Health Tips for Shih Tzu Care

Shih tzu care involves preventing and treating those ailments to which this breed is particularly prone. In this article, we'll discuss some common shih tzu health problems, and how you can prevent and cope with them.

Ear and Eye Problems in Shih Tzu Dogs

Because Shih Tzus have an unusual cranial structure, they're prone to eye injuries and ear infections. You can help to prevent ear infections by keeping your dog's ears clean, dry, and trimmed of excess hair.

Eye injuries may be among the most common preventable health problems Shih Tzus face. Keep your Shih Tzu's environment free of objects that could cause eye injury. Discourage your Shih Tzu from any rough play, and try to protect him from encounters with aggressive animals. Cats and other dogs may injure your Shih Tzu's eyes with aggressive behavior.

Avoid eye infection by keeping your Shih Tzu's eyes free and clean of any dirt or discharge. Vets recommend allowing some fur to grow over the Shih Tzu's eyes as a way to offer further protection from dirt, debris and foreign objects.

Shih Tzus are genetically prone to a condition known as cherry eye, in which the tear-producing gland prolapses or slips out of its proper position. When this happens, you might see a soft, pink mass protruding at the corner of your dog's eye, near his nose. Complications of a prolapsed gland can include:

  • Irritation
  • Swelling
  • Ulceration
  • Bleeding
  • Conjunctivitis

Surgery may be necessary to correct the condition.

Respiratory Problems in Shih Tzus 

Shih Tzus, like many other dog breeds, are considered prone to certain genetic problems. These brachycephalic dogs may have respiratory problems due to narrow sinuses and other structural abnormalities. Dogs with breathing problems should never be forced to exert themselves, and they will need special care on hot days since they can be more vulnerable to heat stroke. If your Shih Tzu appears to have respiratory problems, seek veterinary care; some dogs may need surgery to correct respiratory abnormalities.

Shih Tzus and Renal Dysplasia

Renal dysplasia is a kidney disease common to Shih Tzu dogs. It occurs as a result of underdevelopment or abnormal development of the kidneys, and symptoms of the disease can appear as young as eight weeks of age. Symptoms include excessive thirst, excessive urination, weight loss, loss of appetite and lethargy. Renal dysplasia can lead to renal failure and death; seek veterinary care as soon as you notice symptoms in your dog.

Patellar Luxation in Shih Tzu Dogs

Patellar luxation, or slipped kneecap, is common to Shih Tzus. The condition may be present at birth, or may occur at any time during the dog's life. Some dogs develop this condition when they sustain a knee injury. To protect your dog, discourage him from strenuous activity and rough play. 

If your dog injuries his knee, it's important to seek veterinary care right away. Surgery can often correct the problem, but, if left untreated, deformity of the injured leg could occur, especially if your dog is a growing puppy.