Dr. Robin Downing, DVM, says, “Approximately 25% of dog visits to the veterinarian involve problems with the skin and haircoat.”1
Healthy Yorkie skin should feel soft and smooth and free from irritation such as flaking, bumps or cracking. The skin will be neither too dry nor oily and will have a whitish-pink color with good elasticity.
But, occasionally, you may find your furry friend biting or scratching at their skin. You’ll want to determine the source of the problem quickly and take steps to resolve the issue to prevent the problem from getting worse. In this guide, we’ll identify the most common reasons for Yorkshire Terrier skin problems and offer some solutions to help your friendly furball on their way.
In this review:
- Yorkie skin problems: 7 common signs
- What causes Yorkshire Terrier skin problems?
- Home remedies for Yorkie itching
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Yorkie skin problems: 7 common signs
- Peeling skin, dandruff, or flakes
- Bumps or rough patches
- Constant scratching or biting at a spot
- Redness, pinkness, or rash
- Hair loss or a dull coat without a healthy shine
- A musty odor
What causes Yorkshire Terrier skin problems?
There may be a number of reasons for your Yorkie to exhibit the skin issues listed above. Dr. Edward Bassingthwaighte, DMV, suggests that it’s important to pay attention to your dog’s skin as it is often the first indicator of a serious problem deep inside your dog’s body. Skin issues are often a sign of chronic diseases, such as immune diseases.2
- Lack of proper grooming
- Lack of a nutritious diet
- Fleas or mites
- Low humidity
- Other health issues
Lack of proper grooming
Your Yorkie’s skin problems could be stemming from a lack of proper grooming. Yorkie hair requires regular attention to keep their skin and coat healthy.
Here are a few things to pay attention to if you think improper grooming may be damaging your Yorkie’s skin.
1. The shampoo you’re using
Avoid shampoos with synthetic ingredients. Most contain sulfates and other chemicals, which are harsh cleaners that will likely aid in drying out and irritating your Yorkie’s delicate skin.
An oatmeal-based shampoo can be soothing to irritated skin. Additionally, you should always use shampoos formulated for dogs. Shampoos made for humans—even babies—can seriously disrupt the pH balance of your dog’s skin.
In our guide to the best shampoo for Yorkies, we carefully scrutinize the ingredients of six different dog shampoo brands to help you find one that will keep your Yorkie’s skin and coat healthy and clean.
Don’t forget to rinse!
In addition to using the right shampoo, it’s also important to rinse the shampoo out completely. Any residue left behind on the skin can dry or irritate your Yorkie’s skin. Ideally, use a sink or shower sprayer rather than the faucet or simply cupping water onto your Yorkie’s haircoat. A sprayer’s pressure effectively penetrates the coat to rinse the skin clear.
Following up with a coat conditioner may be a good idea if dry skin persists or humidity is low. You may also want to ask your vet about massaging a dog-friendly oil, such as coconut oil, into the skin before rinsing.
2. The temperature of the bath water
The temperature of your Yorkie’s bath water could either be the problem or could be making the problem worse. Yorkies have sensitive skin, so they require just slightly warm bath water.
If the water is too hot, it could dry out your Yorkie’s skin or exacerbate skin that’s already irritated. And to make matters worse, water that feels warm to you might already be too hot for your Yorkie’s delicate little body.
>> Read more: How to Bathe a Yorkie (And How Often)
Yorkies need bathwater that’s at room temperature, so it should feel neutral to you, if not slightly cool to the touch. Test the temperature of the water on the inside of your wrist before bathing your Yorkie.
Additionally, after your little furball’s bath, gently towel dry your Yorkie’s hair or use a blow dryer on the cool setting. If your Yorkie has dry or irritated skin, opt for towel and air drying.
3. Improper brushing
Regular brushing is necessary for a healthy Yorkie skin and coat. Leaving a Yorkie’s hair ungroomed or using the wrong tools can lead to a matted mess and irritated skin.
Matting and lack of airflow to the skin
Frequent brushing, every few days, helps remove dead skin cells and loose hairs that would otherwise cause matting and reduce airflow to the skin. Matted hair can trap dirt, irritants, and moisture against the skin and can end up pulling at and irritating it. Brushing also distributes the skin’s natural oils along the length of your Yorkie’s hair, keeping it properly moisturized.
Use the right brush
Yorkshire terriers often require more than one type of brush for adequate grooming. Your grooming kit should include a detangling comb, a pin brush, and a slicker brush. Used in this order, you will reduce matting and allow your Yorkie’s skin to breathe.
The slicker brush, especially, is ideal for getting deep into the coat to remove loose hairs and distribute oils. Brush out tangles before bathing your Yorkie, as water can make matting worse. Use a detangling spray if needed.
>> Read more: Best Brush for Yorkies (& Other Top Detangling Tools)
Give your Yorkie a puppy cut
A short Yorkie puppy cut is ideal for reducing matting and tangles and encouraging airflow to the skin. Not only will your Yorkie look adorable, but he will also be thankful for the extra time to play instead of being groomed.
4. Lack of a nutritious diet
Dr. Deborah Smith suggests that poor diets deplete in nutrients can cause an inflammatory response in the body.3 One of the ways inflammation reveals itself is dermatitis or skin irritation.
Often, commercial dog foods are full of highly processed ingredients, so very little of the original nutrients are still bioavailable (having an active effect) by the time you dish the food into your Yorkie’s bowl. Additionally, many of these commercial dog foods contain large amounts of sugar and fat which only compound health problems.
Some veterinarians recommend raw food diets for the best source of nutrients, while others caution this diet choice as it can be difficult to ensure all essential vitamins and minerals are obtained. Talk to your veterinarian about what food may be best for your Yorkie. Our guide to the best dog food for Yorkies covers several nutritious, allergen-friendly options.
Diets deficient in omega 3, copper, & zinc
Along with diet, Essential Fatty Acids, or EFAs, are crucial in a Yorkshire Terrier’s diet, and without them, your Yorkie won’t have healthy skin or a vibrant haircoat.
The Omega 3 Fatty Acid has the greatest effect on Yorkie itchy skin as it alters the production of certain chemicals in the body that produce inflammation, even if the cause of the problem is not treated.1
Dr. Deborah Smith says all dogs should get a daily supplement of Omega 3 EFAs and a probiotic as dogs cannot produce Omega 3 themselves.3 There are two kinds of Omega 3 that you should look for in a supplement: DHA and EPA.
Smith specifically recommends Wholistic Pet Organics Canine Complete Multivitamins. The vitamin includes both DHA and EPA and all other necessary nutrients in a tasty chewable or granules that can be mixed with food.
Be choosey with the type of supplement and food you select as they are not created equal. Dr. Downing suggests working with your veterinarian to decide what dosage is appropriate for your Yorkie.
Copper & zinc
If your Yorkie is losing hair or they have a dull, dry haircoat with faded color, it could mean they’re deficient in copper. Likewise, deficiencies in zinc can leave your Yorkie with hair loss, skin ulcers, and areas of thickened or cracked skin, particularly over joints and on foot pads.1
The good news is that many Yorkie skin conditions can be resolved quickly when appropriate amounts of Omega 3, zinc, and copper are added to your dog’s diet.1
Just like with humans, Yorkie skin issues can develop due to allergies. Allergies are the immune system’s response to certain proteins inhaled, eaten, or touched by the skin.
Veterinarian Judy Morgan suggests that the health of a dog’s diet greatly affects whether or not the dog’s immune system will react to these proteins.4 Generally speaking, the more raw and nutritionally balanced the diet is, the better outcome you will have. Talk to your vet about ways to improve your Yorkie’s food.
There are several different types of Yorkie allergies. One of the most common types of Yorkie skin allergies causing problems is atopic dermatitis.
Ten to 15% of all dogs will develop atopic dermatitis, although Yorkies are less likely than some other breeds.5 It is an allergen to inhaled substances such as mold spores, grass, or plant pollen.
Atopic dermatitis manifests itself in watery eyes (which may also lead to Yorkie tear stains), sneezing, and, most often, in excessive itching that can cause hair loss, redness, and thickening of skin. Most often it affects the feet, flanks, ears, armpits, or groin.
Often, signs of atopic dermatitis will be seasonal and worse in spring and summer. These signs also tend to increase and decrease in severity.6
Puppies as young as three months old may develop these symptoms. However, they tend to be mild in youth and become more pronounced by age three. The allergy often resolves by age six.
To determine the source of the allergen, veterinarians may perform tests to eliminate other possible causes. Treatments vary but may include immunotherapy, medication, avoidance of substances, and bathing and coat hygiene.
Contact dermatitis can occur at any age and is a direct result of the irritating nature of the offending compound, such as plants, sap, road salt or mulch. This type of allergy is less common as the Yorkie’s coat acts, in a way, as a protective barrier. But, if the irritating source does touch the skin, it could result in a rash, bumps, itching or swelling at the point of contact.
Treatment for contact dermatitis begins with the removal of the irritant. Bathe your Yorkie with a shampoo containing soothing ingredients like oatmeal. Your vet may then prescribe anti-inflammatory medication such as Benadryl. Patch tests may also be prescribed to determine the source of irritation.
Food & medicine
Only a small percentage of allergies are food-related.7 However, new food allergies can pop up despite your pup never having a previous reaction.
Food allergies could trigger skin inflammation in one region or all over the body.4 Additionally, your Yorkie may experience itchy feet or rear-end, hives, facial swelling, ear inflammation, gastrointestinal problems, diarrhea, or gas.
Your vet may make recommendations on diet changes. He or she may also prescribe an elimination diet to determine the source of the allergen.
6. Fleas or mites
Pests such as fleas or mites may be causing irritation to your Yorkie’s skin.
Fleas are dark brown parasites that feed off of your dog. They can be seen moving quickly on the skin. Flea bites are itchy and you may notice your Yorkie biting, scratching, or over-grooming, which can lead to bald patches on their coat.
Some dogs may be allergic to proteins in the flea’s saliva, which can cause scabs, rashes, and even more itching. Fleas are, in fact, the number one allergen to dogs.
Yorkie ear mites are also parasites, but have a grayish-white color and look a lot like dandruff. They feed off the dog’s dead skin cells. You can spot mites by their active movement, but unlike fleas, they don’t jump. Mites can cause excessive itching, and your Yorke’s skin can become crusty, scaly, or inflamed. Sometimes this will lead to bald patches on their coat.
Fleas and mites can be deterred with chemical treatments, such as sprays, collars, or tablets. If you prefer a more natural approach, you could try essential oils in sprays, tinctures, or shampoos. It may take more time, attention, and work to use natural methods effectively, but they may be less toxic to your Yorkie.
As always, talk to your vet before choosing your method.
7. Low humidity
Heated homes during the winter months or climates with low humidity levels can also cause dry, itchy skin for your Yorkie.4 Encourage your Yorkie to drink more water during these months and use a cool-mist humidifier to increase humidity levels.
Also, avoid giving baths too often and use a dog shampoo with fewer chemical irritants and more natural ingredients.
8. Other health issues
There are numerous Yorkie skin diseases and other Yorkie health problems that could be causing skin issues for your dog. Most issues will be caused by one of the above problems, but if you suspect one of the following issues, consult a veterinarian.
Color Dilution Alopecia
Color Dilution Alopecia is a genetic condition affecting a handful of dog breeds with fawn or blue coats, including the Yorkshire Terrier.8 You may first notice a dry, dull, brittle haircoat and hair loss eventually leading to dry, flaky and itchy skin. Small infections may form at the hair follicle.
Typically Color Dilution Alopecia begins to affect dogs from six months to three years old.9 Other Yorkie health issues, such as hypothyroidism, can make Color Dilution Alopecia worse. Contact your vet before attempting any treatments on your own.
Despite its name, ringworm (or Dermatophytosis), is not actually a parasitic worm, but a superficial fungal skin disease, commonly found in Yorkshire Terriers.15 It is more likely to be found in puppies or canines with compromised immune systems.10
The most visible sign is patchy hair loss around the face, ears, feet, and tail. On the skin it appears as raised, red, round rashes that are sometimes itchy. Often, the inflamed lesions heal from the center leaving dry, scaly centers that become irritated or scab.11
Ringworm is highly contagious, spreading by contact with an infected person, animal or object, but usually through the shedding of infected hair.11 Since ringworm affects the top layer of skin, topical medication is usually enough to kill the fungus.
However, your vet may also prescribe an oral antifungal medication and a medicated shampoo. Additionally, it is important to clean areas where spores may have fallen, such as carpets and bedding.
Home remedies for Yorkie itching
While you and your vet are in the process of identifying the root cause of your Yorkie’s skin issues, you may find the following suggestions helpful in temporarily relieving irritated skin. It must be said, however, that it is always wise to consult with your vet before using any treatment.
1. Coconut oil
Natural oils, such as coconut oil, often contain anti-inflammatory, antifungal, and antibacterial properties that aid in attacking skin problems. Applied to the skin, the saturated fatty acid of coconut oil, lauric acid, can aid in soothing and moisturizing irritated skin.
Melt a small amount in your hands before massaging it into your dog’s skin. Brush through the coat after applying to evenly distribute oil.
2. Aloe gel
The aloe plant has elements that make it antifungal, antimicrobial and antiviral.12 Additionally, studies have shown that aloe can help wounds heal faster and fight infection.13
In digging into the literature, we did find a study that found clear evidence that the liquid portion of the aloe leaf is cancerous to rats (although not mice), if ingested at high levels.14 But it does not appear that there is any evidence of harm when applied to the skin at moderate levels.
So, as long as Fido is not eating the aloe, it appears to be safe when used on his skin.
3. Gold Bond
Gold Bond Medicated Powder is thought to help relieve itching, although the FDA has not yet approved it for canines. Some of our research suggests that if ingested it may cause an upset stomach at most.
If your Yorkie is miserable and you suspect the culprit is allergies, ask your vet about an antihistamine like Benadryl or Chlor-Trimeton.
5. Essential oils
Some dog owners have had good results using essential oils to calm skin irritations. Oils like lavender, calendula flower, basil, chamomile, oregano, peppermint, or rosemary may be good options. Many are anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal.
Take caution with essential oils, however, as some can pose serious side effects.
Bottom line: Heal your Yorkie’s itchy skin!
If you think your precious pooch has a skin issue, work with your veterinarian to determine the root of the issue. Don’t be satisfied to deal with the symptoms alone. The symptoms are telling you there is a bigger problem. Your Yorkie will thank you by allowing you to give him a rub on the belly! And that makes it all worth it.
If you’ve had a success story with your Yorkie, we’d love to hear it! Let us know in the comments what Yorkie skin issues you’ve overcome.
- Downing, Dr. Robin. “Nutrition, Skin, and Dogs.” VCA, https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/nutrition-skin-and-dogs.
- Bassingthwaighte, Dr. Edward. “10 Steps To Manage Dog Skin Conditions.” Dogs Naturally, https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/10-steps-to-manage-dog-skin-conditions/.
- Smith, Dr. Deborah. “What Should I Feed My Dog?” Treehousevet.com, https://www.treehousevet.com/whatshouldifeedmydog.pml.
- “Dog Skin Allergies and Conditions.” Darwin’s Natural Pet Products, 28 Apr. 2019, https://www.darwinspet.com/health-issues/dog-skin-allergy-conditions/.
- “Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs – Veterinary Partner.” VeterinaryPartner, 26 Apr. 2018, https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239&id=4951973.
- “Atopy – An Allergic Skin Reaction.” Vetstreet, 7 Mar. 2014, http://www.vetstreet.com/care/atopy-an-allergic-skin-reaction.
- “What Every Pet Owner Should Know about Food Allergies.” Cummings Veterinary Medical Center, 30 Jan. 2017, https://vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2017/01/food-allergies/.
- Kim, JH; Kang, KI; Sohn, HJ; Woo, GH; Jean, YH; Hwang, EK. “Color-dilution alopecia in dogs.” PubMed, Sept. 2005, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16131833.
- “Color Dilution Alopecia in Dogs.” Vetinfo, https://www.vetinfo.com/color-dilution-alopecia-in-dogs.html.
- Cafarchia, C; Romito, D; Sasanelli, M; Lia, R; Capelli, G; Otranto, D. “The epidemiology of canine and feline dermatophytoses in southern Italy.” PubMed, Dec. 2004, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15601458.
- Burke, Anna. “Ringworm in Dogs — Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention.” AKC, 9 Nov. 2016, https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/ringworm-in-dogs/.
- Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel. “Final report on the safety assessment of AloeAndongensis Extract, Aloe Andongensis Leaf Juice, aloe Arborescens Leaf Extract, Aloe Arborescens Leaf Juice, Aloe Arborescens Leaf Protoplasts, Aloe Barbadensis Flower Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Extract, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Juice, aloe Barbadensis Leaf Polysaccharides, Aloe Barbadensis Leaf Water, Aloe Ferox Leaf Extract, Aloe Ferox Leaf Juice, and Aloe Ferox Leaf Juice Extract.” PubMed, 2007, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17613130.
- Drudi, D; Tinto, D; Ferranti. D; Fiorelli, F; Pozzo, MD; Capitani, O. “Aloe barbadensis miller versus silver sulfadiazine creams for wound healing by secondary intention in dogs and cats: A randomized controlled study.” PubMed, Apr. 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29131970.
- National Toxicology Program. “Toxicology and Carcinogenesis Studies of a Nondecolorized Whole Leaf Extract of Aloe Barbadensis Miller (Aloe Vera) in F344/N Rats and B6C3F1 Mice (Drinking Water Studies).” August 2013, NTP, https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/ntp/htdocs/lt_rpts/tr577_508.pdf.
- Moriello, K., Coyner, K., Paterson, S., Mignon, B. “Diagnosis and treatment of dermatophytosis in dogs and cats.: Clinical Consensus Guidelines of the World Association for Veterinary Dermatology.” Veterinary Dermatology. June 2017. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28516493.