Caitlin UltimoHealth / Wellness

How to Keep Your Yorkshire Terrier Fit

When it comes to proper nutrition for Yorkies, its important to remember that each member of the breed is an individual with unique nutritional needs. The proper foundation for any Yorkies diet is a quality dog food that provides just the right mix of protein, carbohydrates, fats, vitamins and minerals. Keep in mind that pound for pound, small dogs generally have higher energy requirements than large dogs, so they need a diet made up of high-quality ingredients.

No one food can meet the needs of every dog, so be prepared to experiment until you find a diet that suits your Yorkie perfectly. Factors to take into account include life stage, activity level and lifestyle. For instance, while a pet and a show dog both need a high-quality diet, the stress of a show dogs life may necessitate a food that’s higher in fat and protein.

Experienced Yorkie owners recommend starting your search with a high-quality dry dog food. Dry foods tend to be best for most dogs, especially the Toys, says breeder Cher Hildebrand of Dayton, Ohio. The dry is a higher quality food and will help keep the teeth in better shape, as the crunching helps with tartar control.

The abrasive action of dry food is indeed a plus, because Yorkies, like so many toy breeds, are prone to dental problems. Dental cleaning is almost annual and extractions are sometimes necessary. Breeder Suzette Heider of Palm Bay, Florida, says its not uncommon to see Yorkies that are nearly toothless by the time they reach their golden years.

Starting a puppy out on dry food, along with regular brushing, can help minimize problems, but a Yorkie that already has dental disease may have an easier time eating moistened dry food or canned food.

Naturally, you also need to look for a food that will meet your dogs other physical needs: growth for puppies and health maintenance and energy production for dogs of all ages. Dr. Mackay recommends a growth or puppy diet for any dog younger than 1 year old. At 9 months to 1 year of age, switch to a diet for adult dogs. Manufacturers of senior diets usually recommend starting dogs on them at 7 years of age, but small dogs such as Yorkies don’t age as quickly as larger breeds, Dr. Mackay says. Depending on your veterinarians advice, you may choose to wait a year or two longer before switching your Yorkie to a food for older dogs.

The recommended amount on the dog food label is simply a starting point; your dog may require more or less. In general, a Yorkshire Terrier eats 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 cup daily. Puppies require 3 to 4 meals daily, and an adult dog should eat twice daily.

Picky or Packing on the Pounds?

Yorkies have a reputation for being finicky, but it may be a label that’s undeserved. The majority of them eat well without any encouragement. Again, however, individuals vary. Some pick at their food and eat just enough to satisfy their appetite, says Heider. This is when the owner gets frantic and starts adding more food to tempt the dog. Then there is the other type that eats everything but the kitchen sink and tends to be obese. In either case, it is not a good practice to leave food out all the time because you can’t monitor the bowel movements and the dog tends to overeat.

In most cases, a finicky eater is made, not born. For owners of the truly finicky Yorkie, mixing a teaspoon of wet food in with dry kibble can make the meal a little more aromatic, so its more appealing to the dog. To avoid creating a monstera Yorkie that either won’t eat unless the meal is prepared by a five-star chef, or one that’s grossly overweightoffer meals at set times, measure food carefully and don’t encourage your dog to loll around. All dogs need exercise, even Toy breeds.

I think people who own Yorkshire Terriers perceive them as more picky, and because they are tiny dogs, they oftentimes don’t get the exercise they need, Dr. Mackay says. People tend to carry them around rather than let them be mobile on their own. They’re a very busy dog generally, so I think a fair number of them worry their energy off. In my practice days, though, I certainly saw a fair number of them that were overweight, and those were often the patients that my clients described as being picky eaters. A 19-pound Yorkshire is not a picky eater.

A tendency to overeat is no laughing matter. A fat Yorkie is neither a pretty sight nor a healthy one. It waddles when it walks and has difficulty going very far or jumping up into a lap. Musculoskeletal problems can develop as well. Obese dogs are more prone to knee problems, or patellar luxation, a condition in which the knee pops out of place, causing the dog to walk with a skipping motion. Vertebral disk problems are also aggravated by excess body weight.

The normal weight range for the breed is 3 to 7 pounds. The appropriate weight for a Yorkshire Terrier depends on the dogs frame. While 5 pounds may be normal for one dog, another may be too thin at that weight. You don’t want them roly-poly, and you don’t want them to sink way in at the ribs. That is the best indicator, Hildebrand says. Generally, 4 to 5 pounds is the ideal weight for a small Yorkie, 6 to 7 pounds for one that’s medium size.

To gauge your Yorkies condition, perform a monthly rib check. You should be able to feel its ribs but not see them. If they’re covered with a heavy layer of fat and the dogs waist has disappeared, its time for a diet and exercise plan.

The first step is to check with your veterinarian to make sure theres not a medical reason for the weight gain. If everything checks out okay, your goal will be to bring the dogs weight down slowly and properly. Dieting is a slow process, and it requires plenty of patience. You want to bring the calorie level down, allowing the dog not only to lose fat but also to build muscle at the same time, Dr. Mackay says. If you knock the fat off very quickly but lose lean muscle tissue at the same time, the minute you stop the diet the weight comes back.

The main thing to remember is that only you can control your Yorkies weight. Unlike humans, who are concerned with health or body image, dogs don’t have personal incentives to lose weight. They are hard-wired to eat whenever they can and as much as they can, because before domestication, they never knew where their next meal was coming from. Even though your Yorkshire Terrier is thousands of years away from the original canine eating machine, it is still a dog with a dogs natural inclinations. Nevertheless, its not capable of catching and killing its own food, opening the refrigerator or operating a can opener. The amount of food it gets is up to you.

Dogs that are allowed to become fat at a young age are more predisposed to obesity later in life. Be aware of how much your Yorkie is eating. Yorkies can be sneaky, stealing food from other dogs dishes to supplement their own meal.

Give the dog 10 to 15 minutes to eat, then take the food up until the next mealtime. Besides controlling the amount of food your Yorkie eats, this tactic also helps prevent pickiness. When your dog knows the food will only be there for a given amount of time, it’ll be more willing to eat.

If your Yorkie still seems hungry after it finishes its meal, don’t weaken and give more dog food. Instead, supplement its diet with canned or frozen (cooked) vegetables, such as green beans or carrots, or even a little canned pumpkin (plain, not the sweetened pumpkin pie variety). Rinse canned vegetables to reduce the amount of sodium in them. Vegetables are low in calories, but they help the dog feel full.

Because dogs are individuals, theres no simple rule you can follow that will guarantee your Yorkie a sleek physique. Within a single breed, gender and age group, energy requirements can vary by about 30 percent, so its easy to overfeed one dog while underfeeding another, even if they’re getting the same amount of food. Cast an unsparing eye on your Yorkies body. If its starting to get fat, cut back on the food; if its starting to get too skinny, feed it a little more.

Whether your Yorkie is just right or leaning toward the pudgy side, keep dog treats to a minimum. Treats are good training incentives, but they shouldn’t be given just because. Healthy treats include chopped baby carrots and bite-size biscuits or bits of cheese. Avoid giving junk food like potato chips, however. They’re high in fat and sodium, with no nutritional value. Dr. Mackay recommends giving pieces of the dogs regular kibble as treats. Whatever treat you choose, limit the amount you give. Treats should make up no more than 5 to 10 percent of a dogs daily intake. For a Yorkshire Terrier, that’s a little less than a tablespoon.


Featured Image: iStock.com/urbazon

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