Shih Tzu Health Problems & Lifespan

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Shih Tzu Health Problems

Shih Tzu Facts

The Shih Tzu (meaning "lion" in Chinese) is primarily of Tibetan origin. The breed was imported into the United States in the late 1950s.

The Shih Tzu makes a good companion dog due to his outgoing, affectionate, and friendly personality. The Shih Tzu is alert, intelligent, loyal, and devoted to his family. In return, he needs a lot of attention and human companionship.

The Shih Tzu is a rather popular breed in the U.S.A.- Ranked 20th most registered breed by the AKC for 2017.

Lifespan of Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu's are generally healthy and can live for a long time. The average lifespan of Shih Tzu is from 10 to 18 years.

Like any other dog breeds, however, Shih Tzu are prone to certain health problems, as listed below.

Shih Tzu Health Problems Related To The Eye

The eyes of the Shih Tzu are large and somewhat protruding, making them susceptible to injury.

For example, they can easily scratch their corneas or even puncture their eyeballs. So, try to protect their eyes as much as you can by keeping them away from sharp objects at all times! Also, keep their hair out of their eyes.

Shih Tzu also are prone to the following eye problems (Click on the respective links to learn about each eye problem):

Shih Tzu Health Problems Related to The Face

Because of the shape of their face, Shih Tzu are prone to the following health issues:

  • Brachycephalic Syndrome: Brachycephalic airway obstruction syndrome (BAOS), or Brachycephalic Syndrome in short, is a condition unique to Brachycephalics (short-nosed dogs) like the Shih Tzu.

    Because of their short muzzle, many Shih Tzu's suffer from airway obstruction, which causes signs ranging from noisy breathing, coughing and gagging, fainting or collapsing episodes, and a decreased tolerance for exercise, depending on how serious the obstruction is.

    If the airway is seriously obstructed, surgery is necessary to widen air passages at the nostrils.

    In addition, overheating is especially dangerous for brachycephalics. Please remember not to leave your Shih Tzu in the sun for a long time, because heat and high humidity can easily cause death due to the flatness of the face. It is also important to keep your dog from becoming overweight, as this will worsen his respiratory difficulties in the long run.

  • Cleft Lip/Palate: Cleft cleft lip or palate is an opening in the lip or the roof of the mouth that occurs as a result of failure of normal fusion processes when the fetus is developing. This condition is quite common in the Shi Tzu.

    Affected puppies are born with the condition. A minor defect will cause little or no problem and no treatment is needed. However, surgical repair is required for a more severe defect to prevent conditions such as chronic nasal discharge, poor growth, and aspiration pneumonia (from inhalation of food).

  • Dental Problems: In addition, due to the shape of their muzzle and the small size of their mouth, special care has to be taken to check and brush Shih Tzu's teeth to avoid dental problems.

Other Shih Tzu Health Problems

Other health issues that may affect the shih tzu include:

  • Patellar Luxation (Dislocated Kneecap): This is a hereditary problem characterized by malformed leg bones, which results in the kneecap being repeatedly pulled out of position.

    Common Shih Tzu Health Problems When the kneecap is dislocated, the dog will limp with the affected leg held off the ground. You may also see him constantly stretching the leg out behind him in an attempt to click the cartilage back into place.

    If left untreated, the dog will eventually develop osteoarthritis.

  • Hip Dysplasia: Hip dysplasia is the result of a deformity of the hip joint.

    Simply put, a dog with hip dysplasia has a deformed hip socket that cannot fully and firmly hold the ball-shaped thighbone.

    Understably, hip dysplasia causes a lot of pain (and inflammation) in the affected hip joint, and the dog will have problem walking and getting up with ease.

    Visit our article on Hip Dysplasia in Dogs for more information on this joint problem in dogs.

  • Renal Dysplasia: Renal dysplasia is a very serious developmental disorder affecting the kidneys of puppies and young dogs. This condition is rather common in the Shih Tzu.

    Affected puppies are born with underdeveloped kidneys, in which the nephrons (the smallest functioning units of the kidneys) are at a more juvenile stage compared to the development of the puppy. The nephrons never reach maturity, so the kidneys never reach full capacity.

    As a result, the puppy shows symptoms similar to those involved in general kidney disease, such as excessive drinking and excessive urination. Some puppies may seem difficult to housebreak. They may develop a lack of appetite, weight loss, vomiting and/or dehydration.

    Treatments depend on the severity of the condition, and may include a low protein and low phosphorus prescription diet, IV fluids, and medication (to treat the anemia of chronic renal failure). Kidney dialysis for dogs is also offered at several veterinary medical sites although the procedure is very expensive.

  • Ear Infections: Due to their long flapped ears, Shih Tzu's are prone to ear infections. If you have a Shih Tzu, be sure to check and clean his ears regularly.

Health Supplements for the Shih Tzu

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Recommendations for Your Shih Tzu!

(FTC Disclosure: If you make a purchase via a link on this page, I may receive a small commission, at no added cost to you.)

This eyewash is excellent not only for cleansing but also for promoting healing of sore, inflamed, and infected eyes. Good for eye conditions such as dry eye, conjunctivitis, and other eye infections.

This Chinese herbal formula contains effective herbs for joint problems such as hip dysplasia, arthritis, and stiffness due to inflammation of the joints. Works well as a preventive or as a remedy.

This Chinese herbal formula is effective for coughs caused by tracheal collapse. It eases breathing, reduces mucous production and clears it from the lungs.

Canada's Guide to Dogs
Atlantic Veterinary College, University of Prince Edward Island, Canada

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