Shih Tzu Dogs Health Problems

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Common Shih Tzu health issues include both genetic diseases and conditions related to the dog's small size, which is between 9 and 12 pounds. As with any dog breed, prompt identification of these problems will ensure that your pet receives the treatment needed to manage their condition. Watch specifically for issues in a Shih Tzu's eyes, knee injuries, and accidents resulting from people tripping on these small dogs.


A Shih Tzu lying on grass.
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Do Shih Tzus have a lot of health issues?

Like all small dogs with short noses, Shih Tzus can have some health issues but generally no more than other dog breeds.‌ Health concerns associated with Shih Tzus include canine dental disease, ear infections, luxating patella, and respiratory problems.


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Shih Tzus often have dental problems due to the small size of their jaws. Missing, overcrowded, and crooked teeth are common. At least 80 percent of dogs 2 years old and older have periodontal disease. The disease occurs when plaque forms on the teeth and at the gum line.


Plaque buildup eventually forms tartar, leading to inflammation in the gums and structures around the teeth. If not treated, tooth loss can eventually occur. Other dental and oral problems can include underbite, retained baby teeth, and cleft palate.

Furthermore, the Shih Tzu breed, like other small dogs, tends to suffer from patellar luxation, a condition that occurs when the kneecap is dislocated. In severe cases, surgery might be needed to correct the problem. However, a greater risk to a Shih Tzu's physical safety is clumsy people. Be aware of where your little pup is located at all times because these small dogs are at risk of injuries, such as fractures or concussions, from being accidentally stepped on or tripped over.


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Bladder infections and kidney disease

Frequent, painful urination can be a sign that your pet has a bladder infection. Shih Tzus are prone to developing bladder infections and bladder stones. Both of these conditions require a visit to the veterinarian.


Renal dysplasia, a life-threatening, inherited condition, occurs when your dog's kidneys fail to develop normally. Shih Tzus who have renal dysplasia have shortened life spans, although the prognosis depends on the severity of the condition. Renal dysplasia is usually diagnosed when a dog is less than 1 year old. Signs of renal dysplasia include excessive thirst, failure to thrive, or gain weight.



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Eye problems with Shih Tzu dogs

Shih Tzus are genetically prone to developing progressive retinal atrophy and cataracts. Progressive retinal atrophy occurs when the rods in the retina don't function properly, resulting in gradual vision loss. Cataracts interfere with your pet's vision because they cloud the eye's lens. Surgery can restore vision if your dog has cataracts, although in some cases, blindness might result despite correction attempts.


The Shih Tzu's bulging eyeballs make the breed susceptible to proptosis, which occurs when the eye protrudes beyond the eye socket. Proptosis usually occurs due to trauma to the head and can result in vision loss if it isn't treated immediately. Proptosis is an extremely painful condition and requires immediate emergency veterinary care.


Other common eye problems include dry eye and ingrown eyelashes, which can lead to corneal ulcers. Eyes impacted by ulcers on the cornea will have will show pain, squinting, redness, and discharge.

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Shih Tzu breathing problems

The Shih Tzu's short nose; elongated soft palate; and narrow windpipe can make it more difficult for these little dogs to breathe and cool down after exercising. This condition, called brachycephalic syndrome or brachycephalic airway syndrome, occurs in dog breeds with a flat or smooshed face.


If your dog can't get enough oxygen because they are stressed or they've been running and playing, they might become overheated or might even collapse. Death can occur in some cases. Because breathing is more difficult, your dog might snore, breathe rapidly, pant, cough, or gag when eating their dog food.

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Additional Shih Tzu health problems

Other possible health problems include:

  • Hip dysplasia
  • Epilepsy
  • Ear infections
  • Skin conditions
  • Herniated discs
  • Umbilical hernia
  • Intervertebral disk disease
  • Back problems
  • Obesity

Clearly, any or all of these conditions require veterinary care and often ongoing medical treatment.

The bottom line

Overall, Shih Tzus are attractive, energetic dogs who are usually very social and personable. However, this means they love to spend time around people, so watch where you step because accidental trauma is a common reason Shih Tzus are brought to the veterinarian. Other Shih Tzu health problems include periodontal disease, dislocated kneecaps, eye damage or abnormality, and difficulty breathing.



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