Shih Tzu health issues

I have adopted a healthy Shih Tzu puppy from a registered dog breeder, do my Shih Tzu prone to any health issues? Though Shih Tzu’s live on an average age anywhere from 10-16 years, there are few common health problems. You should be familiar with these common health concerns so that you can act swiftly.

Shih Tzu prone to any health issues
  1. Pigmentary Keratopathy
  2. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
  3. Retinal dysplasia
  4. Ocular Proptosis
  5. Collapsing Trachea
  6. Stenotic Nares
  7. Luxating patella
  8. Ear Infections (Otitis Externa)
  9. Malocclusion and crowding of the teeth
  10. Juvenile Renal Dysplasia (JRD)
  11. An Umbilical Hernia
  12. Pyometra
  13. Von Willebrand Disease

As Shih Tzu belongs to Brachycephalic breed. Brachycephaly is the term used to describe animals that have greatly shortened upper jaws and noses. Decreased depth of the orbits (the bony eye sockets) is also common. Of the dog breeds, the Shih Tzu is one of them. The short face and big eyes give way to many diseases related to Eyes. Shih Tzu eye problems can cause irritation, discomfort and even blindness.

1 . Pigmentary Keratopathy

Pigmentary Keratopathy is due to pigment migration onto the cornea which results in blindness. Usually happens in Brachycephalic breeds like Pug, Shih Tzu, and Pekingese. In simple words the usually clear cornea becomes opaque.
How: common causes are Chronic irritation from hairs, incomplete blink reflex, abnormal eyelid conformation, bulging eyes.
Signs: Redness, increased discharge from the affected eye. Eye color changes to either cloudy due to scarring or red due to blood vessel formation or brown due to pigmentation.
Treatment: Artificial tears – treatment includes eye drops to improve tear and surgery to correct the eyelid abnormality and improve eyelid function. More often the vision improves.

2 . Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) is an inherited degenerative disease of the retina. The retina degrading, resulting in gradual vision loss.
How: An inherited disease is passed down from parents to their offspring. Most of the times it’s by simple autosomal recessive mode, this means neither father or mother has the diseases but may be carriers. So even with good breeders, who puppy parents can be normal but it may affect the puppy.
Signs: Initial signs are your dog has a problem with dim lights. Later stages it will not go outdoors at night. This progresses to vision loss in all light conditions.
Treatment: Currently no treatment is available. Dogs will adapt to their vision loss with the proper help from its owner.

“As Shih Tzu belongs to Brachycephalic breed. The short face and big eyes give way to many diseases related to Eyes.”

3 . Retinal dysplasia

Retinal dysplasia is a non-progressive disorder of the eye in which the retina develops abnormally, causing folds which can lead to mild impairment in vision or even complete blindness.
How: This is a congenital disorder (present at birth). The condition can be inherited via a genetic defect passed on from one or both of the puppy’s parents.
Signs: clumsiness, continually bumping into objects, particularly in low light situations, reluctance to go into darkened rooms and other areas around the home, reluctance to go up or down stairs, reluctance to go outside after dark.
Treatment: Currently no treatment is available. Good news is it’s not progressive. That said, it will not degrade the ability of sight, the level of visual impairment a dog is born with will remain for the rest of that dog’s life.

4 . Ocular Proptosis

Ocular Proptosis is when the eyeball actually dislodges from the socket and the eyelid shuts behind it. It basically looks like the eyeball has popped out of the socket.
How: Occurs during a dogfight. When the larger dog tends to grab the small dog by the neck. Pulling the skin back over the head allows the eye to pop forward. Also occurs when the dog is hit by a blunt object or due to car accidents. As Shih Tzu is brachycephalic dogs with very shallow orbits, the eye is not well placed and protected at all. This tends to be the weakness for these dogs, which are vulnerable for inadvertent pulling on the skin over the head which may result in proptosis.
Signs: Eye is bulging or hanging out of the orbit, The eye is bloody, Tissue around the eye is red and inflamed, Severed/torn muscles and or eye ligaments, Cloudy cornea, Inability to blink
Treatment: Surgery is required by the veterinarian

5 . Collapsing Trachea

Collapsing Trachea (upper airway obstruction) – makes it difficult for air to get to the lungs.
How: Trachea (windpipe) where air travels when dogs breathe is formed by C-shaped rings made of cartilage. These C-shaped will either be not formed correctly at birth or they weaken to more like U-Shaped. Eventually, this leads to flatting of trachea leaving the dog trying hard to pull air. Usually observed in middle-aged Shih Tzu of around 6-7 years of age.
Signs: the clinical sign is a persistent, dry, harsh cough. sometimes described as a “goose honk”a cough. Very light pressure placed on the trachea that causes coughing or breathing difficulty can raise a suspicion of collapsed trachea.
Treatment: Collapsing Trachea can be treated, sometimes light coughing still remains. How can you reduce the severity of symptoms? Prevent over excitement and never use a collar instead use a body harness.

6 . Stenotic Nares

Stenotic Nares is a condition where the dog’s nostrils are very narrow which in turn puts a great deal of stress on breathing and can lead to an enlargement of the heart.
How: usually present at birth but does not go away as the dog grows.
Signs: Tight nostrils is quite visible. Difficulty in breathing. Can’t eat and breath at the same time. Causing lethargic behavior.
Treatment: Surgery is the only option. Wait until the puppy is year old, the possibility is they could outgrow the condition or it will never cause any health issue.

Luxating patella (Patellar Luxation)
It occurs when there’s a separation in the dog’s kneecap, causing it to dislocate at random times.

7 . Ear Infections (Otitis Externa)

Ear infections are commonly a result of ear mite infestation or yeast/bacterial overgrowth. Otitis Externa is an inflammation on the external ear canal. Redness scaly skin can be visible.
Treatment: Ears are very sensitive organs and to be cleaned with at most attention. Regular ear cleaning is adviced. Use a wet soft cloth or cotton balls to clean your dog’s ear.

8 . Malocclusion and crowding of the teeth

Shih Tzu’s teeth don’t fit together or also called as unusual scissored fit. This mostly happens in brachycephalic dogs or flat-faced dogs. The lower jaw is longer than the upper. This malformation of under bite gives room to a lot of dental diseases. As ShihTzu has a small skull, the crowding of the teeth is common. As these dog’s age, tartar and plaque buildup accumulates, leading to unhealthy roots and gums.
Treatment: Regular brushing. Avoiding junk food. Once in six months, the Vet visit will keep dog’s health at check.

9 . Juvenile Renal Dysplasia (JRD)

the dog’s kidneys don’t develop normally. JRD is a most likely genetic problem. This is fatal and there is no cure. Kidneys filter waste from the blood and make urine by removing toxins from the body.
Signs: Puppies usually urinate very less, but if it does more. Then there might be an issue with the kidney.
If the Shih Tzu suddenly becomes dehydrated and started drink lot of water. A vet visit is best. It’s very hard to find disorder in kidneys.

10 . An Umbilical Hernia

An umbilical Hernia is common in Shih Tzu. At birth, mother dog or breeder cuts the umbilical cord. After birth, it should umbilical cord opening should close. But sometimes it will be open. This small opening will allow internal fat or organs to protrude out, forming a lump. If the opening is very large, then there is a risk that the intestine becomes strangulated. This is a serious condition as intestine can’t receive adequate supply.
Signs: Visible lumps on the puppies abdomen. If the size is more, the severity of the problem in more.
Treatment: A large hernia needs surgery by closing the umbilical cord opening. The vet takes a call on this, please visit if you see any lump under the belly of the dog.

11 . Pyometra

Pyometra is an infection caused by female dogs. The severe bacterial infection that attacks the uterus. Not related to breeding, but most common among female Shih Tzu that have used the abortion drug estradiol.
Signs: Mucus discharge from the vulva along with increased drinking, vomiting, fever and a lot of urination.
Treatment: Veterinarian advice is required, treatment at early stages is possible. If untreated, then it will lead to death. You can avoid this by spaying the pup.

12 . Von Willebrand Disease

Von Willebrand disease is a Bleeding Disorder. Shih Tzus affected with this disorder bleed from gums, nosebleeds, prolonged bleeding during surgery, injury. Taking the Vet to check for this disorder is the only option. There is no cure, other than keeping your Shih Tzu safe from injuries.

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