7 Most Common Shih Tzu Health Problems That Vets See Regularly

Shih Tzus are known for their outgoing and friendly nature in the dog community. They love their owners and spending time with them. Although they can live up to 16 years, they do suffer from a variety of health issues.

Knowing about the most common Shih Tzu health problems can be helpful if you are a Shih Tzu owner. It will help you avoid unpleasant situations.

Common Shih Tzu Health Problems

Breathing Problems


Due to their small size, Shih Tzus are prone to many health issues, including breathing problems. These problems usually worsen during summer when the temperature is hot and humid, making it difficult for short-faced dogs (brachycephalic) like Shih Tzus to breathe freely.

Sometimes breathing problems can arise because their noses or stenotic nares are more narrow than normal causing a reduction in the amount of air that gets to the lungs.  

As a pet owner, you must be more careful during the hot days. Even a single mistake can put your dog at a severe risk of heatstroke. If you notice your dog struggling to breathe, you should immediately take them to the vet.

Back Problems

Besides breathing issues, Shih Tzu suffers from back problems. Neck and back pain are common in this breed, so you must be careful about it. Compared to their size, Shih Tzu have long backs, which are the leading cause of their back problems.

6 out of 10 Shih Tzus are diagnosed with intervertebral disk disease. When the intervertebral disks get displaced, it causes a sharp pain in the back. In some cases, it may even lead to nerve issues. This is why it is crucial to treat them on time.  It might be as simple as pain medicine prescribed by your vet or a monthly injection or as complicated as surgery.

Otitis Externa

Ear infections are common in dogs, and Shih Tzu is no exception. This condition occurs due to bacterial or yeast overgrowth. Since Shih Tzus have floppy ears with hairy ear canals, they are more prone to otitis externa.

Some common symptoms of ear infections include inflamed ear pinna, head shaking, bad ear smell, or rubbing ears against objects. If you notice your Shih Tzus doing any of these things, you shouldn’t ignore it. Take them to the vet clinic and have their ear checked. This is important to keep them healthy.

While in the veternariay office, your vet may be able to apply medicine directly to the affected ear that will last for more than one month.  This method works better than a daily regime of cleaning and applying meds at home.

Dog ear shapes illustrated by 5 different types of dog ear shapes

Luxating Patella

For those who don’t know, luxating patella is a hereditary problem. Shih Tzus , suffering from this condition, has dislocated knees, which cause abnormal movement.

It is worth noting that luxation can vary depending on the depth of the space where the patella is located. Not treated on time can lead to orthopedic conditions like arthritis. To avoid such things from happening, you should get your dog treated by an experienced vet. They will examine your dog before recommending medications or surgical treatment.

Eye Infections

If you look closely, Shih Tzu has bigger eyes than other breeds. Those beautiful protruding eyes endear them to us, but they also come with problems like retinal dysplasia, epiphora, and entropion.

Suffering from any of these eye problems makes your dog’s life difficult. It affects their vision quality, irritates them, and much more. If you see abnormal discharge from your dog’s eyes, you should have it checked. Ignoring these Shih Tzu health problems can worsen your dog’s condition. Also, you need to be careful about cataracts and corneal ulcers. That’s because these eye problems are common, too.

Ocular Proptosis


This is a condition that causes the eyeball to dislodge from the socket. In worst cases, the eyeballs can protrude entirely out of the socket. Unfortunately, this condition is prevalent in Shih Tzus; therefore, you must take good care of your dog.

On a positive note, this condition occurs mainly due to a concussive injury, which increases the pressure inside the brain. This means preventing your dog from getting hurt can help you avoid this situation. If you don’t turn out to be that lucky, you should take your dog to the vet immediately.

Sometimes the veterinarian can save the eye but more likely, the dog may lose the eye.

Hip Dysplasia

Many dogs suffer from hip dysplasia, especially when they grow old. The same is true for Shih Tzus. If this happens, it will make walking or running difficult for your dog. The condition causes the hip joint to displace, leading to arthritis or joint diseases.

If you notice your dog limping, you shouldn’t ignore it and consult a vet. It is important to note that the severity of the condition may vary from dog to dog.

If the problem persists, your dog may need surgery. Rather than a total hip replacement, you may opt for a femoral head ostectomy.

Ketchikan, a tiny Shih Tzu who underwent a femoral head ostectomy stands showing his sutures.

Finding a Veterinarian for Your Shih Tzu

Now that you know about the common Shih Tzu health problems, you should closely watch your dog. If you notice anything odd about your dog, don’t hesitate to take them to a Vet Clinic.

Consider your local vet or an Emergency Vet clinic that has advanced diagnostic tools and medical equipment to ensure the best care for your pet.  Ideally, your vet will be affordable and offer services 365 days a year,  such as the Lakewood Dallas Emergency Vet Clinic.

Final Words

Shih Tzus are adorable family pets, but  they are prone to many health problems. This is why; it is advised to get them regularly checked by a vet. This way you will be able to detect health problems early.

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About Janice

Janice is the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu. Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, she served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu.

When not writing, reading, or researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, her husband, and her family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Small Dog Place and Smart-Knit-Crocheting.