Shih Tzu Health Problems and Issues

shih tzu health problems

The Shih Tzu is quite the dynamic toy dog. They have one of the oldest lineages of all dog breeds in existence (and a history which is deeply rooted in Chinese royalty) and yet still remains similar to even their earliest depictions. The actual name Shih Tzu translates to ‘little lion’ which most likely derives from the fact that they have ‘manes’ around their face.

They’re an adorable breed filled with spunk and energy, and think extremely highly of themselves. However they’re not dignified to a fault and instead of arrogance, this little dog is simply happy and confident in their own skin. The Shih Tzu breed’s entire existence is to love and be loved and make wonderful companions for any home.

Shih Tzu’s are known for their longevity as they live on average anywhere from 10-16 years. Even though they are traditionally a pretty healthy dog breed, Shih Tzu’s are prone to a few health issues. It is important to understand these issues so that you can look out for symptoms and help keep your pup healthy.


If there’s one common thread between the range of Shih Tzu health issues, it’s that their eyes can fail. Keratitis is an inflammation of the cornea which can eventually result in an ulcer. In the case of a corneal ulcer, your Shih Tzu will often need to undergo surgery. Unfortunately, Keratitis does indeed cause blindness if the condition is severe enough.

Proptosis shih tzu health issues

Another eye-related disorder, this occurs when the eyeball actually dislodges from the socket and the eyelid shuts behind it. It’s incredibly painful, often time requires surgery, and can indeed cause blindness.

Often the first symptoms begin with an inflammation of the eye, and overtime you’ll be able to notice the your dog’s eye begin to move forward. Thankfully, there are surgeries available for this condition.

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

This disease occurs when the photoreceptors in the back of the eye begins to fail. At first it begins with night blindness. Your Shih Tzu will have a hard time navigating in the dark, and often seem clumsy.

As it progresses, it begins to affect their daytime vision as well. In most cases, PRA will eventually lead to complete blindness. While there’s no treatment available for this condition, veterinarians can diagnose it years before blindness ensues, which allots a reasonable amount of time for the dog to adapt to the blindness.

With these three conditions in mind, be sure to always be keen on the way your Shih Tzu’s eyes develop. If they’re ever red or swollen or if you notice your dog itching them frequently, it’s best you take your pup to see a veterinarian so they can diagnose the problem. Many eye-related problems have to be caught early in order to be fully repaired.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip Dysplasia is one of the most common conditions that affect dogs in general. Usually it’s seen in bigger dogs that grow too quickly into their bodies, but it can also occur in smaller canines like the Shih Tzu. 

Hip Dysplasia can occur in Shih Tzu’s because they love to jump around, particularly in their youth. Often they overestimate their capabilities and land too hard, causing an injury that develops into Hip Dysplasia years later.

It affects the hip joint, and creates a displacement between the joint and thigh bone. Hip Dysplasia varies in degrees of severity, and often the dog will walk with a bit of an abnormal gait and joint paint but live a completely healthy life.

If it’s bad enough, this issue can require surgery. Symptoms of hip dysplasia include an abnormal gait, lameness in the leg(s), difficulty walking or moving the leg, and at worst immobility.


Lots of smaller dogs can be affected by allergies. Allergies in the dog world are quite similar to allergies that affect the human anatomy.

Often the allergies are food-based, and the problem is solved by playing a game of elimination with your dog’s diet.

But your dog can also be allergic to certain products like shampoo or flea powders. While less common, some Shih Tzu’s are allergic to airborne allergens like pollen or dust.

Symptoms include itching, redness in the eyes, rashes, an upset stomach, and a lack of appetite. Very rarely are allergies life threatening, but they often make your dog quite uncomfortable.

Ear Infectionsshih tzu illnesses

The structure of the Shih Tzu’s ears makes them prone to ear infections. The floppy ears give way to a warm long canal, which can sometimes be the stomping grounds for bacteria.

One of the telltale signs of an ear infection is odor, or if your Shih Tzu is abnormally jumpy or frantic in the wake of loud noises.

There are treatments and antibiotics available for this condition and it is best to bring your dog to the vet.

Collapsing Trachea

This condition is more often found in little dogs, due to the structure of their faces. The trachea (also known as the windpipe) is composed of cartilage. If the cartilage weakens, the structure will flatten, and breathing becomes a difficult and painful process for your little dog.

This can be corrected via surgery if severe enough, but at times your dog will adjust to the collapsed trachea (so long that is not impairing airflow).

Intervertebral Disk Disease

Intervertebral Dis