Shih-Tzu - breed information and advice

The regal-looking Shih Tzu was originally bred as a lap dog for Chinese royalty, and makes a great companion to this day. The Shih Tzu is outgoing and bouncy, although it can also be obstinate and therefore needs patience when training. They make great family pets and suit all types of homes.

Breed information


Size: Small

Coat: As they are long-haired, Shih Tzus need daily, careful grooming

Exercise: Up to an hour a day for adult dogs

Life span: 10+ years – most live well into their teens

Breed group: The Utility group is diverse, including a range of breeds that don’t automatically fall into the other six more defined groups. Generally speaking, Utility breeds are medium-sized and even-tempered.

Eye conditions

Eye disorders are very common in dogs. Dry eye, for example, occurs when a dog isn’t producing sufficient tears. Another common, painful eye irritation is corneal ulceration, which occurs when the surface of the cornea becomes grazed as a result of scratches from other animals or vegetation, foreign material in the eye, chemicals, heat or smoke, or infection. ‘Cherry eye’ occurs when the tear production gland pops out from inside the lower eyelid. Although this isn’t a painful condition, it looks unsightly and will interfere with tear production if it is left untreated. Overall, treatment depends on the type and severity of eye problem (cherry eye, for example, requires surgery). Some treatments may be required for life to keep the dog’s vision in good health.


In our experience, Shih Tzus are most likely to need treatment for eye conditions

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Breathing problems

A dog’s respiratory system runs from the nose to the air sacs in the lungs. Any part of this system can become diseased. Pneumonia, for example, means ‘inflammation of the lungs’, and is caused by infections or parasites such as lungworm. Dogs like Shih Tzus with short, broad heads can also suffer from a condition known as ‘brachycephalic airway syndrome’, which makes breathing more difficult. Narrow nostrils, a long soft palate at the roof of the mouth and a collapsing larynx combine to partially obstruct the passage of air through the upper airways. Treatment may include surgery if the dog’s breathing is severely compromised.


We paid £1,411 to treat Louie the Shih-Tzu for a respiratory system disorder in 2016

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Slipped discs

Like several other breeds with long backs and short legs, Shih Tzus are susceptible to slipped discs, also known as ‘intervertebral disc disease’. This occurs when the discs between the vertebrae (backbones) become damaged and brittle with age or general wear and tear. This makes the discs prone to rupturing, moving (‘slipping’) and pressing against the spinal cord itself. Treatment depends on the cause and location of the problem but may include medication, rest and possibly even surgery to help the dog live a comfortable life.


We paid £3,128 to treat Olly the Shih-Tzu for disc problems in 2016

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Skin conditions

The skin is the largest organ of a dog’s body and a number of disorders can affect it. Like other dogs, Shih Tzus can suffer from allergies that lead to dermatitis (skin inflammation). Allergies can be caused by many different items, including things that are inhaled (such as pollen or dust mites), items that are eaten (for example, wheat), items that the dog comes into contact with (for example, washing powders), or bites from parasites such as fleas. Another skin problem, pyoderma (meaning ‘infection of the skin’) is usually caused by bacteria, fungi (‘ringworm’) or yeasts. Skin disorders can be managed using various treatments, usually required long-term, which means the dog can get on with enjoying life.


Skin conditions are the third most common illnesses we see in Shih Tzus

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Bladder stones

A dog’s urinary system removes waste from the body via the urine. The system is made up of the kidney, the ureters (which connect the kidneys to the bladder), the bladder itself and the urethra (which delivers urine from the body). Urinary disorders can crop up in any of these areas. Shih Tzus are particularly prone to a condition where crystals and stones form in the bladder (urolithiasis). Treatment often involves changing the dog’s diet, or occasionally surgical removal of the stones, allowing the dog to enjoy a normal and happy life.


We paid £2,654 to treat Alfie the dog for urinary system disorder in 2016

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