Treating Shih Tzu Allergies: Breathe Easy, A Guide To Understanding

Last Updated: 7 months ago

You’re a dog person, but you’re also an allergy person.

These two attributes don’t mesh so well, so you look to hypoallergenic breeds to solve the problem.

Is a shih tzu hypoallergenic?

Yes, yes they are. If you’re wondering if they’re a good dog breed for you, well, there’s more to account for, but at least you won’t be sneezing.

Let’s get into everything surrounding the hypoallergenic property of shih tzus, including allergies, their causes, and why being hypoallergenic isn’t the same as being allergy-free.

Are Shih Tzu dogs Allergy-Free?

No. I know I said they are hypoallergenic, but that’s not the same thing as being allergy-free. If you are allergic to pet dander at all, I have to tell you that shih tzus still have dander; it’s just a very small amount compared to most breeds.

This is because they grow hair instead of fur. Hair still has dander inside of it, but with a shih tzu, it’s almost a negligible amount. You’re not likely to suffer from shih tzu allergies, making them a fairly safe bet even if you know you suffer from allergies.

How Do I Know If My Shih Tzu Has Allergies?

Shih Tzu Allergies

The most common symptom of any issues surrounding your dog with allergies is itchy skin. In shih tzus, it’s especially the case, since they have all that thick hair covering it up.

They’ll have to scratch more often just to reach their skin through all that hair, so you’ll have more opportunities to see if they’re suffering from allergies.

Some allergies are more visible than itching of the skin. You dog might suffer from food allergies (which can come on at any time), or a new environmental allergy, all of which could lead to:

  • Itching of the skin
  • Visible hives
  • Vomiting shortly after eating meals
  • Diarrhea occurring consistently
  • Excessively itchy ears
  • Constant sneezing
  • Inflamed or irritated skin
  • Earflap, face, and eyelid swelling

Spotting these allergies is harder than spotting the symptoms. Your shih tzu’s vet is going to have the best chance at properly diagnosing what’s wrong, whether that means an elimination diet for your dog, or altering your home to remove allergen aggressors.

How Do I Stop My Shih Tzu From Itching?

Maintaining a clear and clean shih tzu coat is difficult. They look photogenic in every picture you find of them, but the thing is, a lot of work went into those coats to keep them tangle-free and glorious-looking.

These are just a few of the ways you can keep your shih tzu from itching and scratching themselves.

Regular Baths

There’s dander in that hair, and that’s got to be itchy for them as well. Cleaning their hair with a nice warm bath on a frequent basis can help manage this dander, especially if they’re producing a lot of it for some reason.

Take note of how many days after a bath your shih tzu starts scratching his or herself, and then make it a habit to have baths in the perfect amount of time to cull all that scratching.

Check for Fleas

Everyone wants to think that their pet is so clean and well-groomed, that they couldn’t have possibly picked up fleas anywhere. The kicker is that fleas actually enjoy clean hair more, since it’s easy to maneuver around in.

Fleas happen, and you shouldn’t rule them out of the equation.

They’re going to be hard to spot underneath all of that hair, so if you’re not completely sure, take them to the vet to see if they can spot them or evidence of recent fleas. A bit of medication could do the trick.

Vet Visit

While it’s not what anyone wants to think about, because the shih tzu has hair instead of fur, a lot of dander and bacteria can grow close to the skin, hidden by those long flowing stands.

Your shih tzu is prone to yeast infections on the surface of their skin, more than most other breeds of dog. Take them to the vet and see if a skin scraping is in order.

If so, your vet might suggest that you make this a semi-regular thing to avoid yeast infections.

Food Allergies

Allergies can form at any time for humans, and for dogs, it’s not all too different. Inspect the diet that you’re feeding your shih tzu, and see if there are any known aggressors in there.

Compare it against another dog food that doesn’t contain known aggressors, and try switching it out in their diet for a while. It usually takes a week or two to notice major changes in their behavior after a diet change, so have some patience with it.

How Often Does My Shih Tzu Need A Haircut?

To prevent dander buildup and your allergies from going off the rails, you should stick to one haircut per month.

On average, shih tzu’s need a haircut every six weeks or so, but if you can stick to every four weeks, it’s going to keep you on a good schedule and keep their dander at an all-time low.

Brushing their hair often and keeping them trimmed is going to go a long way. Unlike cats, your dog can’t clean themselves in the same manner, so this helps them out to stay clean and feel clean.

Dander can build up over time and cause itching, as we talked about earlier, and it can sometimes signal their bodies to produce more dander to combat it. Give them a haircut as often as possible to avoid this as a problem.

Can You Be Allergic to Your Shih Tzu?

Yes, you absolutely can. The main reason that people don’t run into problems with shih tzus and why they’re classified as hypoallergenic is simply because they have hair instead of fur.

Fur produces a lot of dander, and while hair isn’t dander-free, it certainly isn’t the same. Shih tzu hair varies, but it still holds dander. Because they grow hair instead of fur, you should consider trimming their hair on a constant basis as we mentioned before.

You can be allergic to a specific breed of dog as well, which not many people are aware of. It’s unfortunate, but it does happen.

If you’re still not sure if you’re allergic to your shih tzu, use this list of symptoms and see if anything matches up with what you’re facing right now.

  • Sneezing: Even if you just feel a sneeze coming on and it never comes out, this could still be dander affecting the hairs on the inside of your nose.
  • Runny Nose: If you’re able to rule out seasonal allergies or an aversion to dust, it could be your shih tzu.
  • Congestion: Quite the opposite of a runny nose. Congestion can linger for hours, so if you notice congestion dissipates after you get to work in the morning, it could be your shih tzu.
  • Watery or Itchy Eyes: Your eyes use tears to wash out anything harmful, which is a clear-cut indicator that some sort of allergen is around you.
  • Fatigue: We all know that antihistamines help with allergies, but the allergies themselves can actually cause you to feel fatigued.

How To Reduce Shih Tzu Allergens In Your Home

This applies to both you and your shih tzu. If you want to make a more allergy-friendly home and still have a shih tzu as a pet, you’re going to have to put smoe work in. This is what needs to be done:

Daily Vacuuming

When you vacuum, you’re pulling up all the dander from the floor, loose hair, and helping the air quality all at the same time.

Your vacuum has an air filter on the main chassis, which helps to pull dander out of the air and trap it at the same time. You’ll have to clean your vacuum air filter often, and if possible, have a few filter replacements handy just to be safe.

Regular Shampooing

Not the carpets, but instead, your dog. If your shih tzu is constantly shedding and releasing dander (especially if they have a skin yeast infection under their thick layer of hair), you want to shampoo their hair frequently to help wash everything out.

With that being said, it’s important to know what shampoos to use. Pay attention to your shih tzu’s skin and how their hair is reacting, otherwise you could end up with a slew of skincare-related problems that were not intended.

HEPA Air Filter System

HEPA filters make your central air conditioning work just a little bit harder, so it’s something you need to inspect before purchasing to make sure you aren’t going to damage your unit.

However, if you wanted, you could get a tower fan or tower AC to help clear up the air in your room, or an actual air purifying system that isn’t built into your home.

Installation of a HEPA filter in here pulls and traps more dander, dust, and hair from the air, giving you cleaner breathing air while you’re at home. It’s enhancing the entire air quality of your home, while removing allergens for you and your pup.

Constant Laundry

Laundry is not what anyone wants to be doing, but if it helps keep your home hospitable for you and your shih tzu, then I think we both know you’re willing to do it. If your shih tzu has a dog bed that they sleep in, it’s time to wash it out.

These can get filled with dander and skin mites that just lay around. One simple kick or fluffing on this bed and all of those are sent upwards in a mushroom cloud-like effect, hurdling through the air and assaulting your nose and eyes.

You should also be sure to not keep dirty laundry piles in your home for more than three days, since it’s more than likely that your shih tzu’s dander is all over those clothes. Anything that consists of cloth needs to be cleaned.

Don’t Allow Your Dog in Your Room

This is a sad one to suggest, because who doesn’t like it when your shih tzu crawls up next to you?

If you’re suffering from allergies, getting all that dander on your bed on a constant basis isn’t going to do you any favors. You’re going to have to put their bed in another room, and train them to use it and stop coming in your bed.

As a few bonus tips, try changing out any cloth-based furniture in your home for leather, replacing carpeted floors with tile or hardwood, and throwing rugs out or putting them into storage.

Cleaning your curtains (or removing them altogether), floor mats, and anything that can trap hair and dander is going to be a good bet.

Invest in a robotic vacuum cleaner that can suck up dirt and wash the floors while you’re at work, and your home will stay in ship shape 24/7.

If you’re still enduring problems but you don’t want to get rid of your shih tzu, it’s time to consider allergy medication specifically for pet allergies.

Look for antihistamines that don’t cause drowsiness, especially if you’re taking these before you get back home and spend time with your shih tzu. If you’re already taking allergy medication, it might be time to switch it out to help mitigate allergies against your dog.

Now You Know

There’s technically no such thing as a 100% dander-free dog breed, but that doesn’t mean that those labeled as hypoallergenic aren’t better for your allergies. In truth, there’s no dog that’s guaranteed to cut down on your allergic reactions.

Shih tzus have a few things in their favor, such as producing some of the least amount of dander of any hypoallergenic-branded pet, and being small enough that the percentage of dander they do put off isn’t very much at all.


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