What Is the Life Expectancy of a Shih Tzu Dog?

When you bring home a new dog, you're bringing home a companion and a family member with whom you'll share roughly the next decade. While you want to be able to have your dog for as long as possible, some breeds naturally live longer than others. If you're considering a certain breed, then you'll want to think about how the dog will fit into your life and what the breed's average life span is. Understanding the life span of a Shih Tzu dog will help you to determine if the breed is right for you.

Shih tzu dog
What Is the Life Expectancy of a Shih Tzu Dog?
credit: Przemysław Iciak/iStock/GettyImages

Life Span of a Shih Tzu

According to Vetstreet, the average Shih Tzu life span is between 10 and 18 years, which is quite long when compared with the life span of some larger dog breeds. Canna-Pet notes that Shih Tzus are generally known as being a pretty healthy breed, though, like all dogs, they are prone to a few particular health issues.

Common Shih Tzu health issues

Vetstreet states that some of the common Shuh Tzu health issues affect all smaller-breed dogs. While many of these issues are treatable, and you may be able to correct some problems with surgery, some issues will simply require extra care.

Renal dysplasia

Embrace Pet Insurance states that renal dysplasia is another concerning condition that commonly affects Shih Tzus. Renal dysplasia causes a dog's kidneys to develop and function abnormally. Because the kidneys never fully mature like those of an adult dog, they can't handle the demands of supporting the bodily functions of an adult-sized dog.

Young dogs may inherit renal dysplasia from their parents, so if you buy from a breeder, make sure they test for this condition. Even if a dog's parents have regular kidney biopsies, it's still possible for a puppy to develop renal dysplasia, so watch for symptoms like failure to gain weight or excessive thirst.

Periodontal disease

According to Animal Planet, Shih Tzus are prone to developing periodontal disease because of their small mouths. Shih Tzus have all of their 42 teeth crowded into a small space, which means that plaque gets caught and accumulates quickly on their teeth and gums. If plaque isn't removed, it becomes tartar.

If your dog doesn't receive adequate dental care, periodontal disease can begin. Your dog's teeth may loosen, and his gums will erode. The bacteria in his mouth could travel through his body and cause liver and kidney damage.

To combat periodontal disease, you can teach your dog to have his teeth brushed regularly. Additionally, there are many dog foods, treats, and rinses that can help to combat tartar buildup. Your vet may also recommend regular dental cleanings for your dog to stay ahead of the issue.

Overheating and heatstroke

Animal Planet explains that like many dogs with flat faces, Shih Tzus are at risk of overheating in warm weather. Because these dogs have flat faces and short noses, their airflow is restricted, meaning the dogs can't cool themselves off by panting as effectively as other breeds.

If a Shih Tzu can't cool herself down by panting, she may get heatstroke, which can kill her. Look for weakness, panting, and frothing at the mouth, and cool your dog down and seek veterinary treatment immediately if you notice these symptoms. To help prevent your dog from getting heatstroke, keep her out of hot weather and in an air-conditioned space when temperatures rise.

Luxating patella

According to Canna-Pet, Shih Tzus may also develop luxating patella, a condition where their kneecaps pop out of position. The kneecap can dislocate randomly, causing a dog to develop an abnormal gait, have difficulty walking, have painful legs, and even become immobile.

The good news is that there are many different treatments for this condition, and it can often be fixed. Luxating patella can differ dramatically in severity, with some dogs having a mild limp for a few days a year to other dogs with much more serious conditions. When the condition is more serious, corrective surgery may be necessary.

Respiratory issues

They can encounter respiratory problems with wheezing and breathing difficulties that will need veterinary attention. According to Canna-Pet, Shih Tzus are prone to collapsing tracheas because of the structure of their faces.

A dog's trachea, or windpipe, is made of cartilage. When that cartilage becomes weak, it can flatten out, making it both difficult and painful for your dog to breathe. Some dogs can adjust to living with a collapsed trachea, but if the condition is affecting your dog's ability to breathe, then surgery may be needed to correct the condition.

Eye diseases

Vetstreet states that Shih Tzus are prone to eye diseases, several of which can be inherited. Cataracts are common but can often be surgically remedied. Progressive retinal atrophy is a disease that your dog may inherit, and it does cause the dog to go blind over time.

Because a Shih Tzu's eyes bulge outward, they are also more likely to develop injuries to their eyes that push the eyeball out of orbit, requiring an emergency trip to the vet or local animal hospital.

Matted coats

Your Shih Tzu's long, flowing double coat is a beautiful breed characteristic, but it can pose a health problem for your dog. Animal Planet states that Shih Tzus need meticulous coat care and grooming to prevent matting.

Matting isn't just a cosmetic issue, either. Mats can tighten up against a dog's body, restricting airflow and increasing the chance that the skin underneath can develop sores or infections. Promptly remove any mats from your dog's coat in order to prevent them from becoming painful health risks.

Your Shih Tzu will require regular grooming appointments in order to maintain her coat. In between appointments, brush your dog daily in order to keep mats from forming. You can also ask your groomer to give your dog a shorter cut that requires less maintenance.

Keeping your Shih Tzu healthy

There are a number of ways that you can increase your dog's chances of living a long and healthy life. Embrace Pet Insurance recommends that you only buy a puppy from a reputable breeder who tests their breeding stock to avoid many of the hereditary health issues to which the breed is prone. Alternatively, consider buying or adopting an adult dog from a Shih Tzu rescue or shelter. Bringing home an older dog can be an advantage since many health issues reveal themselves when dogs are puppies, so you'll have a better sense of any health conditions present.

According to Canna-Pet, regular vet care is an essential part of keeping your dog healthy. Your vet can help to keep your dog up to date on vaccines and can also assess other factors such as weight and overall health. Plus, your vet can help to identify potential health issues early on, so you can stay ahead of them before they become large problems.

Diet is another important element of your dog's health. Feed him a quality, nutritious food. Your vet can also advise you on an appropriate diet for your dog's needs.

Exercise your Shih Tzu

Don't overlook the importance of regular exercise. Shih Tzus are known to be somewhat lazy, so make sure that you incorporate some exercise and physical activity into your dog's daily routine. Exercise will help your dog to regulate her body and stay in shape, increasing her chances of living a long, healthy life.