You’ve probably read enough articles about dog breeds to know that each one has its own set of health problems. If it’s any consolation, the list of potential health issues for the venerable Shih Tzu is rather short.
It’s important to note that not all Shih Tzus will get any or all of these diseases. The purpose of listing these health issues is for you to know what symptoms to look out for. Early detection increases the chances for successful treatment.
Like other brachycephalic (short-headed) breeds, Shih Tzus can have respiratory problems because of the structure of their faces. Some brachycephalic dogs have an obstruction in their upper airways that makes it hard for the dogs to breathe. This by no means indicates that every flat-faced dog will have these issues. Severe problems can be treated surgically.
The initial symptom is, of course, difficulty breathing, and this is often noticed immediately by the owner.
This is a common cause of airway obstruction among Shih Tzus. The trachea, or “windpipe,” is a tube made up of sturdy rings of cartilage through which air is transported to and from the lungs. Sometimes, however, the tracheal rings begin to collapse, and as air is squeezed through, a characteristic honking cough results.
Symptoms include a honking cough, exercise intolerance, labored breathing and a bluish tinge to the gums.
Patellar Luxation is a condition that causes the pooch’s kneecap to move loosely, become dislocated or slightly out of position. Although it is a hereditary condition that Shih Tzus often suffer from, trauma and injury can also cause Patellar Luxation. If the condition is very severe, a vet would recommend surgery.
When the kneecap is sliding out of place, you will see your dog limping or running with the affected leg held off the ground. He will also often stretch the affected leg out behind him in an effort to put the cartilage back into place.
Hip dysplasia is characterized by abnormal joint structure and weakened supporting tissues that often begins while the dog is still young and physically immature. Early onset hip dysplasia usually develops as early as four months. Later onset can develop when the dog is older due to osteoarthritis.
Some of the symptoms include a bunny hop or walking funny, trouble rising, trouble with mobility, a narrow stance, intermittent stiffness and eventual loss of muscle tone.
Shih Tzus have large eyes with shallow eye sockets, making this breed predisposed to various ocular conditions. Some of the most common include:
- Dog eye discharge and tear staining: Your pooch’s eyes will make tears when irritated. Chronic tearing will produce stains. Regularly washing your pet’s face and sometimes the use certain antibiotics can remedy this situation.
- Infections: Because the Shih Tzu has large eyes and shallow eye sockets, foreign materials that fly around in the air can enter the area under his eyes, leading to inflammation and infection.
- Corneal ulcers: This refers to an open sore on your pooch’s cornea, the thin clear structure overlying the iris. The most common cause is trauma such as your pet rubbing his eye on the carpet or coming in contact with a sharp object.
- Cataracts: Cataract is an opacity in the lens of a dog’s eye that affects vision.