Skip to content

Shih Tzu Health Problems – 10 Most Common Health Issues

Before diving into specific health problems, let’s take a moment to understand the general health of Shih Tzus. This breed typically enjoys a lifespan of 10 to 16 years, provided they receive proper care and attention. Regular veterinary check-ups, a balanced diet and exercise are crucial for maintaining their well-being. However, it’s essential to be aware of potential health issues that may arise throughout their lives.

10 Most Common Health Problems & Issues in Shih Tzus

1. Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome is a condition common in Shih Tzus due to their flat face and shortened snout. This structural trait can lead to breathing difficulties, especially in hot and humid weather.

  • Symptoms: Affected dogs may exhibit noisy breathing, snoring, difficulty breathing during exercise and respiratory distress.
  • Causes: The condition is primarily caused by hereditary factors that affect the shape of the dog’s skull and airway structures.
  • Treatment: Mild cases may require lifestyle adjustments, such as avoiding strenuous exercise in hot weather. Severe cases might necessitate surgical correction to alleviate airway obstruction.
2. Dental Issues

Shih Tzus are prone to dental problems like periodontal disease and tooth loss. These issues can lead to pain and discomfort if left untreated.

  • Symptoms: Look out for bad breath, swollen or bleeding gums, difficulty eating and visible tartar buildup.
  • Causes: Poor dental hygiene, lack of regular teeth cleaning and genetic factors contribute to dental issues.
  • Treatment: Regular dental care, including brushing the dog’s teeth, providing dental chews or toys and professional dental cleanings are essential preventive measures. In severe cases, extractions may be necessary.
3. Allergies

Shih Tzus can suffer from various allergies, including food, environmental and flea allergies. Allergies can cause discomfort and affect their overall quality of life.

  • Symptoms: Common signs of allergies include itching, skin rashes, ear infections and excessive licking or scratching.
  • Causes: Allergies can be triggered by environmental factors like pollen or mold, certain foods and flea bites.
  • Treatment: Identifying and avoiding the allergens is crucial. Your veterinarian may recommend antihistamines, medicated shampoos, or immunotherapy to manage allergies effectively.
4. Luxating Patella

Luxating patella, also known as a slipped kneecap, is a condition where the knee cap dislocates, causing pain and lameness.

  • Symptoms: Affected dogs may exhibit limping, skipping steps and difficulty bearing weight on the affected leg.
  • Causes: Genetics and weak knee structures are the primary contributors to this condition.
  • Treatment: Mild cases can be managed with rest and anti-inflammatory medications. Severe cases may require surgical intervention to stabilize the knee.
5. Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Shih Tzus are prone to Intervertebral Disc Disease, a condition where the discs between the vertebrae of the spine degenerate, leading to spinal cord compression and mobility issues.

  • Symptoms: Signs include back pain, hind limb weakness and in severe cases, paralysis.
  • Causes: Genetics and spinal trauma play a significant role in the development of IVDD.
  • Treatment: Rest, pain management and in severe cases, surgical intervention are recommended treatments.
6. Eye Problems (e.g. Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca, Progressive Retinal Atrophy)

Shih Tzus are prone to various eye conditions, such as Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (dry eye) and Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA).

  • Symptoms: Look out for excessive tearing, redness and cloudiness in the eyes.
  • Causes: Genetics and age-related degeneration contribute to these conditions.
  • Treatment: Treatment depends on the specific eye issue and may include eye drops, surgery, or managing underlying conditions.
7. Ear Infections

Shih Tzus are prone to ear infections due to their floppy ears, which can trap moisture and debris.

  • Symptoms: Keep an eye out for itching, head shaking and foul-smelling discharge from the ears.
  • Causes: Moisture, ear mites, allergies, or foreign objects can lead to ear infections.
  • Treatment: Regularly clean your Shih Tzu’s ears and if an infection occurs, seek prompt veterinary treatment, which may include ear drops or antibiotics.
8. Liver Shunt (Portosystemic Shunt)

Liver shunt, also known as portosystemic shunt, is a congenital or acquired condition where blood bypasses the liver, leading to the accumulation of toxins in the bloodstream.

  • Symptoms: Puppies may exhibit stunted growth, neurological issues and vomiting.
  • Causes: Congenital liver shunts are present at birth, while acquired shunts can be caused by liver disease or trauma.
  • Treatment: Dietary changes, medications and in some cases, surgery, are necessary to manage this condition.
9. Bladder Stones

Shih Tzus are prone to developing mineral stones in the bladder, which can lead to discomfort and potential blockages.

  • Symptoms: Frequent urination, straining to urinate and blood in the urine are signs of bladder stones.
  • Causes: Diet and genetics play a role in the formation of bladder stones.
  • Treatment: Treatment involves dietary modifications, medications, or, in severe cases, surgical removal of the stones.
10. Heart Conditions (e.g. Mitral Valve Disease)

Shih Tzus are predisposed to heart conditions, with Mitral Valve Disease being one of the most common heart issues.

  • Symptoms: Look for signs of coughing, lethargy and difficulty breathing.
  • Causes: Age-related degeneration and genetic factors contribute to heart problems.
  • Treatment: Managing heart conditions involves medications, lifestyle changes and regular veterinary monitoring.

Precautions & Preventative Measures

As a responsible owner of a Shih Tzu, it’s crucial to take proactive steps to ensure your furry companion’s health and well-being. Here are some detailed precautions and preventive measures you should implement:

  • Regular Veterinary Check-ups: Schedule regular check-ups with your veterinarian to catch any potential health issues early.
  • Proper Nutrition: Feed your Shih Tzu a well-balanced diet to support their overall health and address any specific dietary needs.
  • Regular Exercise: Provide regular exercise suitable for their age and energy level to keep them physically and mentally stimulated.
  • Dental Care: Brush your dog’s teeth regularly and provide dental chews or toys to maintain their oral health.
  • Grooming: Regular grooming, including brushing their coat and cleaning their ears, helps keep Shih Tzus clean and free from infections.
  • Allergy Management: If your Shih Tzu suffers from allergies, work closely with your veterinarian to identify and manage the triggers effectively.
  • Weight Management: Maintain a healthy weight to reduce the risk of joint problems and obesity-related issues.

What Do Shih Tzus Usually Die From?

Typically, Shih Tzus pass away from age-related conditions, such as heart disease and cancer.

Shih Tzu Health Problems – 10 Most Common Health Issues in Shih Tzus