Common Health Concerns and How to Keep Your Shih Tzu Healthy

The Shih Tzu, a small yet lively toy dog, boasts a rich lineage that can be traced back to Chinese royalty. Known for their “little lion” appearance, they are lovable, energetic, and self-assured dogs that make excellent companions. With an average lifespan of 10-16 years, Shih Tzus are generally healthy, but they are predisposed to certain health issues. As a responsible pet owner, it’s important to understand these issues so you can monitor your pup’s health and help them live a long, happy life.

Eye Problems

Shih Tzus are prone to a range of eye-related health issues, including:

  1. Keratitis: Inflammation of the cornea, which can lead to ulcers and even blindness if left untreated. Surgical intervention may be necessary.
  2. Proptosis: A painful condition where the eyeball dislodges from the socket, possibly resulting in blindness. Early symptoms include eye inflammation, and surgery is often required.
  3. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA): A degenerative disease affecting the photoreceptors in the eye, causing night blindness and eventually complete vision loss. While there is no cure, early diagnosis allows time for your dog to adapt to the blindness.

If you notice any redness, swelling, or frequent itching in your Shih Tzu’s eyes, consult a veterinarian immediately.

Hip Dysplasia

While more common in larger breeds, hip dysplasia can affect Shih Tzus as well. This condition involves the displacement of the hip joint and thigh bone, resulting in varying degrees of pain, abnormal gait, and potentially requiring surgery.


Allergies in dogs can manifest in similar ways to human allergies, with potential triggers including food, grooming products, and airborne allergens. Symptoms may include itching, red eyes, rashes, an upset stomach, and loss of appetite. Consult your veterinarian to determine the cause and develop a treatment plan.

Ear Infections

Shih Tzus are prone to ear infections due to their floppy ears, which can create a warm, bacteria-friendly environment. Signs of infection include odor and sensitivity to loud noises. Seek veterinary care for treatment and antibiotics.

Collapsing Trachea

More common in small dogs, this condition involves the weakening of the tracheal cartilage, making breathing difficult and painful. Surgery may be necessary in severe cases.

Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVD)

IVD affects dogs with shorter legs and large backs, as their spinal structure may be unstable. Symptoms include muscle spasms, limb weakness, difficulty walking, and sensitivity to touch. Treatment options include medication and surgery.

Patellar Luxation

A condition where the dog’s kneecap dislocates, resulting in varying degrees of pain and difficulty walking. Treatment ranges from conservative management to surgical intervention.

Stenotic Nares

Some Shih Tzus are born with narrow nostril passageways, making it difficult to breathe properly. Surgery can usually correct this issue.


Although uncommon in small breeds, hypothyroidism can affect Shih Tzus. Symptoms include fatigue, hair loss, abnormal appetite, excessive urination, and weight gain. Medication can typically manage this condition.

Brown Shih Tzu Puppy health issues

Tips to Keep Your Shih Tzu Healthy:

  1. Regular Vet Visits: Schedule routine checkups and ensure your dog receives all necessary vaccinations.
  2. Grooming: Maintain proper hygiene by brushing their teeth, clipping nails, and cleaning ears regularly. Inspect their coat, nose, ears, eyes, mouth, and paws for any abnormalities or signs of infection.
  3. Nutrition: Provide a balanced diet tailored to your dog’s age, weight, and activity level. Consult your veterinarian for dietary recommendations and portion sizes.
  4. Exercise: Ensure your Shih Tzu gets regular, age-appropriate exercise to maintain a healthy weight and reduce stress. Daily walks and interactive play sessions are ideal.
  5. Mental Stimulation: Provide your dog with toys, puzzles, and training activities to keep their mind sharp and prevent boredom-related behaviors.
  6. Preventive Care: Administer heartworm, flea, and tick prevention medications as recommended by your veterinarian.
  7. Socialization: Expose your Shih Tzu to various people, animals, and environments early in life to help them develop confidence and social skills.
  8. Weight Management: Monitor your dog’s weight and adjust their diet and exercise routine accordingly to avoid obesity and related health issues.
  9. Comfortable Environment: Provide a comfortable, clean, and safe living environment for your Shih Tzu, with access to fresh water, a cozy bed, and shelter from extreme temperatures.

By being proactive in your Shih Tzu’s healthcare and following these tips, you can help prevent and detect potential health issues early on, allowing your pup to live a long, healthy, and happy life. Remember to consult your veterinarian for any concerns or questions about your dog’s health. They are your best resource for ensuring the well-being of your furry companion.

Related: Grooming Your Shih Tzu