Breed Health Spotlight: ShihTzu

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Tiny, shaggy and adorable, the shih tzu has wiggled its way into the hearts of dog owners everywhere. A popular “toy breed,” it’s known for being less yappy and more personable than other dogs its size. A lot of this stems from the fact it was most likely bred to be a companion of Chinese royalty, so it’s definitely not lacking in the personality department!

Unfortunately, no dog is immune to breed-specific health complications. The shih tzu is certainly no exception, especially considering its status as one of the most popularly insured breeds in the country. Remember, being prepared is the single best thing a pet owner can do!

Health Problems in Shih Tzus

Otitis: The intricate anatomy of the shih tzu’s ears make it hard for substances like water and debris to drain out. This often results in a buildup of bacteria, which then results in a painful infection called otitis, or the inflammation of the external part of the ear. Be wary of early warning signs such as excessive ear scratching, head shaking and abnormal-looking discharge. 

UTI: We’re not sure what it is about the shih tzu’s genetic makeup that makes them so prone to UTIs, but they are! We do know the canine urinary opening plays host to a large amount of bacteria, which multiplies upon entering the urethra. UTIs are most prevalent in female dogs, but the common symptoms of UTI apply to both genders: strained or painful urinations resulting in bloody, dark or foul-smelling urine. 

Gastritis: There aren’t any specific breeds more inclined to develop gastritis, but any dog who enjoys munching on garbage, plants and foreign objects is at risk. It is known that shih tzus are more susceptible to hypertrophic gastrophy, a thickening of the stomach lining and form of gastritis that can induce prolonged vomiting.

Dermatitis: There are all sorts of skin problems that shih tzus have to contest with. Though they’re all troubling, most are treatable. There are many different causes, but food and flea-based allergens are arguably the biggest culprits.

Corneal Ulcer: Breeds with prominent eyes are prone to developing entropion, an abnormality that causes the hair on the surface of the dog’s eyelid to irritate the cornea, resulting in ulcers.The treatment often involves surgery, but fortunately, the prognosis is generally good. Be on the lookout for excessive squinting, tearing up or pawing at the eyes. 

Colitis: An easy way of saying “inflammation of the colon,” which is itself a way of saying, “Your shih tzu is having trouble storing fecal matter.” Colitis can result from allergies, infections and spoiled food. If your dog has bloody or mucuousy diarrhea lasting more than two days, it’s time to see a vet! 

Periodontal Disease: Brachycephalic (short-faced) dogs like shih tzus have unique mouth conformations that make them vulnerable to diseases that affect the gum tissue and tooth-supporting bone. Here’s a few surefire signs your pooch needs to get its teeth checked: sores on its gum, loose teeth, difficulty eating and yellow tooth crust.

Conjunctivitis: Because of their large eyes and shallow eye sockets, shih tzus are prone to visual complications, with one of the most prominent being conjunctivitis (known to us asthe infamous pink eye). Foreign airborne materials can easily enter the dog’s vulnerable eyes, leading to inflammation and infection.

Pyoderma: A bacterial infection of the skin, pyoderma (translated to “pus in the skin”) causes redness, rashes, hair loss and itching. Fortunately, this can almost always be treated with veterinarian-prescribed antibiotics. 

Mass: Any unnatural growth that develops on your shih tzu’s skin. Fortunately, such growths are often harmless when found on toy breeds, but a responsible pet owner can never be too sure; definitely make a visit to the vet if you discover a lump or bump! 

Despite their miniature stature, shih tzus are strong and resilient dogs, but they’re by no means invulnerable. As a pet owner, it’s your duty to ensure the highest quality of life for your straggly-haired companions...after all, they are royalty!

Protect your Shih Tzu with Dog Insurance

Thinking of bringing home a new puppy? Consider protecting them with a dog insurance policy from MetLife Pet Insurance.1  Our dog insurance policies can provide the coverage and care your furry family member deserves.  Get your free quote today.


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Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances. 

Pet Insurance offered by MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is underwritten by Independence American Insurance Company (“IAIC”), a Delaware insurance company, headquartered at 485 Madison Avenue, NY, NY 10022, and Metropolitan General Insurance Company (“MetGen”), a Rhode Island insurance company, headquartered at 700 Quaker Lane, Warwick, RI 02886, in those states where MetGen’s policies are available. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC is the policy administrator authorized by IAIC and MetGen to offer and administer pet insurance policies. MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions LLC was previously known as PetFirst Healthcare, LLC and in some states continues to operate under that name pending approval of its application for a name change. The entity may operate under an alternate, assumed, and/or fictitious name in certain jurisdictions as approved, including MetLife Pet Insurance Services LLC (New York and Minnesota), MetLife Pet Insurance Solutions Agency LLC (Illinois), and such other alternate, assumed, or fictitious names approved by certain jurisdictions.