Yorkie Life Expectancy

Yorkie Life Expectancy

As a Yorkie owner, one of the biggest questions you will likely face as your Yorkie puppy grows is, what is the average lifespan of my Yorkie? How long can you expect your Yorkshire Terrier to be around? Here’s what you should know about a Yorkie lifespan.

What Is a Dog’s Average Lifespan? How Long Do Yorkies Live?

You can expect your Yorkie to live somewhere between 12 and 15 years, with a median expectancy of 13.5 years of age. On average, female Yorkshire Terriers live an extra one-and-a-half years compared to males. While compared to us humans this obviously isn’t exceptionally long, however, in the United States the average age of the dog sits is 12.5 years of age, putting the Yorkie slightly ahead. So if you take good care of your Yorkie then he/she should be around a long time.

What to Know About Teacup Yorkie Lifespan

Sophie – Courtesy of Charlene L.

We can extrapolate two main causes for the Yorkshire Terrier’s above national average lifespan.

First and foremost, toy dog breeds tend to just live longer than large dogs.

Secondly, of all breeds the Yorkshire Terrier is one of the most healthy. The majority of health issues known to confront Yorkies are not fatal.

Still, teacup Yorkies deserve extra consideration. A teacup Yorkie isn’t its own breed: it’s just a very small Yorkshire Terrier.

The average teacup Yorkie lifespan is just 7 to 9 years.

That’s far below the average Yorkie life expectancy because these very tiny dogs are prone to more serious health problems and they’re at a high risk of death by injury. Even a fall from a sofa or being accidentally stepped on can be enough to kill an otherwise healthy teacup Yorkie. They’re also prone to being attacked by other dogs unfortunately because of their smaller size. So if you plan on having a teacup Yorkie you should be very aware of your dog’s safety when it’s around other dogs and maybe consider keeping your teacup the only dog in the house.

Common Causes of Death in Yorkshire Terriers

Gracelynn – Courtesy of Ashley F

Not too long ago, the University of Georgia conducted a more than two decades long study into the top causes of death in dogs. Of the nearly 75,000 dogs seen in the study, several hundred were Yorkshire Terriers.

As a result of the study, they found that the number one cause of death in Yorkie puppies – Yorkshire Terriers under the age of one year – is, not completely unsurprisingly, infection. More specifically, the following infections:


Distemper is a highly contagious infection of the gastrointestinal tract, and/or the respiratory tract. Coughing and weakness are early signs to look out for, and it will develop into diarrhea. Eventually it will spread to the spinal cord and brain of the puppy, and at this point it will be fatal.


In spite of Leptospirosis being a deadly disease in the canine world, many areas do not promote compulsory leptospirosis inoculation. There are many possible forms leptospirosis can take, however the lethal strain will cause liver and kidney damage. It is contracted by way of infected urine, from woodland wildlife such as raccoons and skunks, for example. 


Like Distemper, Parvovirus can be vaccinated against. Often simply referred to as Parvo, Parvovirus attacks the immune system and the gastrointestinal tract. You can expect some intense diarrhea and vomiting, causing a fatal dehydration pretty rapidly. It is incredibly contagious for any unvaccinated Yorkie.

For Yorkies of 1 year and older, the top causes were found to be the following:

Respiratory Disease

Respiratory disease is the leading cause of death amongst adult Yorkies, accounting for 16% of all deaths. Yorkshire Terriers hold the third highest rate of deaths by respiratory disease in dogs, behind the Bulldog at 18.2% and the Borzoi at 16.3%. The three types of respiratory illness that Yorkies have been found to be susceptible to are pulmonary fibrosis, brachycephalic airway syndrome, and collapsed trachea.

As far as senior dogs are concerned, gradual degenerative changes expected with old age that can disrupt normal lung performance can cause the lungs to become more vulnerable to airborne toxins and pathogens.

Remember that Yorkshire Terriers are very prone to collapsed trachea but there is something you can do to prevent it. Always use a soft no-pull dog harness instead of a collar on your Yorkie.


Accounting for 11.% of all deaths, cancer is the second-most prevalent cause of Yorkie deaths, despite cancer not being a leading cause of death in most toy dog breeds. A variety of cancers, such as mast cell tumors, mammary gland tumors, lymphoma, bone cancer, and soft tissue sarcomas are all fairly common among Yorkshire Terriers.

If caught early enough, however, 50% of all cancers can be curable. If your female Yorkie is spayed, the risk of developing mammary cancer is greatly decreased.


Trauma is the second leading cause of death for Yorkie pups, and the 3rd leading cause for adults. Almost 11% of Yorkshire Terrier deaths are caused by trauma, and as you would expect, almost all cases could have been prevented. Death by trauma included fatal injury to the head and/or body, involving injuries from:

  • Being dropped
  • Being stepped on
  • Being tripped over
  • Being hit by a car
  • Being involved in a car accident as a passenger
  • Being accidentally knocked down the stairs

All of these examples could have been avoided, and were it not for incidents like these the average Yorkshire Terrier life span would increase dramatically.

Congenital Disease

The fourth leading cause of death among Yorkshire Terriers is congenital disease. Congenital disease makes up 10.5% of all Yorkie deaths, and includes all disease and conditions that are present at birth.

Liver shunts, also referred to as portosystemic shunts, are something of a common occurrence in Yorkies. In the US alone, Yorkshire Terriers have a greater chance by a factor of 36 of developing liver shunts than all other purebred dogs put together. This condition causes an inadequate level of blood flow to the liver, and can sometimes be fatal. Despite being born with the condition, the pup may show no signs until the age of 1 or above. The following are some symptoms your Yorkie may show should their blood vessel may have been shunted:

  • Weakness
  • Poor growth rates
  • Seizures
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Increased thirst
  • Increased urination
  • Excessive drooling
  • Seizures
  • Behavioral changes

Clinical indications can appear 1 to 3 hours after meals, as toxins regularly destined for the liver will instead reach the Yorkie’s brain.

It can be diagnosed via ultrasound, blood testing, dye studies or x-rays, and, for minor cases, treatment can be administered with medications, or by simply altering the Yorkie’s diet. While it is possible for some dogs to live with this condition so long as being treated by non-invasive means, the lifespan of the dog will be reduced dramatically. Moderate to severe cases are treated with surgery. Of those that show clinical signs and changes to procedure and don’t proceed with the surgical procedure, over 50% will die within a year. Luckily, the survival rate of the surgery is 95%. Of that, 33% will continue to have some blood flow issues, however only some 15% will show any clinical signs.

If you find that your Yorkie has a liver shunt the owner of this site strongly encourages you to check out doglivershunt.com. Rick can coach you on managing your dog’s liver shunt for a longer and happier life using natural means.

How to Extend Your Yorkie’s Lifespan

average lifespan of a yorkie

Courtesy of Annette Walters

There are many things you can do to give your Yorkie as long a life as possible, especially when it comes to causes of death such as trauma. The great care you provide your Yorkshire Terrier from day one through adulthood and into their senior years will have a fantastic, lasting impact on your Yorkie’s health and lifespan.

Stay on Top of Vaccinations

As mentioned before, infections are the number 1 cause of death with regards to Yorkie puppies, and are absolutely a concern for older dogs as well. Therefore, you should absolutely keep up with your Yorkie’s vaccinations. You should not be taking your Yorkie beyond the boundaries of your property until no fewer than 2 weeks after bringing them home, and should any other animals have access to the yard then your pup should be kept under close guard and not allowed anywhere near any urine or feces, from pets or otherwise.

If you reside in an area highly populated with wildlife, speak to your vet with regards to the possible need for the leptospirosis vaccine.

Avoid Potential Hazards in Your Home

It’s important to remember the average Yorkie weighs only 5 to 7 pounds, and if something is going to be toxic to a large dog, it’ll be extra toxic to a dog as small as your Yorkie. It’s vital, as a result of this, to be aware of what household items you may have laying around that can be potentially (although not necessary) fatal to a Yorkshire Terrier should they ingest it. Watch out for items such as:

  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Antifreeze
  • Avocado
  • Bleach
  • Chocolate
  • Citronella candles
  • Cold medicines
  • Diet pills
  • Fabric softener
  • Fruit pits
  • Garlic
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Household plants
  • Laundry detergents
  • Liquid Potpourri
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Mothballs
  • Mouse and rat bait
  • Mouthwash
  • Onions
  • Painkillers
  • Raw salmon
  • Rhubarb
  • Salt
  • Tylenol
  • Vitamins
  • Xylitol inclusive products
  • Yeast dough

Some of the symptoms to be expected should any of the above items be ingested include a loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting. If this happens, your Yorkie could then become hypoglycemic and dehydrated, and the smaller they are the more susceptible they are.

Should you suspect that something from the above list has been ingested, you should immediately get in contact with your vet. 

Prevent the Opportunity for Injuries

Yorkie lifespan

Mickey – Courtesy of Richard Cappiello

With trauma being the 2nd leading cause of death in Yorkshire Terrier puppies, and the 3rd leading cause with adults, it’s vital that as much attention as possible is put toward providing a safe environment for your Yorkie.

One of the first and best steps to tackle is teaching your Yorkie all the basic commands, such as “sit” and “come.” Should your Yorkie be running toward a busy road, a simple, authoritative command such as this could very well save their life.

At no time while outside in public with your Yorkie should they be let off of their leash. This runs the risk of them being hit by a vehicle, one of the greatest causes of fatal traumas. They should especially never be left alone, even if in an enclosed yard. Your Yorkie will be more than capable of digging under the fence.

Everyone in the house should be acutely aware that Yorkshire Terriers have the capability to appear out of nowhere, right under your foot without warning. Always take care to look before walking, be extra alert in darkened rooms, pay special attention when walking backward, and absolutely look before sitting down. Ensure that your Yorkie will have a designated sleeping area, such as a playpen, that they cannot escape at night so as to avoid any potential night time accidents.

Be conscious of the fact that, like any dog, or any pet for that matter, should you open the front door without paying attention to where your Yorkie is you could soon be seeing them making a belt for the horizon. If your Yorkie pup tends to go for the door when it opens, perhaps try introducing a rule whereby everyone knocks first, to allow time to secure the pup.

Being that Yorkshire Terriers are such a small breed, any drops or falls can be detrimental to their health. Ensure proper care is taken when picking up and holding your Yorkie, and make sure any children have been taught how to do this properly. While you are holding your Yorkie, don’t split your attention or they may try to jump from your arms. Be aware at all times just how fragile toy dog breeds such as Yorkshire Terriers can be.

Use a no-pull dog harness like this one to prevent a collapsed trachea, a potentially life-threatening condition.

Manage Hypoglycemia

yorkie life expectancy

Gemma – Courtesy of Tonya Gaskins

Hypoglycemia is more commonly seen in toy breed dogs, such as Yorkies, and if it is to occur it generally will within the first 4 months. This can be quite a typical health issue, and one you should keep your eye out for as a new owner.

While much rarer, an adult Yorkshire Terrier can also develop hypoglycemia, most often being brought on as a result of liver disease, severe cases of Addison’s Disease, sepsis, or pregnancy complications.

Symptoms to look out for include the following:

  • Weakness
  • Drowsiness
  • Shaking
  • Tremors
  • Seizures
  • Fainting
  • Muscle weakness
  • Confused behavior
  • Lower than normal body temperature
  • Depression

It should be mentioned that not all of the symptoms will necessarily be displayed, or they could happen in such quick succession that some go unnoticed. You should keep an incredibly close eye on your Yorkie should any of these symptoms appear, and immediately seek the medical attention of your vet.

As soon as you notice the symptoms of hypoglycemia, it is recommended that you rub honey on your Yorkie’s gums. You should then place warm heating pads around the body to slowly bring their temperature up. These steps will help stabilize the pup so that you are then able to rush them to the vet, or even to the animal hospital.

For adult dogs with hypoglycemia, feeding them regular small meals, high in protein, fat, and complex carbohydrates throughout the day will beneficial to their wellbeing. Hypoglycemic Yorkies can also benefit from a nutritional supplement in their food like Tomlyn High Calorie Nutritional Gel for Puppies. You can also give it as a treat between meals to keep their blood sugar at proper levels.

Our Yorkie Feeding Guide offers more care guidelines for your hypoglycemic Yorkie.

Making The Right Decision:

25% of dogs die peacefully at their sleep while 75% of them relies on the decisions of the owners for a ‘peaceful’ sleep.

Letting a loved one go is painful, so giving the green light for putting it to bed forever can be devastating. But it is extremely important to keep the feelings of the dog first in mind before making a decision. If the dog is in constant pain or is struggling to breathe and there is nothing that can be done, it is better to let go because that is the right decision.


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