If you have a Yorkshire Terrier, you know how beautiful their famous, glossy coats can be. Yorkie hair has a bit of a reputation in the dog show circuit. Unfortunately, ailments like allergies, stress, or disease can rob a Yorkie of their natural beauty.
While usually not life-threatening, if you do find that your Yorkie is losing hair, you need to take the situation seriously. Read on for a rundown of Yorkie hair loss causes.
In this guide:
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Why is my Yorkie losing hair?
Yorkies don’t shed like dog breeds with an undercoat. So if your Yorkie is losing hair, something may be wrong. Some of the underlying causes of Yorkie hair loss are relatively harmless, but other causes can be quite dangerous and may require medical attention. Here are the main reasons your Yorkie may be losing hair on their back, head, or other areas of their body.
Yorkies are a tough little breed, but behind that hardy bark is a real sensitivity to allergies. Reactions to common substances such as mold, yeast, dust, certain bacteria, and pollen can lead to atopic dermatitis.11 This condition is usually accompanied by frequent biting, licking, and gnawing of the inflamed skin, leading to patchy hair loss.
Your vet can test for sensitivity to allergens. The procedure usually consists of either a topical skin test or a blood test.
Treatment for an allergy-prone Yorkie should always address the dry, irritated Yorkie skin as well. The sooner healing can be promoted in the inflamed skin, the faster Yorkie hair loss can be reversed and a pup’s coat can be returned to its former beauty.
Ticks, mites, and fleas have long been a scourge of dogs everywhere, and Yorkies are no exception. Because of their delicate, silky coats, the scratching and irritation associated with these pests are even more likely to cause hair loss in Yorkies.
One of the most common pests for Yorkies are ear mites. These troublesome stowaways take up residence in your dog’s ears, creating conditions that can cause ear infections and irritation. This irritation usually results in excessive scratching, which often leads to patchy hair loss.
Mange is another condition known to do a great deal of damage to a dog’s coat. Mange is a parasitic skin disease caused by mites living either under the skin (sarcoptic mange) or within the hair follicles (demodectic mange).12 These mites cause significant irritation in the skin and hair follicles, resulting in large patches of hair loss.
While there are a number of mange treatments available, the best defense against mange is a healthy immune system. Dogs with healthy immune systems can typically prevent mites from overpopulating their skin. So if a dog is suffering from mange, it may be an indication that a more serious health issue is present.
If your dog is showing signs of mange, play it safe and call your vet for a general checkup and to discuss treatment options.
Pyoderma and other bacterial infections
Essentially a dog version of the impetigo commonly found in human children, pyoderma is a bacterial skin infection.13 This infection causes red, pimple-like rashes which result in itchy patches of skin and temporary hair loss.
Pyoderma is usually diagnosed by a visual inspection at the vet, but more conclusive skin scrapings or blood tests may also be used.
Treatment of pyoderma typically includes a multi-week oral antibiotic combined with a topical spray and sometimes a steroid to help with the inflammation. Regular bathing and a healthy immune system help prevent recurrence once the infection has disappeared.
Another common skin infection that may cause hair loss in dogs is ringworm. This condition isn’t actually caused by a worm but rather an aggressive fungus that feeds off of the skin and hair follicles. Yorkshire Terriers can be particularly susceptible to this fungal infection, which is usually caused by coming in contact with contaminated objects or other infected animals.14
One of the most common symptoms of ringworm is hair loss around the site of infection, usually in a circular pattern, accompanied by scaly inflammation of the skin.
While not terribly serious, ringworm can spread to other pets and humans, so prompt treatment is recommended. Treatment is usually a topical cream or spray along with a medicated shampoo to help prevent the spread.
Another ailment that may strike Yorkies is leather ear. This condition is thought to be fungal, but it is not well understood. The most prevalent signs of leather ear are hair loss and darkened patches of skin on and around the ears.
Treatment varies, but many have reported success using anti-fungal creams and apple cider vinegar after consulting with their vets to rule out other types of infections.
Color dilution alopecia (CDA)
Color dilution alopecia, or CDA, is a genetic condition that causes hair thinning and patchy hair loss. The condition is often accompanied by itchy skin and a bluish pigmentation of the lips, eyelids, and noses.15
“The actual cause of CDA is poorly understood,” says Dr. Robin Downing. “Dogs with CDA tend to have abnormalities in the hair follicles themselves, causing them to self-destruct, making it impossible for them to grow new hairs.”
While the condition does impact a dog’s appearance, it does not pose a significant health risk. As a genetic condition, treatment for CDA is limited, though some owners have reported some success using a strict pescatarian protein diet accompanied by apple cider vinegar, vitamin A, fish oil, and melatonin supplements. As with any nutrition or supplement regimens, you should consult your veterinarian before making any changes to your dog’s diet.
Though fairly rare among dogs, hyperthyroidism is a serious condition that causes increased metabolic activity (think appetite and water consumption). This can lead to stress on the heart and kidneys, eventually resulting in significant medical issues.
The most common cause of hyperthyroidism is tumor-related. However, some research indicates that certain raw diets may contribute to an overactive thyroid.
“To avoid diet-induced hyperthyroidism in your raw-fed pet, my recommendation is to make sure you are feeding a variety of protein sources and cuts of meat (thigh meat, etc.),” says Dr. Karen Becker, “so that your dog isn’t eating a steady diet of raw, meaty bones/necks that could contain active thyroid tissue.”
In cases of diet-induced hyperthyroidism, changes in nutrition sources appear to quickly address the underlying causes, and most dogs see a speedy return to normal thyroid function.16 Tumor-related thyroid issues are more difficult to address, and in either case, we strongly recommend you consult your veterinarian.
Hyperadrenocorticism, which is also known as Cushing’s disease, is caused by a sustained increase of the hormone cortisol in a dog’s body.17 The underlying increase in cortisol is typically caused by either dysfunction in the pituitary or the adrenal glands.18
Symptoms of Cushing’s disease include hair loss, increased thirst and appetite, darkening pigmentation of the skin, and an extended abdomen.
Cushing’s disease is most common among senior dogs, although it can occur in dogs of all ages.
Treatment of Cushing’s disease can be challenging and medication is generally used to manage the symptoms. With early detection and patience, a balance in treatment can often be found, enabling a dog to live a full life.
Anxiety and nervous licking
Some hair loss can be the result of pure boredom or stress. As Yorkies experience phases of elevated stress or anxiety, they may resort to habitual chewing, licking, or biting on various parts of the body.
Eventually, chronic licking and biting can lead to neurogenic dermatitis, an irritation and inflammation of the skin around the target area. Typically, the inflammation causes discomfort that leads to a cycle of more licking and biting, often causing patches of hair loss and severe irritation.
The causes of neurogenic dermatitis are numerous, but, generally, ensuring a dog feels safe, connected to his humans, and mentually stimulated will help reduce or remove many of the underlying psychological causes.
Additional treatment of the physical inflammation through ointments and steroids may be required in order to return the skin to a healthy state that is less tempting to itch and bite.
If your pup is exhibiting any of the signs of neurogenic dermatitis, a consultation with your veterinarian is in order. Other possible causes, such as allergies and other medical conditions, will need to be ruled out.
Though far more common in larger, heavier breeds, pressure sores can be a source of bald spots on your Yorkie. Pressure sores are especially common on older dogs who are less mobile and spend more time laying in the same position.
Pressure sores usually develop as a result of putting repeated, regular pressure on the same parts of the body (especially where the dog’s elbows and hips come into contact with hard surfaces).
To treat pressure sores, try providing a soft but supportive dog bed, ideally made from high-density memory foam. If your dog has a favorite resting spot on a hard tile or wood surface, try placing a bed in that spot and encourage them to lay on that instead.
Frequent changes in position will also ensure no parts of the body are receiving too much pressure and will help prevent pressure sores from developing.
If you have an older dog who lies in a favorite position much of the time, try to adjust their body to allow other parts of the skin to bear their naptime weight. Wedging a small pillow beside them or encouraging your pup to rest in a new place can help relieve some pressure and keep the skin and coat healthy.
>> Read more: These Are the Most Common Yorkie Health Issues
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How to treat & prevent Yorkie hair loss
If you see signs of hair loss on your Yorkie, don’t panic. Most issues related to hair loss are treatable, and chances are you will be able to get to the bottom of the cause after a few weeks of testing.
That being said, hair loss should be taken seriously and some causes, such as hyperthyroidism, Cushing’s disease, and pyoderma will require treatment and prescriptions from your veterinarian. Always consult a vet if you are unsure why your Yorkie’s hair is falling out. Their experience will help you understand the underlying issues, and the peace of mind will be worth it.
In addition to a vet consultation, here are some very helpful and holistic steps you can take to put your dog in the best possible position to fight off hair loss.
1. Make sure your Yorkie is getting enough nutrition
Preventing Yorkie hair loss starts with nutrition. Nutritional deficiencies often lead to a host of health issues, including dull and lifeless canine coats. Dogs that suffer from poor nutrition can develop dry, coarse hair and many other problems.1
A high-quality Yorkie diet will include a variety of essential nutrients, but at the top of the list are four crucial elements:
Omega-3 fatty acids
These little lipids pack an enormous punch when it comes to your dog’s hair and overall health. In addition to helping the skin produce healthy, resilient cells, omega-3s have other long-term benefits that include heart health, fighting inflammation, and helping with canine arthritis.2
Additional research has shown that omega-3s should be a permanent part of your pup’s diet.3 Short-term supplements have short-term benefits, but making omega-3s a regular part of your Yorkie’s diet ensures the shine-inducing results stay around long term.
Omega-3s can be found in fish oil and flaxseed, though fish oil is a preferable efficient source.7 After checking with your veterinarian, add about 1 tablespoon of flax or 1 teaspoon of fish oil to each pound of dog food to give your pup the extra omega-3 they need.
The omega-6 fatty acid known as linoleic acid is an essential part of your dog’s diet. Deficiencies in linoleic acid lead to poor hair and skin health, immune system issues, and other health risks.7
Linoleic acid can be found in sunflower seeds, poultry (especially poultry fats), and eggs. As with anything food related, too much of a good thing is possible, so consult with your vet before making any major diet changes for your dog.
Despite the fact that a diet lacking enough zinc can lead to a host of health issues, this nutrient tends to be overlooked by many dog parents. Zinc is an enabler, helping the body perform many functions with efficiency.
A dog lacking zinc is going to face serious issues like poor digestive absorption and a diminished immune system.
One of the tell-tale signs of zinc deficiency is patchy, inflamed skin, known as dermatitis. This uncomfortable ailment will make your poor pup miserable and will likely lead to scratching, gnawing, and other behaviors that will damage both their skin and their hair.
Luckily, adding zinc into your pup’s diet isn’t hard. Additional, non-processed meats like beef, chicken, and halibut are a great source of zinc. Eggs can also be a tasty remedy. Additionally, fish oil also contains zinc, so it can do double-duty if you’re already supplying it for omega-3s.
Biotin, also known as Vitamin B7 or Vitamin H, is an important factor in a healthy coat. Biotin supports very important things like healthy connective tissue, metabolism and digestion, as well as new cell formation. This means Biotin plays a critical role in maintaining healthy dog skin, hair, and nails.
It is important to understand that Biotin cannot be created by your dog’s body and must be obtained through diet and supplements. If your pup’s coat is becoming brittle, dull, or if they are experiencing skin inflammation, low Biotin levels could be to blame.
Thankfully, Biotin can be found naturally in common foods like cooked eggs, sardines, cauliflower, peanut butter, legumes, blueberries, and bananas. Avoid feeding your dog raw eggs, though. In addition to carrying the small risk of salmonella, raw egg whites contain a protein called avidin, which binds to biotin and can block absorption.
In addition to these natural sources, Biotin is also added to dog coat and skin supplements which makes it easy to maintain healthy levels of the vitamin.
A balanced diet can help bring a Yorkie’s dull coat back to life and help your pup in so many other ways. If you’re worried they are not getting enough of the good stuff from their regular diet, you can toss in a great source of omega-3s such as fish oil.
Dr. Deborah E. Linder of the Tufts Obesity Clinic for Animals warns that diets higher in fat content are not without their risks, though. “Be aware, however, that not all pets should have high-fat diets…obesity, diarrhea, and pancreatitis have been linked to high fat, calorie-dense diets, so talk with your veterinarian first before switching.”4
This is especially true with smaller breeds like the Yorkshire Terrier, which are prone to developing diet-induced pancreatitis more easily than other breeds.
If you want to take the guesswork out of it, pre-portioned meal plans, such as Nom Nom or Ollie Dog Food, come tailor-made for your pup’s breed, age, and level of activity, so you know they’re getting the nutrients and calorie count they need. Or you can check out our list of the best dog food for Yorkies for other options.
2. Check your Yorkie’s skin for signs of irritation
Keeping the skin healthy is key to preventing Yorkie scratching and losing hair. Yorkies with chronic allergies develop habitual scratching and harsh self-grooming that can result in permanent damage to their skin and coat.
Finding the root cause of your Yorkie’s itchy skin, reducing your pup’s contact with allergens, and keeping their environment clean will help keep the scratching to a minimum. Your poor pup will be much happier and comfortable while also looking great.
It is also important to use healthy and natural products on your dog’s skin. Research suggests that keeping your dog’s skin pH levels stable and the skin biome healthy leads to long resilience against diseases and skin conditions.5 Many of these diseases can greatly damage a Yorkie’s skin and ultimately lead to an unhealthy coat and an unhappy pup.
Dust mites are another allergen that can be particularly troublesome for our little canine friends.6 Sensitivity to dust mites can lead to skin swelling, rashes, and chronic itching that damages a delicate Yorkie coat. While completely ridding your home of mites is tough (you can’t, really) there are some things you can do to help:
- Regularly wash your pup’s bedding (weekly) to cut down on any mites hiding in the fabrics
- Move your dog’s bed to a non-carpeted/hard surface area (dust mites love carpeting)
- Dust and vacuum frequently
- Add a HEPA filter to your vacuum and to your home’s heating/cooling system
- Consider putting a high-quality air purifier near your pup’s sleeping space to filter out airborne allergens.
Many pet parents have had great results using coconut oil as a skin conditioner and replenisher. Plus, coconut oil has the added side benefit of being naturally anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory.19
Place a quarter teaspoon of solidified, raw coconut oil in your palm and let your body temperature warm the oil for about thirty seconds. Then apply the softened oil to your dog’s coat, gently massaging the oil through the coat and into the skin.
To prevent a mess, be sure to keep your pup off of furniture and laps until the oil has fully absorbed.
3. Brush regularly, but gently
While it may seem counterintuitive, regular brushing—even during times of hair loss—may be an important part of keeping your Yorkie’s coat healthy.
Regular grooming helps prevent matting and tangles, which will further damage an already fragile coat. Gentle brushing also helps stimulate the skin and hair follicles, promoting good circulation to the affected areas.
Be sure to avoid brushing a Yorkie’s coat when it is dry, however. Always use a good detangling spray and don’t force knots and tangles. If you do encounter a particularly bad tangle, make sure you use the right tools for the job and take your time. You don’t want to further irritate the skin by being too aggressive.
If you are not sure which tools you will need, check out our guide to the best Yorkie brushes and combs.
4. Switch to an all-natural shampoo
It would seem reasonable that all dog shampoos are engineered with a dog’s best interests in mind, right? Unfortunately, that just isn’t the case. Plenty of shampoo makers, even some of the best-known brands, add all sorts of unnecessary and potentially irritating chemicals and additives that your pup just doesn’t need.
Take a little extra time to pick a good shampoo next time you are shopping for bath time supplies. Our guide to the best shampoo for Yorkies covers several safe, organic options that will help your Yorkie’s coat thrive.
5. Make sure your Yorkie is getting enough exercise
Exercise is one of those often overlooked but oh-so-important factors for a long, healthy Yorkie coat. We all know the general benefits of exercise, and they ring true for both us and our pups: healthy body weight, better circulation, muscle tone, and strength.
However, the not so obvious benefits we often miss are things like better digestion, emotional well-being, and immune system resilience.
Playing and pooping are weirdly connected in dogs
It may seem odd that play and exercise would impact your dog’s digestion, but the truth is, the more your pup moves, the better their body is able to move food and waste through the digestive tract.
In the puppy stage, how often did your little buddy end a raucous play session with a mad dash outside for a potty break? It turns out, that is no coincidence. “The more energy your dog expends, the faster their body will take the energy stored in their stomach and send it through their intestinal tract,” says Dr. Melinda Mayfield-Davis.8
An active pup will have a better balance of caloric intake, energy output, and nutritional absorption. All of these things help a dog’s body hit peak performance, and you’ll notice it in their healthy, shining hair.
Happy puppies will self-harm less
Exercise keeps your dog emotionally happy and engaged, which discourages depression and the scratching, gnawing, and other self-mutilation that sometimes accompanies a sad pup.
Even small breeds like Yorkies, which often don’t need as much exercise, can experience depression and stress if not given the chance to be active. Emotional stress results in unwanted behaviors and it is the skin and coat that bear the brunt of the damage.
“Increase your dog’s social interactions and exercise. Employ longer or more frequent play sessions and minimize the time your dog spends alone,” says Dr. Michelle Posage.9 Dogs that get plenty of playtime to burn off energy are less likely to damage their own coats and skin.
Active Yorkies are healthy Yorkies
Exercise, along with nutrition, is a core pillar of a Yorkie’s health. Regular exercise will boost your dog’s general health in numerous ways and is an important part of preventative care.10
Regular exercise keeps the immune system, weight, and heart health in peak shape. This conditioning prevents a lot of other health issues, many of which wreak havoc on the skin and coat.
So it pays to get your pup out there to strut their stuff. The more they exercise, the better their chance of looking healthy and turning heads.
Don’t let your Yorkie go bald!
While you can’t control everything, there are many things you can do to prevent your Yorkie’s hair from falling out. Encouraging good nutrition and exercise while keeping an eye out for more serious health issues will go a long way toward keeping your dog’s coat on track.
In most cases, your little friend will be back to beautiful in no time. And, let’s be honest, you think they are cute with or without their hair, so give them an extra squeeze either way.
If you’ve dealt with a Yorkie losing hair, we would love to hear from you! Tell us about your hair loss prevention stories in the comments below.
- Feuer, Dale. “Your Dog’s Nutritional Needs: A Science-Based Guide For Pet Owners”. National Research Council of the National Academies, 2006.
- Popa, Iuliana et al. “Analysis of epidermal lipids in normal and atopic dogs, before and after administration of an oral omega-6/omega-3 fatty acid feed supplement. A pilot study.” Veterinary research communications 35.8 (2011): 501-509.
- Rees, C.a., et al. “Effects of Dietary Flax Seed and Sunflower Seed Supplementation on Normal Canine Serum Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids and Skin and Hair Coat Condition Scores.” Veterinary Dermatology, vol. 12, no. 2, 2001, pp. 111–117., doi:10.1046/j.1365-3164.2001.00234.x.
- Linder, Deborah E., and Dacvn. “Can I Change My Pet’s Diet to Improve Skin and Coat Health?” Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School, 28 Feb. 2020, vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2019/09/can-i-change-my-pets-diet-to-improve-skin-and-coat-health/.
- Bradley, Charles W., et al. “Longitudinal Evaluation of the Skin Microbiome and Association with Microenvironment and Treatment in Canine Atopic Dermatitis.” Journal of Investigative Dermatology, vol. 136, no. 6, 2016, pp. 1182–1190., doi:10.1016/j.jid.2016.01.023.
- Mueller, R. S., et al. “Allergens in Veterinary Medicine.” Allergy, vol. 71, no. 1, Nov. 2015, pp. 27–35., doi:10.1111/all.12726.
- Heinze, Cailin R., and Dacvn. “The Skinny on Fat: Part 2 – Essential Fatty Acids and Inflammation.” Clinical Nutrition Service at Cummings School, 2 Apr. 2018, vetnutrition.tufts.edu/2018/04/essential-fatty-acids-and-inflammation/.
- Mayfield-Davis, Melinda. “How Long Does It Take a Dog to Digest Food?: Vetericyn.” Vetericyn Animal Wellness, 10 Apr. 2020, vetericyn.com/blog/how-long-does-it-take-a-dog-to-digest-food/.
- Posage, Michelle. “Dealing with Canine Self-Mutilation.” RSS, PetPlace, 25 Aug. 2015, www.petplace.com/article/dogs/pet-behavior-training/dealing-with-canine-self-mutilation/.
- Dodds, W. Jean. “PRESERVING AND IMPROVING CANINE HEALTH AND LONGEVITY.” Canine Health Project (CHP), pp. 1–10.
- The VIN Dermatology Consultants. (2018, April 26). “Atopic Dermatitis in Dogs.” Retrieved July 03, 2020, from https://veterinarypartner.vin.com/default.aspx?pid=19239
- Ward, C. (n.d.). “Demodectic Mange in Dogs.” Retrieved July 03, 2020, from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/mange-demodectic-in-dogs
- Llera, C. (2018). “Pyoderma in Dogs.” Retrieved July 03, 2020, from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/pyoderma-in-dogs
- Merchant, S., By, & Last full review/revision Jun 2018 | Content last modified Jun 2018. (n.d.). “Ringworm (Dermatophytosis) in Dogs – Dog Owners.” Retrieved July 03, 2020, from https://www.merckvetmanual.com/dog-owners/skin-disorders-of-dogs/ringworm-dermatophytosis-in-dogs
- Downing, Robin. “Color Dilution Alopecia in Dogs.” Retrieved July 04, 2020, from https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/color-dilution-alopecia-in-dogs
- Becker, K. (2014, November 4). “Can Feeding Your Pet This Raw Food Cause Thyroid Problems?” Retrieved July 05, 2020, from https://healthypets.mercola.com/sites/healthypets/archive/2014/11/04/hyperthyroidism-dogs.aspx
- Negron, V. (2015, April 24). “5 Common Causes of Hair Loss in Dogs.” Retrieved July 05, 2020, from https://www.petmd.com/dog/slideshows/general-health/common-causes-of-hair-loss-in-dogs?view_all=1
- Commissioner, O. (n.d.). “Treating Cushing’s Disease in Dogs.” Retrieved July 05, 2020, from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/treating-cushings-disease-dogs
- Peedikayi, F., Remy, V., John, S., Chandru, T., Sreenivasan, P., & Bijapur, G. (2016). “Comparison of antibacterial efficacy of coconut oil and chlorhexidine on Streptococcus mutans: An : An in vivo study.” Journal of International Society of Preventive and Community Dentistry, 6(5), 447. doi:10.4103/2231-0762.192934