How Long Does a Shih Tzu Live: 8 Factors to Consider

How Long Does a Shih Tzu Live?   by Shawn Mack 
|Published 07-28-2022

Shih Tzu lives longer than Labradors. These cute little puff balls will stay with you longer than most useful-seeming giant dogs.

This is exactly why Shih Tzu’s are an excellent choice for both families and individuals. They are friendly, affectionate, and super easy to maintain. Their small physique requires minimal maintenance and these dogs are relatively healthy.

Nature and Nurture

A Shih Tzu is lying on the grassHow Long Does a Shih Tzu Live?

But like everything else in this world, there are two sides to a Shih Tzu’s lifespan. There are amazing possibilities, but there are worst-case scenarios too. It all comes down:

● Your conduct towards your Shih Tzu

● Your Shih Tzu’s lineage

This boils down to nature verses nurture. It is capable of outliving the giant dogs, but will it?

That’s what we’re going to explore in this post. We’ll share eight crucial factors that influence a Shih Tzu’s lifespan along with other essential details you ought to know before you adopt and attach to it.

How long does a Shih Tzu live?

A young girl is holding her Shih Tzu dog

On average, a Shih Tzu lives for 10 - 13 years. But it can live up to 16 years and beyond.

The longest living Shih Tzu recorded to date was 23 years old – named Smokey. Other long-living Shih Tzu’s are as follows:

● Teddy – 19 Years

Marnie – 18 Years

But there are Shih Tzus who die in their early years as well. Let’s explore what brings about this contrast.

Shih Tzu Life Expectancy

Smokey lived long because the dog had an excellent pedigree diet and led a healthy lifestyle. His owner Joe Slatton took him out on regular walks. Plus, the dog came from a pure Shih Tzu lineage.

So, there are a few factors that determine the natural lifespan of a Shih Tzu. And there are a few factors that influence this natural life expectancy. Imagine this as primary factors (from nature) that set a time limit and then secondary factors (from human conduct) that determine whether your Shih Tzu will avail of this time limit fully or not.

Two Primary Factors Determining How Long a Shih Tzu Lives

The primary factors determining your Shih Tzu’s lifespan are:

● Breed

● Parents & lineage

Your Shih Tzu is a Shih Tzu, and that’s the breed. Naturally, Shih Tzu’s have a life expectancy of 13 years. So, what do we really mean when we say breed? How does that help you determine anything about your dog’s lifespan?

Well, here’s a fun fact: Not all Shih Tzu are Shih Tzus. A few cross breeds of Shih Tzu also resemble the original and are often mistaken for the real Shih Tzu. Consider the Pomeranian/Shih Tzu mix, for example. Some variants of the breed are mistaken as the real Shih Tzus and those who adopt the dogs believe so too. French Bull Tzu is a similar example.

These cross breeds look like the original ones but lack their natural characteristics. French Bull Tzu’s average life expectancy is ten years, while Pomeranian/Shih Tzu mix lives up to 12 years mostly. Therefore, always confirm the breed before you bring it home.

Similarly, the health conditions of your Shih Tzu’s parents also impact its lifespan. If they had any health issues, there are high chances your Shih Tzu may have inherited them. Owing to this, it may have a shortened lifespan.

Six Secondary Factors That Influence the Shih Tzu's Life Span

The six secondary factors influencing your Shih Tzu’s lifespan are:

1. Diet

A gold Shih Tzu is looking at his bowl of food.

Quality, well-proportioned meals are the key to any dog’s lifespan. Many believe that commercial dog foods that are approved by the AAFCO are similar in quality, but that couldn't be farther from the truth.

Poor diets can reduce the life span by many years. Not only is the quality important, but also the amount you feed everyday will impact their health. Feeding too much food leads to obesity which is a factor that can reduce the Shih Tzu's life.

Read more about Canine Nutrition

Learn to Read Dog Food Labels

Some of the recommended foodstuffs for healthy diet of a Shih Tzu are as follows:

  • Organs (liver, heart, etc.)
  • Fish
  • Chicken Meat
  • Pasta
  • Baby carrots
  • Cottage cheese
  • Sweet Peas
  • Green beans
  • Whole yogurt
  • Sweet potatoes

Learn more about the fruits and vegetables dogs can eat safely.

Commercial Diets Verses Homemade

Unless you are a professional canine nutritionist or working with one, feeding a homemade diet is not recommended. Health diets need to be balanced and often when you cook for your dog, all the necessary nutrients are not present.  That doesn't mean that a homecooked meal occasionally will hurt your dog. 

Foods You Should Not Feed to Your Dog

Chocolates, salt, grapes, onions, tea, coffee, salt, and soda, should be avoided. Also, avoid giving unfiltered tap water to your Shih Tzu as it may have harmful microbes.

Learn more about the foods toxic to dogs.

2. Living Environment

A small Shih Tzu puppy has discovered a bag of garbage

Shih Tzus are small in size. They can get anywhere and everywhere. This, in turn, exposes them to dangers of all sorts. Therefore, we recommend puppy-proofing your house before bringing in a Shih Tzu. Hide hazardous items on the floor and yards.

Shih Tzu dogs do not tolerate heat well, so watch them closely when outdoors on hot days.  They are prone to heatstroke.

A safe environment will prevent accidents and costly veterinary visits that can also impact how long a Shih Tzu will live.

Learn how to provide a safe outdoor environment for your Shih Tzu

3. Exercise Routine

A man is walking his Shih Tzu dogShih Tzu dogs need exercise every day to stay healthy

Shih Tzus are indoor dogs. But that doesn’t mean they don’t require physical activity. In fact, owing to their physique and lively nature, they require more exercise.

We recommend scheduling at least two walks per day (at least 20-30 minutes long). You can also incorporate indoor physical games into your Shih Tzu routine, like playing with tennis balls. Remember that the Shih Tzu is a brachycephalic breed meaning that they cannot tolerate too much exercise at one time, so watch your dog for signs of overexertion and adjust accordingly.

If you move around the house frequently and allow your dog to follow, they will get quite a bit of their exercise requirements met over the course of a day.

Physical exercise is very important, but it is also critical to keep your Shih Tzu's mind active as well.  Interactive games can give your dog a good mental workout as well as teaching basic obedience skills.

4. Social Interaction and Bonding

Gold and White Shih Tzu Puppy
Liver colored Shih Tzu Puppy

Since Shih Tzus are friendly animals, they need to socialize with other animals too. Be it of their own kind or even cats and birds. Not doing so may have adverse effects on their mental and physical health.

All dogs are pack animals and isolating your Shih Tzu for extended periods of time can have detrimental affects on their emotional wellbeing.

Shih Tzus are lively and affectionate. But to remain happy, they need loads of your attention. Lack of attention can push your fur buddy into spells of depression, which can lead to the development of serious health issues and shorten the lifespan of your Shih Tzu.

5. Health Care

A Shih Tzu puppy is wearing a stethoscope

Your veterinarian plays a major role in your Shih Tzu's overall health.   Many diseases and health problems can be completely avoided by preventative health care.  Check with your vet to determine how often they should receive vaccinations

Other preventative measures include heartworm testing and preventative, and parasite checks, both external and internal.  Many vets will recommend a yearly visit for boosters, stool sample checks, and heartworm tests.  

Don't overlook your dog's dental health.  Dental issues including routine cleaning and tooth extractions are all part of caring for a Shih Tzu.  Dental problems can lead to more serious issues, so consider taking the time to brush your dog's teeth.

6.  Grooming

A Shih Tzu is shown with blue rollers in the hair.

The Shih Tzu is a long haired breed, meaning that the hair continues to grow throughout the life span.  They also have a double coat of hair which consists of an outer coarser coat and an inner soft, cottony coat. 

Their hair can mat and tangle quickly if not brushed.  Most people opt to keep their Shih Tzu in a shorter haircut and plan on professional grooming visits about every 6 weeks.  Even if you do get your Shih Tzu groomed professionally, you will still want to brush and comb the coat and bathe periodically.  

Grooming your dog can be a great bonding experience but you can also take the time to check for external parasites such as fleas and ticks.  You can also check their body for injuries and their ears for infections.  

Don't ignore any problems you encounter.  Either call your vet or treat at home if it is a minor issue.

How Long Does a Shih Tzu Live?
Final Words

Given that you care for all eight of these factors, there’s a high chance your Shih Tzu will survive much longer than you expect. The better you care for your dog, the more it will stay by you (in all ways!).

How Long Does a Shih Tzu Live?
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How Long does a Shih Tzu Live?
Author Bio

Shawn Mack is an experienced content writer and outreach expert who offers ghostwriting, copy-writing, and blogging services. He likes to write interesting articles on Pets. He works at The Pro Linkers.

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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.