Health Problems a Shih Tzu is Prone To

shih tzu wheelchair for IVDD
Shih Tzu in her small-sized Walkin’ Wheels® Rear Dog Wheelchair

If you are looking for a lively, playful, and affectionate little dog looks no further than the Shih Tzu. This fluffy breed is known for its happy and loving personality and cute appearance! These “little lions” have been the lapdogs of royalty for centuries and it is easy to tell why when you snuggle up with one yourself. 

Shih Tzu’s have been known to be great companions for those looking to adopt their first pet and are even known to be great family pets! The combination of their spunky personality and high intelligence is what makes them such a beloved little breed. 

While they have a winning personality and look cute to boot, the Shih Tzu is known to be highly susceptible to several different illnesses and injuries. You cannot always be certain exactly what issues your Shih Tzu will develop as they age but it is important to know what to look out for. Being able to familiarize yourself with the most common issues the breed sufferers from is the best way to help your pup! 

4 Common Shih Tzu Health Issues Explained

1. Hypothyroidism

Hypothyroidism is usually more common in mid to large-sized dogs. However, Hypothyroidism is quite common among the Shih Tzu breed. This condition is caused by an underactive thyroid and is something that can be passed down genetically from previous generations. This causes an affected dog’s metabolism to slow down significantly. If you have a Shih Tzu it is important to be on the lookout for the following conditions:

  • Thinning coat and excessive shedding
  • Inability to regrow lost hair
  • Weight gain with no noticeable increase in appetite/amount they are fed
  • high cholesterol
  • Increase in frequency of skin and ear infections.

If you notice these signs in your Shih Tzu it is important to visit your vet to determine if the underlying cause is Hypothyroidism.  

And while Hypothyroidism is not curable it can be treated and managed with oral hormone treatment prescribed by a Veterinarian.  

2. Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome

Shih tzu with bad hips
Shih Tzu with hip dysplasia wearing the Walkin’ Hip-EEZ Support System

Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome seems like a confusing diagnosis as it is a more general medical term associated with short-nosed or faced dogs.  A Shih Tzu face may not be as flat as the pug or French Bulldog, they still are considered a flat-faced breed and can develop many of the breathing issues associated with Pugs and Frenchie’s. Snub-nosed dog breeds generally have narrow nostrils and windpipes. All of which makes losing their breath easy and catching their breath a much more difficult task. 

It is highly suggested for breeds predisposed to this issue, like the Shih Tzu, that they are walked with a no-choke harness as opposed to a collar. Collars can put more pressure on their throats and cause damage and issues to their sensitive tracheas. Common signs your Shih Tzu is struggling with this are as follows:

  • Heaving panting/Wheezing
  • Snoring
  • Excessive amount of sneezing 
  • Severe duress in heat
  • Having to stop frequently during exercise and playtime

Important to note that these are not the only signs that indicate your dog has this issue, they are some of the most common ones that you will want to look out for. 

The best thing you can do to help your Shih Tzu or any other breed with a similar facial construction is to keep them trim. Excess weight on these types of dogs will only worsen the symptoms and problems they will face due to their smooshed faces. 

Be sure to talk to your vet about the best course of action for your Shih Tzu. This may be a combination of surgery and a change of diet and exercise. 

3. Intervertebral Disc Disease in Shih Tzu

happy shih tzu enjoys dog whelechair
A happy Shih Tzu enjoying his mobility in a Walkin’ Wheels® Rear Dog Wheelchair

The little lion dog’s stature makes them a great lap dog and cuddle companion it is also the reason they are more susceptible to IVDD ( Intervertebral Disc Disease over other breeds. The combination of their long spines and short legs makes them vulnerable to many kinds of back problems. 

This condition can be painful and potentially cause paralysis in the rear end if not properly treated and managed. Surgery is an option when it comes to fixing an affected disc, but because of the Shih Tzu’s high likelihood to have Hypothyroidism, it can be difficult to properly sedate them so it is important to know before any spinal surgery your vet is aware if they suffer from any other conditions. 

As surgery may not be a realistic option for some Shih Tzus there are other ways to manage the condition and pain. A combination of medications and even a back support brace can assist some pups in managing their pain and mobility. For a Shih Tzu left paralyzed due to their spinal issues using a dog wheelchair can be beneficial. If you are looking to get your Shih Tzu in a set of wheels make sure they have extra spinal support to keep their backs lifted so they won’t sink downwards and cause them more pain.  

Many Shih Tzu suffers from eye problems, due to their protruding puppy dog eyes. While their eyes are one of their cutest attributes they can be prone to several issues:

Be sure to regularly check your Shih Tzu’s eyes for irritations and cloudiness. If a visible eye issue develops you can notify your vet right away. Regularly grooming your Shih Tzu is vital for their eye health. The hair around Shih Tzu’s face and eyes tend to grow straight up, so it must be regularly trimmed back. Keeping their hair trimmed will prevent hair from poking or irritating their eyes.

Also, clean the eye area by the tear ducts and below the eyes to keep their eyes a little safer. A warm damp washcloth can be used to slowly break apart build-up or even wipes specifically designed to clean up tear stains and eye gunk. If you notice it is an excessive amount of build-up or they seem to be crying more than usual let your vet know so they can help to treat any developing issue early on. 


This cute little breed has the potential to develop several kinds of health problems, it doesn’t lessen their value to any family or how beloved they are as a breed. Although you cannot tell by looking at them, this cuddly companion breed is very similar genetically to wolves, compared to many larger breeds. This must be one of the many reasons they are such a loyal and fascinating little dog to have around!  

shih tzu wheelchair
Shih Tzu Wheelchair
Walkin’ Lift Rear Harness
Walkin’ Lift Rear Harness
drag bag for paralyzed dog
Walkin’ Drag Bag

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