6 Shih Tzu health issues to know

15 March 2024 - 3 min read
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian with any questions you may have regarding your pet’s care, treatment, or medical conditions.
Image of a brown Shih Tzu with a pink arrow drawn to its eye

Shih Tzus, with their adorable faces and friendly dispositions, are beloved companions around the world. Despite their small stature, they come with a big personality and an even bigger heart.

However, their unique physical features also make them prone to certain health issues. Awareness and early detection can play a key role in managing these conditions, ensuring your Shih Tzu leads a comfortable, joyful life.

Let’s dive into some of the common health challenges.

Corneal ulcers and eye issues

A small, long-haired Shih Tzu dog with a white and tan coat is featured, with an arrow highlighting its eye area to indicate a susceptibility to eye issues. The background is a solid dark green color.

Shih Tzus are particularly susceptible to eye problems, including corneal ulcers, due to their prominent eyes. These ulcers are wounds on the cornea and can be very painful, leading to squinting, tearing, and redness.

Immediate veterinary care is crucial to preventing complications. Regularly cleaning their face and keeping their hair trimmed away from their eyes can help prevent irritation and injury.

Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS)

A small, long-haired Shih Tzu dog with a white and tan coat is shown, with a circular red line encompassing its nose and mouth area to denote the risk of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome. The background is a solid dark green color.

As a brachycephalic breed, Shih Tzus have a shortened skull shape that can lead to breathing difficulties, known as brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome, or BOAS. Symptoms of BOAS include noisy breathing, snorting, and difficulty with exercise.

Managing your Shih Tzu’s weight and avoiding stressful, overly strenuous activities are key to reducing the risk of BOAS-related problems.

Luxating patella

A small, long-haired Shih Tzu dog with a white and tan coat is shown in profile, with a red circle around its knee joint, indicating a susceptibility to a luxating patella. The background is a solid dark green color.

Luxating patella is a common condition in small breeds where the kneecap slips out of place. It can cause discomfort or an abnormal gait, and in some cases, it may require surgical intervention.

Maintaining a healthy weight and regular, moderate exercise can support joint health and minimise the impact of this condition.


A small, long-haired Shih Tzu dog with a white and tan coat is displayed, with a pink arrow pointing to its neck area to denote a potential concern for hypothyroidism. The background is a solid dark green color.

Hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, can lead to symptoms like weight gain, lethargy, and coat problems in Shih Tzus.

Medication can make all the difference in your Shih Tsu's daily life, and regular check-ups can help catch this condition early.

Dental issues

Due to their small mouths, Shih Tzus are prone to dental issues, including overcrowding of teeth, leading to a higher risk of periodontal disease. Brushing your dog’s teeth regularly and providing dental chews can help mitigate these issues.

Ear infections

Their floppy ears are susceptible to ear infections, typically triggered by bacteria, yeast, or ear mites. Keep your pup's ears clean and dry for prevention, and see a vet if you notice any signs of infection.

How dog insurance can help

A well-groomed Shih Tzu stands alert with a lush white and tan coat. Its expressive eyes and round face are characteristic of the breed. The dog is positioned against a seamless, light beige background.

Caring for a Shih Tzu means being proactive about their health issues. With the right care, diet, and preventive measures, your Shih Tzu can enjoy a happy, healthy life by your side.

But despite your best efforts in care and prevention, Shih Tzus can still encounter unexpected health issues. That's where dog insurance comes in—it can help reimburse you for the costs of accidents and illnesses.

Getting your Shih Tzu insured early in life can help you stay prepared in case they get any of the above issues.

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All our policies cover conditions that ended at least two years ago.

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Leanna Zeibak
Content Manager

Leanna Zeibak is a Content Manager at ManyPets. In her spare time, she paints pet portraits and bakes far too many chocolate chip cookies.