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Yorkshire Terriers with Skin Allergies

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The Yorkshire terrier, or Yorkie, is a beloved toy breed that is known to be feisty and energetic, yet loving and affectionate. One of the smaller breeds out there, with 7lbs being on the high end of the weight range, and likewise standing only 6-7 inches tall! Developed in the mid-1800s, the history of the breed is controversial. One well-accepted theory is that the Yorkie was developed by Scottish weavers that had migrated to the Yorkshire and Lancashire counties of England. They were bred to be small in size yet tough in demeanor, making them ideal for squeezing into textile mills and mines to hunt vermin.1 Yorkies rose above the working-class in the late 1800s, when their breed gained recognition, and they quickly secured a new role as luxurious lap companions for fine English ladies.1 Today, the yorkie is still serving as a pampered lapdog, in the homes of many all across the world. While loving and attention craving, they can be snappy and stubborn, caution should be exercised when introducing unfamiliar children and pets. Finally, despite their small size, their high energy and curious nature, can make them quite a good little watchdog! 

Type of Coat

These small dogs bear a long, straight, distinctive coat. Historically, it was joked that their coat was created by the looms in the mills in which they hunted rodents.1 Their coat, while stunning, is not the greatest defense against cold weather conditions, and they require an additional jacket when outdoors in cold or rainy weather. Additionally, despite their limited shedding, their list of grooming needs is long. Their coat is often compared to human hair, and when kept long requires daily attention and brushing, with occasional professional grooming sessions.2 Further, yorkies should be bathed regularly, and hair should be kept out of their face and eyes by trimming or tying in a topknot.2 The coloring of yorkies is also distinctive, with a gray-blue covering their body, and tan highlighting their face, underside, and legs.1

Susceptibility to Skin Allergies

The long coat of a yorkie, especially if not properly cared for, can be a trap for allergens and reduce airflow to the skin. Some owners choose a shorter grooming style, for ease of upkeep and skin health of their yorkie.3 As a breed, their skin is already highly sensitive and susceptible to skin allergies. Additionally, they are known to develop new allergies as they age.4 Common allergens that trigger skin reactions in yorkies include dust, mold, pollen, fleas, and detergents.3 The inhalant allergens especially, have been further tied to the development of atopic dermatitis in yorkies, an inflammatory skin condition.5,4 Allergic reactions to the saliva of fleas, is actually the #1 cause of skin allergies in yorkies.3,4 However, yorkies can also be sensitive to certain foods that can manifest as skin allergies.5,5 Further, yorkies are known to suffer from other conditions that impact skin and coat health such as color dilution alopecia (CDA), hypothyroidism, and fungal infections.5

Allergy Locations

A skin allergy can occur just about anywhere on the yorkie’s body. Thus, it is best to frequently examine them. A small issue can quickly turn into a larger problem, as yorkies have a habit of biting, scratching, and provoking the initial site to a point of infection and hair loss.4 Common sites of atopic dermatitis include around the ears, eyes, and nose, and on the joints, paws, and belly.4 Healthy skin of a yorkshire terrier is relatively smooth to the touch, and is white with a subtle pink hue to it. Any changes to this including redness, bumps, cracks, rough patches, or swelling could be a sign of a skin allergy.4 When allergies are the cause of the skin irritation, often times parallel symptoms occur including upset stomach and nasal and eye congestion, so keep an eye out for those.3,4

Causes of Skin Allergies 

Yorkies can be susceptible to a variety of allergens that manifest as skin irritations. Unfortunately for these little pups, they’re very susceptible to flea allergies, and keeping their coat (especially if kept long) free of fleas can be a real challenge at times.4 Fleas can jump 6-feet, so maybe your home is clean, and your yorkie is groomed, but you walked by another dog with fleas, and just like that it found its way onto your yorkie. All it takes is one bite for yorkies to have an adverse reaction.3 Other common skin allergens include dust, mold, pollen, laundry detergents, and household cleaners.3,4 Adverse reactions to foods can also trigger skin allergies. Common dietary skin allergens include food colorants and preservatives, and some yorkies have even been known to react to tap water with high mineral content.3,4

Treatment Options

Prevention is one of the best treatment options for your yorkie’s skin allergies. With this in mind, regular brushing, particularly if the coat is long, is critical, this also provides an opportunity to examine the skin of your yorkie and look for abnormalities and fleas.4,5 Additionally, flea prevention tactics are a requirement for any yorkie owner, such as monthly topical or oral treatments.4,5 Additionally, you can prevent your yorkie from triggering allergens by using hypo-allergenic detergents, house cleaners, ang grooming products. Further, providing them with filtered, as opposed to tap water, is simple and could benefit their health greatly.4

Furthermore, identifying the allergen can be another great way to subsequently prevent exposure to it. More prevalent allergens can often be detected through canine skin and blood allergy testing.5,4 Additionally, for food allergens, the vet may recommend an elimination diet.5 In this case, your yorkie would be placed on a bland hypoallergenic diet, lasting a minimum of 8 weeks.4 After at least 8 weeks, foods would then begin to be slowing reintroduced into the diet, and your yorkie would be examined for adverse reactions. Any found allergen can then be removed from the diet, and your yorkie will thank you for it! Often times vets also recommend trying a fresh food diet because additives and preservatives found in many commercial dog foods can often be triggering of dietary skin reactions in yorkies.4

However, no matter how many preventative measures we take, sometimes skin allergies occur. When this happens, veterinarians can prescribe a variety of medications. Antihistamines and corticosteroids are commonly given to reduce inflammation and itchiness.4 Furthermore, sometimes they recommend topical sprays, i.e. cyclosporine, when irritation is widespread and fast relief is crucial.4 Natural soothing remedies may also be recommended. Aloe vera rubbed gently onto itchy inflamed skin may also help bring relief to your yorkie.4 In the case that skin irritation has resulted in an infection, antibiotics may be necessary as well. Finally, for longer term treatment, immunotherapy, or allergy shots, may be recommended, to help your yorkies immune system adapt to the allergen.5,4 

Key Ingredients to Fight Allergies

For starters, guaranteeing a nutritionally adequate diet is crucial in maintaining coat and skin health of your yorkie. For example, in dogs, vitamin E deficiency has been shown to lead to hair loss and skin infections. Additionally, beyond what is nutritionally required, many nutrients have shown to have further benefits on skin and coat health. Fish oil is often recommended due to its omega-3 content, which has been shown to protect the skin and coat, and help reduce inflammation associated with allergic reactions.4 Research is also showing that supplementation with probiotics  can positively impact skin allergies in dogs. Finally, other nutrients known to beneficially impact coat and skin health include vitamins A, C, B3, and B5, copper and zinc, and many amino acids.6

For further recommendations on dietary alterations that can be made for specific skin conditions, use the table below:

Condition

Coat Color Changes

Dietary Needs and Adjustments

Increase amino acids which can be found in  protein (>75 grams per 1000 calories); use our calculator to convert a label percentage to the caloric basis (grams per 1000 calories)

Concurrent GI Signs

Avoid foods with tryptamine and histamine such as dairy or fermented vegetables and meats (yes, this includes bacon); try a simple ingredient food trial

Chronic Itching and Dermatitis

Fortify the diet with Vitamin E, B Vitamins, Zinc, and omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil; add a probiotic; try a simple ingredient food trial

Dull Coat and Scaling

Adjust EPA and DHA levels in the diet (added fish oil being the most common way); try a food that has added zinc

Dandruff and Crustiness

Add Zinc and Vitamin A levels

How Fresh Food Can Help 

Fresh food can help with skin allergies in yorkies by allowing for ingredient transparency. If your yorkie is sensitive to food additives, this risk is eliminated by consuming quality fresh food. Moreover, pet food production and labels aren’t well regulated, so many commercial dog foods are plagued with contamination and additives, and contain unlisted ingredients. While true food allergies in dogs are uncommon (those which elicit an immune response), yorkies can still be sensitive to a variety of foods that manifest as skin reactions. If your yorkie has an identified food sensitivity, then avoiding it is paramount to their health. Fresh food can offer clarity in ingredient content, so discriminatory actions can be made against triggering ingredients.

About Nom Nom

Nom Nom serves a reputable company that produces high quality, veterinary-formulated fresh food. This provides yorkie owners with the means to give their dog with a “homemade” meal without actually having to prepare it themselves. Nom Nom uses human grade ingredients and produces all food in small batches. The recipes further contain the Nutrient Mix, which ensures all meals are complete, even with ingredient variation among recipes. Furthermore, Nom Nom pre-portions the meals for you, and considers your dogs age, size, and weight goals. So why risk unlisted food additives and ingredients, when you could switch to fresh food. Additionally, dogs tend to enjoy fresh food more, which benefits their overall wellbeing. So do yourself and your yorkie a favor, try Nom Nom, and if after 30-days, you’re not convinced by the difference a fresh food diet can make, we will buy your yorkies next meal. 

  1. Kriss, R. Yorkshire Terrier. American Kennel Club https://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/yorkshire-terrier/ (2017).
  2. yorkiemag. Yorkie skin problems - Yorkiemag. Yorkiemag https://yorkiemag.com/yorkie-skin-problems/.
  3. Yorkie Skin Problems | Yorkshire Terrier Information Center. http://www.yorkieinfocenter.com/yorkie-skin-problems.
  4. Atopic Dermatitis Causes, Symptoms, & Treatments | petMD. https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/skin/c_dg_atopic_dermatitis.
  5. Olivry, T., Mueller, R. S. & Prélaud, P. Critically appraised topic on adverse food reactions of companion animals (1): duration of elimination diets. BMC Vet. Res. 11, 225 (2015).
  6. Diets and the Dermis: Nutritional Considerations in Dermatology | Today’s Veterinary Practice. Today’s Veterinary Practice https://todaysveterinarypractice.com/acvn-nutrition-notesdiets-dermis-nutritional-considerations-dermatology/ (2017).

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