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The name ‘Shih Tzu’ translates as lions, but clearly, there’s nothing fierce and bold with these dogs. These pooches are lovers, not hunters. They are affectionate, happy, outgoing, and really lively house dogs who adore nothing more than the habit of following their favorite people from room to room. Mind you, they are also very endearing, and their cute looks are very easy on the eyes! 

With their almost perfect definition, we can overlook one aspect that is crucial in raising them effectively. This is the awareness and readiness for their specific health concerns. If you are already a Shih Tzu owner, I commend you for taking the time to research in respect to this topic and if you are a soon-to-be owner, the way to go as you’ll be a responsible one.

Shih Tzu Health Overview 

Shih Tzus have a title for longevity. These dogs live an average of 15 years, and traditionally, they are a healthy breed. Most say, surprisingly because of their small size. However, these dogs are prone to a few health issues. With that, it is really important to have a grasp and understand these concerns and considerations so that you can spot symptoms and help in keeping your pooch healthy. 

Shih Tzus’ Health Considerations: 


If there is one universal thread between the range of these dogs’ health issues, it is that their eyes can miscarry. Keratitis is an inflammation of the cornea in which subsequently turns into an ulcer. In the field of a corneal ulcer, your Shi Tzu will call for surgery. If the condition is severe enough, unfortunately, it causes complete blindness. 


Another eye disorder, Proptosis manifests when the eyeball actually dislodges from the socket and the eyelid shuts in the back of it. It is painful, requires surgery, and also, unfortunately, causes blindness. 

The first symptom is the inflammation of the eye and over time it begins to move forward. Today, thankfully, there are a variety of treatment options that almost all lead to success stories. 

Progressive retinal Atrophy (PRA) 

This is a disorder that occurs when the photoreceptor that is located in the back of the eyes begins to fail. It firstly starts with night blindness. You will notice your Shih Tzu having a hard time navigating in the dark and him being clumsy. 

It will progress and will attack daytime vision as well. In almost all cases of PRA, it leads to complete blindness. There is no treatment available for this condition, however, a seemingly okay alternative is the early diagnosis before the years of blindness ensue. This will give your Shih Tzu adequate time to adapt to the years of blindness to come. 

As we discussed the three main eye concerns for Shih Tzu, make sure to be proactive and keen in the way your dog’s eyes develop. If you notice that they are red or swollen, or if they tingle or sting, do the next right thing by consulting your veterinarian. Many eye-related dilemmas that are caught early are treated and managed, luckily enough to have given Shih Tzu a seemingly normal and healthy life after. 

Hip Dysplasia 

This is another one of the most frequent conditions that affect not just Shih Tzus, but all dogs in general. It is usually seen in bigger dogs that grow quickly in their bodies, but smaller canines just as Shih Tzus are a target as well. This is because Shih Tzus love to jump, most active in their youth. Often these adorable canines overestimate their abilities and land just about too hard, which then leads to an injury that subsequently turns into Hip Dysplasia, often after a few years. 

This health consideration affects dogs’ hip joint and creates a displacement between their thigh and joint bone. Hip Dysplasia also differs in terms of their pain severity, and usually, dogs affected will walk with abnormal gait and joint pain, but they are still capable of enjoying life, with precautions, of course. Symptoms of this disorder are abnormal gait, lameness occurring in the leg, difficulty walking, and challenge in mobility. 

Ear Infections 

Shih Tzus’ ear structure sadly makes them prone to having ear infections. Their floppy ears make way to a warm, long canal that makes a stomping ground for bacteria to land on. 

You can easily spot these, as ear infections oftentimes cause odor, make your dog abnormally jumpy, and agitated in the wake of loud noises. Treatments and antibiotics are healers of this condition, so you do not have to worry. Be vigilant, though. 

Intervertebral Disk Disease 

Another one is a disease that occurs in dogs having shorter legs and lengthy backs, as it leads to structural volatility of the dog’s spine. Intervertebral Disk Disease occurs when a disk slips out and presses at odds with its spinal cord. Symptoms are muscle spasms, weakness of the limbs, the challenge in mobility as well as extreme sensitivity to touch. 

Unfortunately, as IVD progresses, it is possible that a dog affected by this will experience complete paralysis. There are treatments, medicines as well as surgeries available to help or at least relieve the symptoms of IVD. 

Stenotic Nares 

This is a health consideration you need to be aware of, as it occurs when a Shih Tzu is born with passageways in the nostril that are too tapered. Due to these dogs’ small size, Shih Tzus can have a hard time obtaining the proper amount of oxygen they necessitate to regulate their body. Fortunately, there is a surgery available for this condition and has an impressively high success rate.

Keep in Mind

Health considerations will never diminish as the odds of life is uncertain. Dog owners and soon-to-be owners of the lovely dog breed we just finished discussing, I hope you had picked up a lot of valuable insight, and I wish the two of you healthy companionship all the way. Shih Tzus are an angel, and be one for them!

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