The Shih Tzu breed is considered a very popular breed of small dog in the US, but with all that popularity invariably comes Shih Tzu health problems.
Nearly all of the most popular dogs are over bred or not genetically diverse. This means that there will be a host of health issues that are common in that breed. The Shih Tzu is no different and does not escape the problems that come with being a very popular breed in the U.S.
Shih Tzu Skin Problems, Allergies and More
One of the most common issues in the Shih Tzu breed are skin conditions.
Among these Shih Tzu allergies is a newly identified disease called Sebaceous Adenitis. Depending on the severity of your Shih Tzu’s symptoms, the exact problem can sometimes be misdiagnosed. The best thing you can do is become familiar with the various symptoms of each condition, this way you can be prepared to discuss the possible issues with your veterinarian.
Skin allergies can manifest themselves in many different ways with many different symptoms. Common causes for skin allergies in the Shih Tzu breed are hereditary, food related, and environmental. This can make it difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of your particular Shih Tzu’s allergies and it can also become a condition that you will have to treat for the rest of your dog’s life.
Hereditary allergies are passed on from generation to generation, there is no way to test if your dog’s allergies are genetic or not. With that said, it is best to spay or neuter any Shih Tzu that displays any allergy symptoms that are not food or environment related.
Food related allergies are sometimes easier to pinpoint as most of them are because of dog food fillers such as wheat, corn, and rice. If your Shih Tzu ever has an issue with food related allergies, it is best to start a food diary. Be sure to consult your veterinarian for specific testing that can be done to determine if your dog is allergic to specific food items in order to avoid Shih Tzu stomach problems .
Lastly, environmental allergies are caused by things in your Shih Tzu’s everyday world.
These can include bites from pests like fleas or ticks and contact dermatitis. Flea, tick, or bug bites can cause severe allergies in your Shih Tzu. Any dog bitten by a flea or tick will be itchy, however a bite on a dog suffering from allergies to that pest will have a much worse time with the itching and swelling.
Make sure you keep your pet on a preventative pest management plan and check with your veterinarian for possible treatments. Contact Dermatitis is another way of describing environmental allergy triggers such as grass, dust, chemicals, and shampoos. Again, check with your veterinarian for possible tests and treatments for these environmental triggers.
Shih Tzu Breathing Problems
The Shih Tzu is a brachycephalic breed, which means they have a short, squished in face. Dogs with squished in faces have very short nasal passages, elongated soft palates, and narrow windpipes. The Shih Tzu has a short face and is susceptible to the health issues that come with that.
Because of the short face, you might notice that your Shih Tzu has forced or labored breathing after being active or in warm conditions.
Brachycephalic dogs have a very difficult time cooling themselves in warm weather and hot stale air causing heat stress, so keep cool water with you on walks and on trips.
Because there is no real treatment for having a shortened face, and because it is part of the breed makeup, any conditions that arise in your Shih Tzu due to brachycephalic syndrome will be for the lifetime of your pet. Consult with your veterinarian about ways to make sure your Shih Tzu stays in good health regardless of the shortened face.
Major Shih Tzu Health Concerns
Hopefully you will not have to deal with any major medical concerns, but you will at least need to know about the various possibilities. Among the most common concerns are patellar luxation, portosystemic liver shunt, and Hardarian Gland Prolapse or “Cherry Eye.”
Patellar luxation is common in many small breed dogs and is caused by the dislocation of the knee caps from the grooves in the knee joints. Your dog will have pain in the knee and will limp because of it. It is best to make sure that you do not let your Shih Tzu jump off of high places and monitor any rigorous activity. Consult your veterinarian for any other ways to prevent or treat this condition.
The only other common and major Shih Tzu eye problem is “Cherry Eye” which is caused by the prolapse of the gland in the third eyelid. This is seen as a pink fleshy mass protruding over the third eyelid and out of the eye socket.
It is painful for the dog and will require surgery to correct, sometimes with adverse effects depending on the diagnosis. In some cases, the protrusion may correct itself in two to three weeks, however there are still painful symptoms that remain including itching, swelling, and secondary infections of the eye.
Because the exact causes of “Cherry Eye” are unknown, it is difficult to say whether the condition is hereditary and can therefore be avoided. At this time, regular veterinary visits and eye exams are a must, as the Shih Tzu is known to have this condition.
Basic Shih Tzu Care Information
Aside from all the major concerns for your dog’s overall health, there are some basic requirements for this caring for a Shih Tzu puppy. Because of their genetic makeup and because of their status as a small dog with a pushed in face, there are a few things you will need to do to keep your Shih Tzu in good general health.
As mentioned before, the Shih Tzu is a brachycephalic breed and therefore has basic veterinary and grooming requirements to stay in good condition. Make sure your veterinarian does all the basic exams specific to breeds with this condition each year.
As far as grooming, there are normally creases and folds of skin on your dog’s face and particularly around the nose. It is best to take a clean warm wash cloth and a clean dry wash cloth and wipe out the creases then dry thoroughly. This can be done at least twice a week if not daily, this will help to avoid skin irritations and infections as well as bacterial growth.
Since they are not considered a very active breed, you will want to keep a good eye on the Shih Tzu diet and weight. Feed a high quality premium dog food that is specially formulated for small bred dogs and follow the feeding directions on the bag taking care to go by desired weight for your dog.
With all this information you will be able to keep your Shih Tzu in good health, just trust your veterinarian and follow through with proper diet and exercise. Just these two considerations alone will go a long way towards increasing the Shih Tzu life span.
Speaking of that, the average Shih Tzu life expectancy is between six and ten years. However, with proper veterinary care and your new found basic knowledge of common Shih Tzu health problems, you can be sure to get anywhere from thirteen to even sixteen years of quality friendship.