13 Most Common Shih Tzu Health Issues

Are you a proud Shih Tzu owner?

Be aware of the most common health issues that can affect your furry friend. Explore various conditions that Shih Tzus are prone to and the steps you can take to prevent and manage them.

From dental issues to heart failure, these concerns can impact your Shih Tzu’s well-being. Learn about these health issues and proactive measures you can take for a happy and healthy life for your beloved companion

Dental Issues

If you own a Shih Tzu, you should be aware of the dental issues that they’re prone to. Shih Tzus are susceptible to tooth decay and gum disease, which can cause pain and discomfort. Dental disease is a common health issue in dogs, and Shih Tzus are no exception.

Their small mouths and crowded teeth make them more susceptible to tartar and plaque buildup. Regular dental care is essential to prevent dental issues in Shih Tzus. This includes brushing their teeth regularly and scheduling professional dental cleanings when necessary.

Older Shih Tzus are especially at risk for dental problems, so it’s important to monitor their oral health closely. By taking care of their teeth, you can ensure that your Shih Tzu maintains good overall health.

Luxating Patella

If your Shih Tzu shows signs of limping or discomfort while walking, it may be experiencing a condition known as luxating patella. This is a common health problem in Shih Tzus and refers to a dislocation of the kneecap from its normal position.

Joint problems like luxating patella can cause an abnormal gait and lameness in the leg affected. It can also lead to a reduced range of motion in the affected leg.

While mild cases may not require medical intervention, severe cases may require surgery to correct the issue. Regular exercise and weight management can help prevent or manage this condition in your Shih Tzu.

If you notice any signs of limping or discomfort, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment.

Heart Failure Due to Valve Defect

To effectively manage heart failure due to valve defects in your Shih Tzu, regular check-ups and monitoring are crucial. Heart failure can occur when there’s a defect in the valves of the heart, such as mitral valve insufficiency. This common condition in dogs, especially smaller breeds like Shih Tzus, can cause the heart to work harder and eventually lead to heart failure.

Symptoms of heart failure include coughing during exercise, panting, loss of appetite, weakness, and weight loss. Early detection and treatment are essential to managing this progressive condition. By regularly taking your Shih Tzu to the veterinarian for check-ups and monitoring, you can identify and address any heart issues before they worsen.

Eye Conditions

Because Shih Tzus have large and sensitive eyes, they’re prone to several eye-related conditions and diseases.

One common eye condition in Shih Tzus is progressive retinal atrophy, which can lead to blindness as the cells in the retina deteriorate.

Other eye conditions include glaucoma, keratoconjunctivitis sicca (dry eye), eyelid entropion, ectopic cilia, and distichiasis.

These conditions can cause symptoms such as dilated pupils, redness, eye rubbing, swelling, discharge, and pain.

It’s important to provide regular eye care and have your Shih Tzu undergo veterinary check-ups to prevent and manage these eye conditions.

If you notice any changes in your dog’s eyes, consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible to ensure proper treatment and prevent further complications.

white and brown long coated dog


Maintaining a healthy diet, regular exercise, and portion control are crucial to prevent obesity in your Shih Tzu. Obesity is one of the most common health conditions in dogs, and Shih Tzus are particularly prone to it, especially as they’re smaller dogs. Here are some key points to keep in mind:

  • Obesity can lead to serious health issues such as diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease.
  • Shih Tzus’ brachycephalic nature makes breathing even more challenging when they’re obese.
  • Avoid overfeeding and limit treats to prevent weight gain.
  • Provide regular exercise to keep your Shih Tzu active and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Consult with your veterinarian to determine the appropriate diet and portion sizes for your Shih Tzu’s specific needs.

Portosystemic Shunt

If you suspect that your Shih Tzu may have a portosystemic shunt, it’s important to seek veterinary care immediately. A portosystemic shunt is a liver disease where toxins bypass the liver, causing gastrointestinal issues. Shih Tzus can develop this condition congenitally or later in life.

Symptoms of a portosystemic shunt include stunted growth, weight loss, vomiting, diarrhea, seizures, and temporary blindness. To diagnose this condition, a blood test is necessary, and surgery may be required to repair the shunt.

Regular monitoring and a specialized diet can help manage a portosystemic shunt in Shih Tzus. It’s crucial to address liver problems promptly to prevent further complications and ensure the well-being of your furry friend.

Hip Dysplasia

Have you ever wondered if Shih Tzus can develop hip dysplasia? Unfortunately, hip dysplasia is a common condition that can affect Shih Tzus. This inherited condition occurs when the hip joint doesn’t form properly, leading to abnormalities and potential long-term issues. Here are some key points to understand about hip dysplasia in Shih Tzus:

  • Hip dysplasia is more commonly seen in larger breeds, but it can also occur in smaller breeds like Shih Tzus.
  • Symptoms of hip dysplasia include decreased activity, reduced range of motion, lameness, muscle loss, pain, and stiffness.
  • If left untreated, hip dysplasia can lead to arthritis and significantly affect a dog’s mobility.
  • Regular exercise, weight management, and veterinary monitoring are essential in managing hip dysplasia in Shih Tzus.
  • Treatment options may include medication, physical therapy, or even surgery, depending on the severity of the condition.

Understanding and addressing hip dysplasia can help ensure the well-being and quality of life for Shih Tzus, affected by this common condition.


Cushing’s Disease

If your Shih Tzu is exhibiting symptoms such as increased appetite, excessive thirst, hair loss, and frequent urination, they may be suffering from Cushing’s disease. Cushing’s disease is a common health issue in Shih Tzus that’s caused by an overproduction of cortisol by the adrenal glands. This can put your Shih Tzu at risk for kidney damage and diabetes.

Early detection and treatment are crucial for managing Cushing’s disease. Regular veterinary check-ups and hormone level monitoring are essential to ensure your Shih Tzu’s health. It’s important to be aware of this condition and seek proper medical care if you suspect your Shih Tzu may have Cushing’s disease.


Are you aware that Shih Tzus are prone to skin allergies, also known as atopy, which can cause excessive itching? These allergies commonly affect their belly, feet, skin folds, and ears. Symptoms usually start between one and three years of age and can worsen over time. It’s important to manage these allergies to prevent discomfort and further skin problems.

Here are some key points to remember about Shih Tzu allergies:

  • Shih Tzus are prone to skin allergies, which can cause excessive itching.
  • Common allergens include pollen, dust mites, certain foods, and fleas.
  • Regular grooming and bathing can help reduce allergens on their coat and skin.
  • Allergy testing can help identify specific triggers, allowing for better allergen avoidance.
  • Medication and allergy shots may be necessary in severe cases to manage respiratory problems and allergic reactions.

Tracheal Collapse

Experiencing difficulty breathing and a honking cough are common symptoms of tracheal collapse in Shih Tzus. Tracheal collapse is a progressive respiratory condition where the tracheal rings collapse, causing a narrowing of the airway. This can make it harder for your Shih Tzu to breathe and can lead to other complications.

Tracheal collapse is often seen in small dog breeds like the Shih Tzu and is sometimes referred to as brachycephalic airway syndrome. If your Shih Tzu is diagnosed with tracheal collapse, your veterinarian may recommend weight management to reduce strain on the airway. Using a harness instead of a collar can also help alleviate pressure on the trachea.

In severe cases, surgery may be necessary to repair the collapsed trachea and improve your dog’s breathing.

Struvite Bladder Stones

Struvite bladder stones are rock-like mineral formations that can develop in your Shih Tzu’s urinary bladder. These stones form as a complication of a bladder infection and are caused by urease-producing bacteria. If your Shih Tzu has struvite bladder stones, they may experience symptoms such as blood in the urine and straining to urinate.

Treatment options for struvite bladder stones include surgical removal or dissolution through diet. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to remove the stones. It’s important to address this condition promptly to prevent further complications. Regular monitoring and veterinary care are crucial to ensure your Shih Tzu’s bladder health.


Glomerulonephropathy, also known as genetic kidney disease, can affect your Shih Tzu’s overall health and well-being. This inherited kidney disease causes the loss of excess protein and early kidney malfunction. If left untreated, it can lead to more severe symptoms such as lack of appetite, diarrhea, increased thirst, muscle wasting, and weight loss. Treatment for glomerulonephropathy involves dietary changes, medication, and fluid therapy. Regular veterinary monitoring is crucial to manage this condition and prevent further complications. To give you a better understanding of Shih Tzu health issues, here is a table summarizing the key characteristics of glomerulonephropathy and how it compares to other common health problems in Shih Tzus:

GlomerulonephropathyLack of appetite, diarrhea, increased thirst, weight loss
Retinal AtrophyProgressive vision loss, night blindness
Brachycephalic AirwayDifficulty breathing, overheating
Hormonal ProblemsIrregular heat cycles, changes in behavior, weight gain

Brachycephalic Syndrome

You may be familiar with one of the most common health issues in Shih Tzus, which is Brachycephalic Syndrome. This syndrome occurs in dog breeds with flat faces and is characterized by airway abnormalities such as a collapsing windpipe, small nostrils, and a soft palate.

Here are some key points to understand about Brachycephalic Syndrome:

  • It causes difficulty breathing and can lead to overheating.
  • Shih Tzus, with this syndrome, may experience respiratory distress and snoring.
  • Surgery may be recommended for severe cases to correct the anatomical abnormalities.
  • Proper temperature regulation is crucial to prevent respiratory issues.
  • Shih Tzus with Brachycephalic Syndrome are also at a higher risk of developing eye conditions such as retinal atrophy.

Understanding the signs and symptoms of Brachycephalic Syndrome can help you provide the necessary care and support to your Shih Tzu. Regular veterinary check-ups and proactive management of this syndrome are essential to ensure your dog’s well-being.

white and brown long coated dog

Intervertebral Disc Disease

If your Shih Tzu experiences Intervertebral Disc Disease, they may suffer from pain, weakness, or paralysis in their hind limbs. This degenerative condition affects the spinal discs and can be especially problematic for Shih Tzus due to their long backs. Treatment options for Intervertebral Disc Disease include medication, physical therapy, or surgery, depending on the severity of the condition.

Intervertebral Disc Disease can have a significant impact on your Shih Tzu’s quality of life. It’s important to work closely with your veterinarian to develop a treatment plan that best suits your dog’s needs.

Breathing Problems in Shih Tzus

The most common breathing problems in Shih Tzus are caused by their squishy faces and can lead to conditions such as Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (BAS), tracheal collapse, and stenotic nares. These issues can greatly affect Shih Tzu’s overall health and quality of life.

Here are some key points to understand about these common breathing problems in Shih Tzus:

  • Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome (BAS): This condition occurs due to the unique facial structure of Shih Tzus, with characteristics such as narrow nostrils, elongated soft palate, and a narrow windpipe. These abnormalities can cause difficulty in breathing, especially during exercise or when the dog is excited.
  • Tracheal Collapse: Shih Tzus can experience tracheal collapse, where the rings of their windpipe become weak and collapse, leading to breathing difficulties. Common symptoms include honking cough, difficulty breathing, exercise intolerance, and even fainting.
  • Stenotic Nares: Shih Tzus may also have narrow or pinched nostrils, known as stenotic nares, which can make it harder for them to breathe. This condition can cause snoring, snorting, and difficulty breathing through the nose.

Understanding these common breathing problems in Shih Tzus is important for their overall health and well-being. If you notice any signs of breathing difficulties in your Shih Tzu, it’s crucial to seek veterinary care to properly diagnose and manage these conditions.


It’s important for Shih Tzu owners to be aware of the common health issues that can affect their furry friends.

By understanding these conditions and taking proactive measures such as regular check-ups, proper nutrition, and exercise, you can ensure that your Shih Tzu leads a happy and healthy life.

Remember to stay vigilant and address any concerns with your veterinarian to give your beloved companion the best care possible.

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