Shih Tzu Common Health Issues

Health Conditions
Image: @loco0206

Although shih tzus may not share the same health issues as many larger dogs, they still have potential problems that may be faced even when they are fed properly and exercised. By knowing the common health issues of your shih tzu, you can create a plan to minimize the chances that they are affected by such problems.

Although there is no guarantees, it pays to understand the following health issues that your shih tzu may face in their lifetimes.

Dental Issues

You may think having small teeth means having small problems. Unfortunately, with shih tzus the crowding of the small teeth in their mouths means they are more likely to have plaque and tartar buildup over time. This may lead to gum disease and other unhealthy conditions in the mouth. Routine dental examinations by your vet can detect such issues.

You can help prevent them by providing regular dental care or by using items that helps clear away the buildup and keep their gums strong.

Back Issues

It should be noted that back issues are the number one medical issue for humans. Shih tzus also suffer from back issues as well because of their long spinal columns. The most common of back issue with shih tzus is intervertebral disk disease. This occurs when the intervertebral disks in the spine bulge, rupture, or dislocate which may cause considerable pain and discomfort.

Left unchecked, this condition may lead to weakness and even paralysis if the nerves are compromised. If your shih tzu whimpers when moving or feels pain when you pet or touch them along their backs, then schedule an appointment with your vet.

Luxating Patella

This is another common condition with shih tzus is luxating patella. This is when the kneecap moves abnormally or dislocates. The amount of abnormal movement will depend on the depth of the trochlear groove where the patella rests. Left untreated, the continual abnormal movement may create a condition that develops arthritis in the knees.

A simple physical exam by a vet can detect luxating patella and the treatment may include proper medical management and even surgery depending on the severity of the condition.

Eye Issues

Because shih tzus have large eyes with shallow eye sockets, they are vulnerable to experiencing a number of different eye issues.

  • Cataracts
  • Corneal Ulcers
  • Entropion
  • Epiphoria 
  • Eye Infections

Epiphoria is the excessive production of tears which may stain the fur coat of the shih tzu under the eyes. While entropion is when one or both eyelids are turned inward which may cause irritation to the eye.

Another eye issue that is common with shih tzus, although not directly related to the size of their eyes or shape of the eye sockets is retinal dysplasia.

Retinal Dysplasia

This is an abnormality in the retina of the eye. Instead of the flat layers of tissue inside the retina, they are folded instead which can cause vision issues and even blindness to occur. Symptoms include your shih tzu bumping into objects even though their eyes are open or stumbling about which indicates that they may not be seeing clearly.

A proper diagnosis should be made by a veterinary ophthalmologist. The sad news is that there is no cure for retinal dysplasia. But if the case is mild, then your shih tzu may be able to compensate. 

Respiratory Issues

Because shih tzus have short faces, they are more vulnerable to breathing issues especially in hot and humid weather conditions. Care must be taken when your shih tzu is exposed to the heat and if you see them having difficulty breathing, take them to the vet immediately.

Otitis Externa

Ear infections caused by ear mites are common with most dogs. However, shih tzus have floppy ears and their ear canals are filled with hair which makes them even more susceptible. The signs of otitis externa include the following.

  • Ear scratching
  • Rubbing their ears with their paws
  • Head shaking
  • Foul odor emanating from the ears

To detect ear mites or a developing infection, your vet will perform what is known as an ear cytology. Once diagnosed, they can prescribe the proper medication that will remove the mites and quell the infection. Proper ear hygiene can minimize the risk.

Shih Tzu Health Issues
Credit: @loco0206

Other Health Issues

Of course, shih tzus like many dogs have their own set of health issues that range from minor to emergency depending on the condition. What follows are some common issues seen with shih tzus apart from what has been mentioned above.

Overweight: While shih tzus are not predisposed to becoming fat, they can become overweight if fed too much and not given enough exercise. Your vet will weight you shih tzu and tell you if they are overweight. The remedy will depend in large part on the age of your shih tzu, their physical condition, and how much they need to lose.

If they are slightly overweight and still young and active, then some additional exercise and cutting back a little on their food usually does the trick of managing your Shih Tzu’s weight. Otherwise, you will need to listen to your vet to see what can be done.

Injuries: Just like a little child comes home with cuts and abrasions, so too is a shih tzu vulnerable to becoming injured. In most cases, the little cuts and abrasions you find along the skin of the dog will heal naturally over time. Deep cuts may require stitches depending on their length and location.

And just like humans, your shih tzu may suffer from a sore foot from time to time. For such injuries, you should keep an eye on them and check to see if they recover. In most cases, a few days of staying off the foot should be enough.

However, if your shih tzu is not recovering from its injuries after a few days, then schedule an appointment with your vet. In this way, you can perhaps prevent a major health issue from happening by treating it when it is still small. Regular visits to the vet combined with proper observation will help your shih tzu live a long, happy life.

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