Your Shih Tzu is a companion dog that was bred to be sociable and alert. This fluffy, happy breed is quick to greet other dogs. It is a constant companion, but you’ve probably noticed that it’s stubborn and likes to get its own way.

Shih Tzus are more vulnerable to certain diseases than other dogs. All dogs are predisposed to develop certain problems due to their breeding. Shih Tzus are no exception.

Respiratory Problems and Brachycephaly in Shih Tzus

Shih Tzus are a brachycephalic breed. Brachycephalic dogs have small, uniquely-shaped heads. Shih Tzu’s airways are small and their nostrils are shallow. As a result, they are more likely to develop respiratory problems than other dogs. They’re also more likely to overheat due to hot weather or overexertion, because they can’t pant as efficiently as other breeds. Shih Tzus prefer to breathe through their mouth because of brachycephaly, as their nostrils are narrow and don’t draw lots of air.

Shih Tzus might need surgery at an early age to mitigate the effects of brachycephaly. Brachycephalic birth defects will be apparent right away. However, as dogs age, they can develop other upper respiratory problems. A Shih Tzu with an inflamed trachea or nostrils might require surgery, so that sufficient air can pass to their pulmonary system.

If your dog has trouble exercising and breathing, or if they faint, they might suffer from upper respiratory inflammation. If your Shih Tzu isn’t getting around the way it’s supposed to, have your vet check it out.

Eye Problems in Shih Tzus

Your Shih Tzu has a friendly face with big eyes. That’s one of the reasons they’re such popular pets.

However, you might have noticed that Shih Tzus’ eyes stick out. That protrusion means that Shih Tzus can easily injure their eyes. Make sure that you take reasonable steps to prevent those sorts of injuries. Puppy-proof your house, keep your dog away from brambles and branches, and watch them closely when they rough-house with children and other pets.

Degenerative Myelopathy in Shih Tzus

Degenerative myelopathy (DM) is a nerve disease that develops in aging dogs. DM affects muscle mass and motor function in the lower part of a dog’s body. As a result, DM can cause your Shih Tzu to accidentally urinate or defecate.

DM is incurable, but your dog doesn’t need to be miserable. They might have trouble standing up, but there are workarounds that can keep your dog mobile. Kinesiology tape can help dogs support themselves. It helps blood circulate, and increases feeling in affected areas. Partially paralyzed Shih Tzus can use a wheelchair. We custom-build wheelchairs for dogs at K9 Carts that are specially tailored to each dog’s needs. They help dogs stay active and happy.

However, dogs with DM need lots of rest. Movement is exhausting for a dog with DM. If your Shih Tzu does develop DM, you’ll need to get them a comfortable bed. They’ll spend a lot of time on it. So be proactive about avoiding bed sores. Keep the bed spotless, and groom your dog often.

Back Problems and Herniated Discs in Shih Tzus

Shih Tzus are vulnerable to herniated discs, or Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD). Dogs have discs in their spine that cushion nerves and vertebrae, just like we do. Those discs can bulge, become inflamed, or slip out of their normal place.

A herniated disc can cause discomfort. In the worst cases, slipped discs can paralyze your Shih Tzu to some degree. Less severe cases can be painful and inhibiting, due to a loss of motor function.

Back problems are another disease that a custom K9 Carts dog wheelchair can alleviate. If your dog slips a disc, loses motor function, and struggles to get around, consider contacting us and setting up a consultation.

If your dog might have one of these diseases, consult a vet as soon as possible. This article can’t replace a veterinarian’s specific advice for your pet.

Learn More About Your Shih Tzu’s Health

What is a brachycephalic dog? — Veterinary Expert

The Brachycephalic Syndrome — Dr. Jan Grebe

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome in Dogs — VCA

Disc Disease — UC Davis

Genetic Welfare Problems of Companion Animals: Shih Tzu: Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome (BAOS) — UFAW

Slipped Disc, Bad Back, and Muscle Spasms in Dogs — Pet MD

Shih Tzu — Wikipedia