Shih Tzu is a popular breed of small dog, known for their characteristic overbites, long flowing coats, and distinctive facial features. These dogs make excellent family pets, and are equally as popular in the show-dog circuit. Shih Tzu dogs also have a variety of health problems that are common and specific to the breed. If you know what these problems are, and their symptoms, you will be able to know when your dog is sick and arrange treatment in the early stages of illness or disorder.
Check for abdominal protrusions, like large, swollen bumps. Shih Tzus are prone to umbilical hernias, where areas of the intestines come through a damaged area of the abdominal wall. Umbilical hernias can be caused by an accident or injury, but many Shih Tzu dogs are born with them. The dog can have an umbilical hernia for some time with no adverse affects, or the hernia could present right away, with pain, bulging or difficulty going to the bathroom. If untreated, the intestines could twist and cause the dog to die.
Check for heavy breathing sounds, wheezing or nasal discharge. Because Shih Tzu dogs have a short nose and a more concave facial structure than many dogs, they are more prone to respiratory disorders and distress. In some cases, your dog may have a hereditary condition called Stenotic Nares, where the nostrils are too small for the dog to get adequate oxygen.
Pay attention to the dog's movements. If your Shih Tzu is experiencing a loss of mobility and coordination, or appears to be having back pain, the dog could have Intervertebral Disk Disease, or IVDD. IVDD affects certain breeds of dogs more than others, including Shis Tzus. If untreated, IVDD can lead to paralysis.
Pay attention to your dog's legs. If your dog repeatedly tries to avoid using one leg, stands with that leg in the air, limps on that leg or drags it, it could be a condition common in Shih Tsu dogs, known as patellar luxation, or a displaced kneecap. Surgery is required to repair this inherited condition.
Watch for any deviations in normal behavior. Like any pet, if your dog suffers a change in appetite, bathroom habits, temperament or sleep, your dog could have an illness and should be examined by a veterinarian.