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If you’re wondering about the life expectancy of your Yorkie, you’re in for some good news. Your playful pup is likely to enjoy a good, long life of between 12 to 15 years. 

How Long Do Yorkies Live? Average Lifespan & Cause of Death

Yorkie Lifespan

On average, the life expectancy for your Yorkie is about 1 year longer than the average domestic canine, which stands at 12.67 years. If you have a female Yorkie, she is likely to live 1.5 years longer than her male counterparts. 

The longer life expectancy is partly because Yorkies are one of the smallest dog breeds. Small dogs statistically are more likely to live longer because they have faster metabolisms, which helps keep them healthy well into their adulthood.


Yorkie on a sunny dayAnother contributor to the long Yorkie lifespan is that genetically speaking, they are well-equipped to avoid common canine health issues. In general, the health issues that Yorkies tend to face in their adult lives rarely are serious enough to become fatal. 

That said, there are some causes of death that are more common than others that you as a Yorkie owner should absolutely be aware of. 

Knowing the most common causes of death in Yorkies could save their life one day, so keep these in mind!

Yorkshire Terrier Leading Causes of Death

Yorkie long hair

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to use a study conducted by the University of Georgia. The observational study took place over the course of 20+ years, where researchers examined 74,556 Yorkies.

The main objective of this research was to identify any potential patterns in the Yorkie lifespan as well as what exactly caused their deaths. 

When creating the study, the researchers ultimately hoped that by using their findings, Yorkie owners like you could take precautionary measures. This is key information that could help your Yorkie live the longest life possible.

So, we compiled the research and decided to split the findings into two sections: Yorkie puppies and Yorkie adults. The findings varied slightly for both groups, so you’ll want to read depending on the age of your pup.

This research can be very beneficial if you’re looking for answers or just want to prepare. While reading, remember that Yorkies are typically very healthy dogs, so hopefully, you’ll only need to use this information in a rare emergency.

The Top Leading Cause of Death for Yorkie Puppies

The first section of the Yorkie lifespan study is the puppy category. Your little Yorkie likely has lots of joyful life left to live, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared if you see signs of these potential causes of death.

Read on for the most prevalent causes of death for Yorkies in earlier years.


The most common cause of death in Yorkie pups is unfortunately infection. This affliction can occur in a few different ways, each one with a different fatality rate when contracted. 

Below, we will detail which types of infection were found to be the most dangerous to Yorkies as well as what the risks are. 

Take your Yorkie to the Vet


Parvovirus is one of the most contagious infections that your Yorkie puppy is vulnerable to. That said, if your Yorkie is vaccinated properly, the risk of contracting Parvo is almost remote. 

This infection is a scary one, as it affects the gastrointestinal tract in dogs as well as their overall immune systems. The result if your Yorkie puppy contracts this infection is excessive vomiting, diarrhea, and in fatal cases, severe dehydration. 

It’s important to note that although the risk of contraction is very low, there is a period of vulnerability in Yorkie pups where the risk is higher. This period is the timeframe between when a puppy weans off its mother’s antibody-rich milk and when the vaccine has fully protected the pup.

To avoid a Yorkie contracting Parvovirus, it’s absolutely crucial to vaccinate your puppies for Parvo on time and research the best practices in kennel cleaning


The next potential cause of death for Yorkies is distemper. Distemper can occur in puppies if they are not immunized properly. It can also occur if they’re exposed to pathogens outside before their system is ready to combat them.

Distemper is highly contagious, so be extremely wary if your puppy shows signs of lethargy, coughing, or eventually diarrhea.

This infection can become severe in the later stages when gastrointestinal issues cause severe dehydration, similar to the effects of Parvo. 

However, it becomes lethal when the infection spreads to the spine and brain.

Luckily, there is a vaccine for this infection, so be diligent and make sure it’s on schedule.


Yorkie and her Vet

The last potentially lethal infection we’ll detail for Yorkie puppies is leptospirosis. This disease is not as common as the other two, but its effects can be severe. 

Leptospirosis, when contracted, is usually a result of a puppy exploring wildlife habitats. This infection lives in the urine of wild animals, so it’s uncommon to contract but possible if your dog walks around outside. 

Something comforting is that there are different strains of leptospirosis, and most of them aren’t severe. However, there exists a lethal strain that can be damaging to your pup’s kidneys and liver. 

If your dog has access to wildlife habitats, consider getting the optional protection for this infection early on. 


The second leading cause of death in Yorkie puppies is trauma. However, in most cases, this is completely preventable. 

Read on below for more details on trauma prevention later on. 

The 4 top Causes of Death for Adult Yorkshire Terriers 


Now that you know a bit more about the leading causes of death in Yorkie puppies, it’s important to know what to look for once they reach adult life. 

The Yorkie lifespan is long. But, in order to ensure that no complications arise, you should be aware of the 4 most prevalent health complications in adult Yorkies. 


Respiratory disease

As per the University of Georgia study, respiratory disease is the #1 cause of death in adult Yorkies, making up 16.1% of all deaths recorded. In fact, Yorkies have the 3rd-highest rate of death for this disease, exceeded only by Bulldogs and Borzois. 

In fatal cases of respiratory disease, there were three subtypes that proved to be the most dangerous. 

The first is pulmonary fibrosis, which occurs when lung tissue is damaged over time and eventually scars, lessening the functionality.

Next, brachycephalic airway syndrome refers to abnormalities in breathing due to shorter, more obstructed airways in dogs’ noses. 

Trachea collapse is the last fatal respiratory disease subtype that could potentially afflict Yorkies. Remember when you’re walking your Yorkie to put them in a harness, not a tight-collared leash as this could contribute over time.

Of course, these conditions aren’t likely to occur in early life, but it’s important to have them in mind as your Yorkie gets older.


Sick Yorkie

Like many other mammals, Yorkies have a chance of succumbing to cancer. Cancer is the second most prevalent cause of death in Yorkshire Terriers, accounting for 11.2% of cases in the study. 

This is interesting because, among other toy breeds, such as Chihuahuas and Pekingese, cancer is not included in the leading causes of death. While it affects them still, Yorkies have one of the higher death rates from cancer among small dog breeds.

Cancer in Yorkies can take a few forms, common ones being mast cell (skin cancer), lymphoma (lymph nodes), soft tissue sarcomas, and mammary gland cancers. 

These afflictions are most common in older Yorkies, but it’s always important to have this in mind so you can catch these things early. Curability rates can jump 50% if cancers are caught before they spread. 

Additionally, make sure your female Yorkie is spayed if you want to drastically reduce her risk of developing mammary cancer later on.


For Yorkie adults, unfortunately, physical trauma is the 3rd leading cause of death. In puppies, it’s actually the 2nd most prevalent fatal event. 

10.7% of Yorkies in the study passed away from some form of trauma to the head, body, or internal systems. The saddest part of a cause of death this severe is that in almost all cases, it’s completely preventable. 

As a Yorkie owner, you should be aware of the main reasons a Yorkie can pass away because of trauma. Here are the top reasons for trauma deaths recorded in the study:

  • Being dropped
  • Being stepped on
  • Hit by a car
  • Sustained injury as a car passenger
  • Being tripped over
  • Accidentally falling down a staircase

At such a relatively high trauma death rate compared to other breeds, it is imperative that you put up fail-safes for this type of event.

For example, staircase dog barriers, awareness of the dog’s location, and proper car protection are all things you should make sure of.

Congenital Disease 

Caring for Sick Yorkie

Apart from the other three leading causes of death that affect the Yorkie’s lifespan, you’ll need to know about the dangers of congenital diseases. 

Congenital diseases are afflictions that your Yorkie is born with that could affect them for their entire life. Otherwise, these conditions can worsen over time and present more severely in Yorkies of older ages. 

One of the most common congenital diseases that Yorkies are prone to is called portosystemic shunt, or liver shunt. This disease can get serious fast, and it doesn’t help that purebred Yorkies are 36 times more prone to it than other breeds altogether.

The word “shunt” refers to pushing or pulling, which in this context can lead to inadequate blood flow to the liver. This disease can be fatal, so it’s important to know the most common symptoms of liver shunts in Yorkies.

Here’s a list of symptoms to look out for that could potentially tell you that your Yorkie has this condition:

  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Stunted growth
  • Lethargy or general malaise
  • Increased drooling
  • Excessive thirst
  • Seizures
  • Noticeable behavioral differences (anything out of the ordinary)

Yorkie dog

If you notice any symptoms like these, you should take your pup to the vet immediately, as this disease could be fatal. 

Typically, you will see symptoms some hours after feeding them a full meal. The liver’s job is to filter out potential toxins, but with this condition, those toxins could reach your Yorkie’s brain instead.

To combat this, your dog could have surgery, which boasts a 95% success rate. So, remember to take your Yorkie to the vet regularly!

Extending the Life Expectancy of Your Yorkshire Terrier

While the above causes of death in Yorkies may seem scary, remember that there are many measures you can take to combat them and even prevent them early on. 

Below, we’re going to provide you with a checklist of things you can do that might significantly extend the Yorkie’s lifespan. 

Follow these steps and you’ll have as many years as possible with your wonderful pet!


Yorkie Vaccination

We can’t stress enough how important it is to get your Yorkie all of its required (and even some optional) puppy vaccinations. You should do this as early as possible to avoid the infections we’ve described above. 

Since infection is the leading cause of death in puppies, it’s also vital that you keep them inside for at least 2 weeks after they are first vaccinated. If you take them outside too early, the vaccine might not have done its full job yet and your Yorkie could be at risk. 

So, always follow the vet’s orders about puppy vaccinations and you should be golden.

You can also check your products that can help your dog to heal faster, relieve pain, have better skin, and boost its metabolism.

Preventing Trauma

Trauma is the second leading cause of death in Yorkies, and it should be avoided at all costs. This is possibly the saddest way a dog could pass away, and with such a small dog breed it’s easier for accidents to happen.

In this section, we’ll detail a few ways that you can prevent the unthinkable from happening. Here are a few pointers to reduce the risk:

It’s obvious that Yorkies are small, but they can also be very quiet. As an owner, you’ll need to have top-notch awareness of where your dog is, as they could potentially sneak under your foot. 

Always look before you step when you have a Yorkie as well as behind you when you’re about to sit down. Make sure that your Yorkie has a safe, designated place to sleep so that you can rest assured they’re not resting on the family couch.

Additionally, when holding your Yorkie, take utmost care, as many trauma deaths are due to complications from dropping. 

That said, if you have children in the house, you should set a rule that they either should not pick up or handle the dog, or at least with older children they need to know the proper techniques. 

Another thing to keep aware of is that you never leave your Yorkie in a position where they could run out the door at will. Especially if you live on a busy road, you do not want your precious dog unattended outside without a leash. 

Provide proper dental care

Yorkie Dental Care

In dogs, proper dental care can mean the difference between comfort and pain, and in severe cases, life and death. You’ll need to have a dental care plan for your dog so that there is virtually no risk of tooth infection.

While tooth decay in itself is not fatal, it can cause your dog to live in pain, which is a situation you never want to find them in. 

If the tooth becomes infected, you will have treatment options if you catch it. Otherwise, if you are not attentive to the situation the infection could spread from the mouth to vital parts of your Yorkie’s body.

So, you can talk to your pup’s vet about the best way to care for your dog’s dental health. This may entail a weekly plan, tooth-cleaning treats, or manual brushing if necessary. 

Normally, dogs’ mouths stay reasonably clean, but you should always keep an eye out. 


Something that may not be discussed in the world of dog owners is the myriad of health benefits that could be due to proper spaying and neutering.

There are conflicting opinions and statistics out there, but the general consensus among veterinarians is that spaying and neutering will extend the Yorkie’s lifespan, potentially in a dramatic way. 

For example, studies have shown that male dogs that are neutered will live longer than 20% of un-neutered ones, as long as they are neutered before they’re 6 months old.

Female dogs, if spayed before the age of 6 months have been found to live 25% longer than unfixed female dogs. 

This procedure is important in females because along with preventing the strain of constant heat, spaying reduces the likelihood of fatal ovarian cancer and mammary gland cancer. 

In males, neutering can reduce the risk of lethal prostate and testicular cancers.

Keep your Yorkie on a healthy diet

Yorkie Food

Something that is true for all living things is that a good diet can drastically extend our lifespans. 

Specifically for Yorkies, keeping them on a healthy diet will improve not only the Yorkie’s lifespan but also their overall health, comfort, and fitness. 

To ensure that your Yorkie is ingesting the right foods in their day-to-day life, there are a few things you can do.

The first step to take is making sure they’re eating good brands of food. Commercial brands are there for a reason and have the money to invest in a healthy palate for your pup.

Avoid bright-colored food and treats, and make sure they have filtered water if possible.

Be diligent about exercise

Like all dogs, Yorkshire Terriers need consistent exercise in order to burn excess calories and stay capable. Increasing overall fitness can have a grand impact on the Yorkie’s lifespan, sometimes even years! 

If you are diligent about walking each day with your furry friend from an early age, the effects will show over the years. You’ll want them to live long (and comfortably), so make sure you get out there as close to every day as you can.

We know it can get hard in the late fall and winter months, but you’ll need to take all the measures you can to ensure the exercise is consistent. 

When it’s really cold, consider investing in a sweater or other warm garments for your Yorkie to wear, since they’re so small. Smaller dogs have a harder time heating up on their own, so make sure they’re comfortable year-round!

Do not delay Vet visits 

Yorkie Vet Visits

Something you’ll always need to have in mind in order to extend your Yorkie’s lifespan is to be very diligent about the vet. It can get difficult to make it a regular thing, especially financially, but it’s one of the most important keys to a long Yorkie lifespan.

This is another life-extending pillar that humans can relate to—there’s no end to the number of cancers, infections, or other conditions that can be cured early if caught early. 

So, do the same for your Yorkie as you would do for yourself; take them to the vet on a regular schedule and be prepared for the results.

Financially, it can definitely be hard to shell out medical payments when you weren’t expecting them. To combat plights like this, you should ensure you have money set aside for potential procedures your Yorkie might need.

If you’re able to come up with the amounts required and take them for regular exams, there’s no telling how much longer your Yorkie could be with you. There are only benefits!

Additionally, even if it’s not the time for a visit yet, if your Yorkie is showing symptoms of something or is acting strange, schedule a visit right away.

Accept the age of your dog


The last key point on this list can be a tough one to come to terms with. At some point, all pet owners have to go through it. It can be extremely hard to accept that your beloved Yorkie is getting old and approaching the end stages of its lifespan. 

Time can go so fast, and we understand—this is a tough moment for any pet owner, dog or cat, snake or hamster. 

However, if you’re aware of your Yorkie’s old age, it will be easier to care for them in the right way. This might mean more intensive vet visits, more manual care at home, or just more quality time. 

Pay attention to adjusting their food and water quantities, buying them more comfortable beds, and acknowledging meds that will need to be taken each day.

Your vet will let you know of any age-related conditions that you need to be aware of or treat, so take your senior Yorkie to the vet at least twice per year.

Making a Decision Regarding an Ailing Yorkie 


Now, this is possibly the hardest part of being a dog owner, and the majority of you will have to go through deciding whether to intervene and release your dog from pain. 

We know firsthand that this can be one of the most difficult decisions and can be extremely painful. It’s extremely important that the main objective is the optimal comfort for your ailing friend, no matter how much it may weigh on your heart to euthanize. 

While you can never step into your dog’s soul and feel what they feel, near the end of a dog’s life you will be able to tell if they are in too much pain to enjoy life anymore. If you find yourself weighing this decision, you’ll want to be absolutely sure.

Sometimes, it can be hard to know exactly when is the right time to make this decision. At this time, you’ll have to take an in-depth look at your dog’s happiness, comfort, and overall quality of life.

If your dog is in constant discomfort or fighting to breathe, look for treatment options. If the reality is that there are no solid treatment options left, the right decision is to let them be free of their pain. 

Wrap-up on Yorkie Life Expectancy

Today, we covered the leading causes of death in Yorkshire Terriers, and the best measures you can take to extend the Yorkie lifespan. This may have been a difficult one to read, but it’s imperative that Yorkie owners are aware of these conditions. 

With this information, you can catch things early and ensure you and your beloved pet have the most time together possible.

We hope you have plentiful, amazing years with your wonderful Yorkie and we’d love to hear about your experiences. 

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