Shih Tzu live for 13 years on average.
Factors which affect how long Shih Tzu live include their genes and the lifetime care they receive.
Shih Tzu lifespan compares well to the average lifespan of all purebred dogs taken together, but some hereditary health conditions mean that a long life doesn’t always equal good quality of life.
How Long Do Shih Tzu Live?
The average Shih Tzu lifespan is a little over 13 years. According to a UK study, the average purebred lives around 11 years.
Shih Tzu live longer than your average dog. But when we’re talking about health, things get a little more complicated.
Small dogs live longer than larger ones on average, which gives the Shih Tzu an advantage in that department.
But a Shih Tzu’s face shape gives it a disadvantage when it comes to living a healthy life.
Health Problems That Impact Shih Tzu Life Expectancy
Shih Tzu face many health concerns that can impact their life expectancy. The question, “How long do Shih Tzu live?” doesn’t always have a straightforward answer.
There are a number of things that impact a dog’s lifespan. Two of the big ones are size and shape.
First, we’ll look at a dog’s size. Giant breeds tend to live shorter lives than tiny breeds. For a Shih Tzu, there’s nothing to worry about here.
Secondly, we’ll look at shape. The shape of a dog’s body can cause health problems known as conformational defects.
In simple terms, one or more of the breed’s features are too large or too small, and this causes complications.
Some of these can be very serious, as in the case of the Shih Tzu. We’ll look into this below, along with some other health concerns Shih Tzu face.
How Long Do Shih Tzu Live With Conformational Defects
A Shih Tzu’s short muzzle often causes trouble breathing and issues with overheating. Their small size makes the problem even worse.
Shih Tzu may not be able to tolerate a lot of exercise, especially on hot days. Owners have to be careful to watch for signs of overheating and not keep them out in the heat too long.
They can also face respiratory issues because of this.
Another conformational defect Shih Tzu face is patellar luxation, which is common in small breeds. This is when a dog’s kneecap is dislocated.
They can also face dental problems because their mouths are so tiny.
Hip dysplasia happens when the hip socket doesn’t develop properly. This can cause pain and arthritis.
A veterinarian can diagnose and come up with a treatment plan for a Shih Tzu with hip dysplasia.
Hypothyroidism occurs when a Shih Tzu’s thyroid is not producing enough hormones. This can affect a dog’s metabolism and organ function.
A veterinarian can diagnose and treat hypothyroidism.
The eyes of a Shih Tzu are prone to injuries. They can also face a number of eye diseases.
Dry eye is when a dog is not producing enough tears. If not treated, a Shih Tzu with dry eye might develop ulcers or become blind. Shih Tzu with dry eye will have a lot of discharge around their eyes. A veterinarian can treat this problem with eye drops.
Distichiasis is another common eye problem in Shih Tzus. This means they have an extra set of eyelashes. Sometimes this doesn’t impact the dog at all, while other times it can be very irritating or even harmful.
A veterinarian can help with proper treatment of this condition, depending on the severity.
Corneal ulcers are also common in Shih Tzu, as their eyes are large and protrude from their face. An affected Shih Tzu will have light sensitivity and may squint a lot, or have red eyes.
This can cause blindness. However, if caught early it can be managed by a veterinarian.
Lastly, Shih Tzu may develop cataracts. This means the lens of their eye becomes cloudy due to too much protein in the lens. This causes the pupil to look clouded or white.
As cataracts continue to develop, the dog will lose vision in that eye. If caught early, a veterinarian can help diagnose and treat cataracts before it gets that serious.
Juvenile renal dysplasia is a genetic disease. This is when kidneys don’t develop right. Many times this will impact many puppies within a single litter.
Most dogs with this disease, unfortunately, die from it.
Shih Tzu can develop a disease called liver shunt. This compromises the flow of blood to and from the liver.
Shih Tzu can be born with this disease.
Dogs with liver shunt don’t grow normally and are smaller and weaker than other Shih Tzu their same age.
A veterinarian can diagnose liver shunt and provide a treatment plan.
Shih Tzu ears are prone to infection. To prevent this, they should be cleaned regularly.
Dogs should be taken to the veterinarian when itching or redness occurs.
Shih Tzu can have many types of allergies. If you think your dog has allergies, see a veterinarian to find out what they’re allergic to, and how to treat it.
How Long Do Shih Tzu Live – Increasing Shih Tzu Lifespan
There are several things owners can do to ensure their dogs live the longest, healthiest lives possible.
If you’re adopting from a breeder, the very first thing you can do is to know your dog’s medical history. A good breeder will share this with you. Do not buy a dog from someone who won’t share the parents’ and puppy’s vet records.
Sometimes a breeder is irresponsible and doesn’t have the parents tested for health problems, or breeds them despite knowing they will pass down genetic conditions.
The only time you shouldn’t know your dog’s history is when you’re adopting them as a rescue. In this case, it’s impossible, and we just do the best we can with the information we have.
If you own a rescue dog, you can consider having it tested for some common health problems.
Which brings us to our next point.
How Long Do Shih Tzu Live?
Longer if you take them to the vet regularly!
Keeping your dog up to date on vaccines and bringing them in for regular check-ups is the best way to ensure their continued health.
You should also watch your dog for any changes in behavior, as these might point to developing health concerns.
If you have any doubts, see your veterinarian as soon as possible. It’s better to be safe, and catch things early.
Since Shih Tzu have difficulties breathing and higher chances of overheating, watch for these things too. Make sure your dog doesn’t stay out in the heat too long, and that they aren’t short of breath.
The last thing you can do to increase a Shih Tzu lifespan is to keep up with their daily needs. This means feeding and exercising them appropriately, brushing them daily, and giving them lots of love!
The Longest Living Shih Tzu
One reason the question, “How long do Shih Tzu live?” doesn’t have a straightforward answer, is that you always have dogs who fall outside the norm.
Smokey, a 23-year-old dog from Florida, is an example of this. He’s the oldest known Shih Tzu!
The latest information about Smokey was in 2009. It’s unclear how much longer he lived after that reporting.
Do you have a Shih Tzu? Let us know about your precious pet in the comments!
References and Resources
- Adams et al. Methods and mortality results of a health survey of purebred dogs in the UK. Journal of Small Animal Practice. 2010.
- Christmas, R. Common ocular problems of Shih Tzu dogs. The Canadian Veterinary Journal. 1992.
- Collins et al. Inherited Defects in Pedigree Dogs. The Veterinary Journal. 2009.
- Hoppe et al. Progressive nephropathy due to renal dysplasia in shih tzu dogs in Sweden: A clinical pathological and genetic study. Wiley Blackwell. 1990.
- Kyler et al. Prevalence of dental disorders in pet dogs. University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences. 2005.
- O’Neill et al. Longevity and mortality of owned dogs in England. The Veterinary Journal. 2013.