Yorkshire Terriers (a.k.a. Yorkies) are toy breed dogs who have a fair few health concerns to take into account when it comes to choosing the right dog food for her. Being such a small dog, she also has special dietary needs to consider.
Please read on to learn more about this little dog and what foods I think suit her best.
If you’re in a rush, here’s a little peek at my top 4 choices:
The 4 best dog foods for Yorkies in 2021:
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How many calories does my Yorkie need?
The weight of an average Yorkie is just 5-7 lbs (Teacup Yorkies weigh even less) - they are just as teeny as Chihuahuas! Here is the suggested calorie intake* for a Yorkie of this weight:
Yorkies have very small stomachs and therefore cannot eat large quantities of food. However, they need a lot of calories considering their size. As I outlined in my article on the best dog foods for Chihuahuas, due to their faster metabolisms, a dog this size needs 40 calories per pound of body weight, while a 70lb dog needs almost half that amount.
For this reason, it’s important to feed your Yorkie a dog food that has been developed specially for toy or small breed dogs, as these will meet her special dietary needs.
*Calculated using Dog Food Advisor’s very handy calorie calculator. Please do consult with your vet to get a specific calculation for your dog.
Common Yorkie health problems and how choosing the right food can help
Small dogs tend to have big health concerns, given that they are more fragile than larger dogs. Don’t worry, though, the majority of Yorkies live long, healthy lives. Below are some of their main health concerns and some tips on how to choose the best food for these little pooches.
Yorkies can have very sensitive stomachs, leading to stomach upsets. This is usually due to poor-quality foods that use food dyes or artificial preservatives, or because of a food allergy.
I advise you to look for high-quality dog foods that specify there are no artificial flavorings, colorings, or preservatives. I also think it is best to go for a grain-free dog food for Yorkies since grains are a common allergen for dogs.
Beef and dairy are common allergens, too, and given how sensitive Yorkies are, I would avoid these ingredients altogether. Instead of beef, look for dog foods that use chicken, fish, turkey, or duck.
If you change her food, do so very gradually to get her used to it. Mix her current food with her new food and, over the course of 7 days, slowly decrease the amount of the current food and increase the new.
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This condition is hereditary and is, unfortunately, fairly common in Yorkies. It involves a reduced or absent flow of blood to the liver; instead, blood is “shunted” around it. This means the liver cannot perform its primary function, which is to convert ammonia (a by-product of protein breakdown) into urea, which is less toxic.
Dogs with less severe liver shunts may not show symptoms until they are older. In severe cases, some symptoms include:
- Poor growth rates
This condition can be treated by identifying the abnormal blood vessels and closing them up in surgery. It can also be managed through diet by feeding her a low-protein dog food (between 18 - 20% protein), which reduces the amount of ammonia in her system.
Yorkies are prone to dental problems. Due to their small mouths and jaws, their teeth are often compressed and overcrowded, meaning it is easier for food to get stuck between them. This can lead to plaque buildup, tooth decay, and gum disease.
You should feed your Yorkie a dry dog food, as the hard texture helps to remove plaque. You can also find treats that are specially designed to give your dog a good teeth cleaning, removing tartar and plaque.
You should also brush her teeth daily with a canine toothbrush and toothpaste.
Bone and joint conditions
Luxating Patella (Kneecap dislocation)
Like Chihuahuas, little Yorkies are susceptible to this condition, in which the kneecap pops out of place. It is usually genetic, and an action such as jumping down from a height can trigger it.
You may see her limping or hear her whining when she puts weight on the affected leg, and the joint will be noticeably swollen.
Your Yorkie will need lots of rest and some anti-inflammatory medication to get better. Sometimes, in severe cases, surgery is necessary.
Yorkies are at risk of this disease, which affects the hip joint. It occurs when the blood supply is cut off to the head of the femur, resulting in the bone cells dying, and degeneration of the head of the femur bone. This leads to inflammation and disintegration of the hip joint. Unfortunately, the cause of this condition is unknown.
In both conditions, controlling your Yorkie’s weight will help a great deal, as any extra weight will put a strain on her joints.
There are also two nutrients you can look out for in dog food, called chondroitin and glucosamine. These help with bone and joint health, so if your Yorkie suffers from either of these conditions, you should look for a dog food that includes these.
Macronutrient requirements for Yorkies
Yorkies can be feisty, active little characters, and remember that they burn energy at a very fast rate. Protein is a calorie-rich source, so they certainly need a good dose of this to maintain their energy levels.
I think that typical Yorkshire Terriers do fine on about 25 - 28% protein, while more active Yorkies (who exercise more than an hour a day) will need at least 30%.
The general rule is that in the first five ingredients, there should be at least two meat sources, as this is a sign of a good-quality, high-protein dog food.
Make sure there are no low-quality ingredients listed, such as “by-products” or unspecified meat sources such as “animal meal.” These are not ingredients you want to feed your dog, as they are less easily digestible proteins, and she will not get the nourishment she needs.
Fat is a very concentrated source of energy which is indispensable for Yorkies, who burn off energy quickly due to their high metabolisms. I recommend a dog food that contains between 15 - 20% of fat for your Yorkie.
Fat is also very beneficial for their skin and long coats. Look for foods that are high in omega fatty acids (the best sources of which are fish oils and flaxseed oil), as these help their coat stay healthy and shiny.
As I have already mentioned, Yorkies have incredibly sensitive stomachs. I advise that you choose a grain-free food for your Yorkie, as grains are common allergens that cause dogs stomach upsets. She can get her carbs from other sources such as sweet potatoes, carrots, and chickpeas.
Vitamins and minerals
These dogs can live up to 16 years. Since they have long lives, it is important to feed your Yorkie a dog food that contains a range of fruit and vegetables, as they contain antioxidants, which help prevent the damage done by free radicals. This means your dog is less likely to suffer from health problems such as heart disease and cancer.
It is better if she gets whole food sources rather than supplements, as these contain a whole wealth of nutrients, as opposed to just one that has been made into supplement form.
What is the best dog food for Yorkies?
So, now you want to know about my recommendations. I narrowed it down to 4 of what I think are great choices of high-quality for Yorkies.
Here they are:
#1 Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain-Free Chicken Recipe for Small Breed Adult Dogs
Blue Buffalo Freedom’s Small Breed recipe is a great choice for typical Yorkies, in my opinion. It contains a good balance of macronutrients, with 26% protein from chicken and 15% fat from chicken fat, flaxseed, and canola oil. The oils here make this recipe high in omegas fatty acids, which help keep her long coat healthy and silky.
There are lots of fruit and veg in this formula, too. On top of this, they have been cold-pressed into what Blue Buffalo Freedom terms “LifeSource Bits.” These are smaller bits of kibble which are extra potent nutritionally, given that they have not been subjected to high temperatures. This makes it a food that is very high in antioxidants, which will help prevent free radical damage in your Yorkie.
While this recipe does contain glucosamine to support her bone and joint health, there is no chondroitin, which makes it less balanced than other recipes in this review. For me, it is not the top choice for Yorkies with joint problems, however, in terms of overall quality and suitability for typical Yorkies, for me, it wins the first spot.
- In my opinion, it’s good for typical Yorkies
- High in omega oils
- Contains a range of fruit and vegetables
- Contains an ingredient that supports her bones and joints
- Doesn’t contain chondroitin
#2 Wellness Simple Small Breed Salmon and Potato Formula
I think this recipe from Wellness Simple is a very good choice for Yorkies with sensitive tummies or food allergies. It is a Limited Ingredient recipe, meaning it contains minimal ingredients and is, therefore, a good option if you are trying to find out what she is allergic to. It also contains probiotics and prebiotics to support her digestion.
For a typical Yorkie, the protein content is just slightly higher than I suggested, at 29%, and the fat content is just slightly lower, at 14%. However, I think the macronutrient balance here is still perfectly fine for typical Yorkies.
This formula contains both glucosamine and chondroitin, so it supports your Yorkie’s joints. It is also very high in omega oils, which nourish your Yorkie’s skin and coat.
The downside to this recipe is that it contains little fruit and veg, and most of the vitamins and minerals she needs are provided in supplement form rather than as whole food sources. This is understandable, however, given that it is a Limited Ingredient recipe.
- I think it’s good for typical Yorkies
- In my opinion, it’s good option for Yorkies with sensitive tummies or food allergies
- Contains ingredients that support her joints
- It’s high in omega oils
- Few fruit and vegetable ingredients
#3 Blue Buffalo Basics Turkey & Potato Recipe for Small Breed Adult Dogs
This recipe from Blue Buffalo Basics has all the good qualities of my first recommendation from Blue Buffalo Freedom, including its powerful antioxidant formula and high levels of omega oils.
The reason I recommend it here is that it is low in protein, with just 22%, which makes it suitable for Yorkies who suffer from liver shunt.
This recipe is also a limited ingredient formula that contains ingredients for easy digestion. So, as with Wellness Simple, it is also good if your Yorkie has a sensitive tummy or food allergies.
The only thing with this formula is that it contains brown rice, so it is not grain-free. While brown rice is one of the easiest grains to digest, this may be an allergen for some Yorkies.
- I think it’s a good option for Yorkies with liver shunt
- High in omega oils
- Lots of fruit and veg - antioxidant-rich recipe
- It’s good for Yorkies with sensitive tummies or food allergies
- I think the protein content is too low for typical Yorkies
- Contains brown rice, which could be an allergen for some Yorkies
#4 Wellness CORE Grain-Free Small Breed Original Formula
In my opinion, this recipe from Wellness CORE is a great option for highly active and working Yorkies (who do more than an hour of vigorous exercise a day).
The protein comes from turkey and chicken and there is an impressive 36%, while the fat content is 16%. Salmon oil and flaxseed oil provide great sources of omega fatty acids, which keep her skin healthy and her coat silky-smooth.
There is both glucosamine and chondroitin to keep her bones and joints healthy. Furthermore, an extensive list of fruit and veg (including antioxidant-rich blueberries, broccoli, kale, and sweet potatoes) provides a recipe that promotes a long life and supports her immune system.
If this recipe were lower in protein, it would certainly be higher up on this list, as, for me, it is a very good-quality dog food. I highly recommend it for very active Yorkies.
- Contains high levels of omega oils from good sources
- Contains ingredients that support her bones and joints
- There is a whole bunch of fruit and veg
- Not suitable for typical Yorkies
In my opinion, Blue Buffalo Freedom wins overall, as it has the best macronutrient balance for a typical Yorkie, plus it is a high-quality dog food that focuses on delivering a food that promotes a long and healthy life for your dog.
I think Wellness Simple is a good choice for Yorkies with sensitive tummies, as is Blue Buffalo Basics, which is also a great option for Yorkies who need a low-protein diet due to liver shunt.
Lastly, Wellness CORE is a good fit for highly active Yorkies, providing high levels of protein, lots of antioxidants, and joint support.
What do you feed your Yorkie? Leave a comment below!