Shih Tzu Health: Tips For A Happy And Healthy Companion

Last Updated: 8 months ago

Shih Tzus are loyal, friendly and playful with their owners.

They’re small in stature and have a warm expression, making these breeds a favorite among pet owners.

However, if you are a Shih Tzu owner, you should be aware of the common Shih Tzu health concerns.

So the question remains, are there common health concerns with Shih Tzus?

Well, the short answer is yes, there are. However, the earlier you identify these health concerns, the sooner you can remedy it.

In the following article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common health concerns in Shih Tzus and exactly how you can help your dog manage these health complications.

10 Most Common Health Concerns In Shih Tzus

Shih Tzu Health Behaviour


This is an inherited health condition and pertains to an abnormality in the dog’s retina.

If you’re not exactly sure what the retina is, it’s basically a portion of tissue in the eyes responsible for the dogs’ vision.

This condition occurs when the tissue layers become folded in the eye as opposed to staying flat which is normal.

Ultimately, it can lead to mild vision impairment and in severe cases complete blindness.

If you notice a dog stumbling or bumping into objects, then you probably should take them to a veterinarian ophthalmologist immediately.

While there is no known cause for this condition, mild forms of it do exist and many dogs learn to compensate for it and are able to still function normally in spite of having the condition.

Other eye problems

Shih Tzus have large eyes and shallow eye sockets. Ultimately, it makes the breed predisposed to various eye conditions and not just retinal dysplasia.

One of these eye conditions is epiphora and is the term used to explain an overflow of tears that stain the white fur just below the eyes.

Other common eye conditions include corneal ulcers, cataracts, and entropion and eye infections. Cataracts and entropion are when one or both of the eyelids turn inwards towards the eyeballs.

The eyelashes then rub against the eyeball and cause irritation and in severe cases may require surgery.

If you notice your dog having abnormal discharge from the eyes or keeps rubbing his eyes, then take him to a vet immediately.

Keratitis is an inflammation of the corner that eventually results in ulcers. Unfortunately, Shih Tzus eyes can fail them and this is common amongst the breed.

In cases of corneal ulcers, your dog will need to undergo surgery. Keratitis, however, may cause severe blindness if the condition does get to that extent.

Proptosis is another eye-related disorder and this occurs when the eyeball dislodges from the socket and the eyelid shuts behind it.

It is, unfortunately, a very painful condition and often needs surgery. The bad news is it does cause blindness if it’s really severe.

Some of the symptoms will be inflammation of the eye and over time you’ll notice your dog’s eye beginning to move forward.

However, the good news is that surgery is available for this condition.

Luxating Patella

Luxating Patella is usually a hereditary condition in Shih Tzus. It consists of an abnormal movement or dislocation of the kneecap.

While there are varying degrees of this condition, most are based on the depth of the space where the patella resides.

A luxating patella occurs on one of the hind legs or it can in some cases occur on both of them.

Ultimately, this predisposes your dog for arthritis and other orthopedic conditions if it’s lifted to its own devices.

A Vet will be able to detect a Luxating Patellaby by doing a physical examination and thereafter provide recommendations for surgical intervention or medical management.

Dental Disease

Shih Tzus also have small mouths. And this can tend to predispose them to different types of dental issues.

Malocclusion and crowding of teeth are some of the most common issues found in these breeds.

As your dog ages, tartar and plaque can accumulate and ultimately lead to gum disease.

Therefore routine dental evaluation is recommended and routine dental cleanings are extremely important as well to ensure that your dog maintains good dental health.

Otitis externa

Ear infections result from ear might infestation or a yeast or bacterial overgrowth in your dogs’ ear.

Shih Tzus are predisposed to developing ear infections because of their floppy ears and lots of hair in their ear canals.

Clinical signs of infections are head shaking, rubbing of the ears against their paws or other objects, an inflamed ear pinna and bad odor coming from your dogs’ ear.

Your vet will perform ear cytology and this is a process that involves taking a sample on a cotton tip applicator from inside the dog’s ear canal and then examining it under a microscope.

Ultimately this will determine the type of infection that’s present in your dog. The appropriate medication will be prescribed as well as routine cleaning.

Breathing problems

Because Shih Tzus have short faces, they tend to have breathing problems.

Like a Shih Tzu owner, you need to be vigilant especially during hot and humid days.

These conditions will make breathing even more difficult for your short-faced, furry friend.

Therefore during hot and humid days, your dog may feel like collapsing and possibly even be at serious risk for heatstroke.

So if you notice that your dog is having difficulty breathing, contact a vet right away.

Back problems

Some of the most common problems and these breeds are back and neck problems.

This is because they have relatively long backs. Intervertebral disc disease is also another frequent health issue with these dogs.

This condition occurs when the intervertebral discs that question the spine become displaced.

In other cases, they may bulge or rupture and cause severe pain and also potential nerve problems in your dog.

If it’s not treated, it quickly leads to weakness and ultimately paralysis.

Collapsing Trachea

Collapsing Trachea is a condition found in small dogs such as Shih Tzus.

The trachea is also known as the windpipe in your dog and is composed of cartilage.

As Cartilage weakens, the structure starts to flatten and breathing becomes more difficult and painful for your little dog.

This condition can be rectified with surgery if it really is serious, but in most cases, your dog will adjust to that condition.

Stenotic Nares

Stenotic Nares is a condition that occurs when your dog is born with passageways in their nostrils that are very narrow.

Because of the abnormally small size, your dog may experience a lack of oxygen that they need to regulate the body.

Some of the symptoms include difficulty in breathing and you should be aware of this so you can pick it up immediately.

As time goes by, the condition may worsen and the dog’s body can potentially begin to fail. Surgery is available for the condition and it is almost always successful.


Hypothyroidism affects your dog’s thyroid and although it’s not very common in smaller dogs, there are reports of Shih Tzus suffering from this condition.

This condition causes the thyroid to dysfunction which means your dog will ultimately not be able to regulate his metabolism.

So your dog may suffer from extreme fatigue, abnormal appetite, and an excessive need to urinate as well as obesity.

If it goes untreated your dog could end up in a coma. However, as soon as the condition is diagnosed,  treatment and medication are available.

Are all health concerns related to Shih Tzus life-threatening?

No, the reality is that lots of health concerns may lead to severe conditions however the majority of these health issues can be treated either by surgery or medication.

Do these health concerns shorten my dog’s lifespan?

No, it does not. Lots of Shih Tzus continue to live for years on end even with certain health concerns.

How often should I take my Shih Tzu to the vet?

Whenever you notice any of the above symptoms and signs, you should alert your vet immediately because the sooner these conditions are identified, the sooner it be cheated.


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