How long do Shih Tzus live?

You may have heard some rumblings about how long your little Shih Tzu might live but what's the truth? We spoke to Dr. Nina Mantione, a Petplan staff veterinarian, to find out.

How long to Shih Tzus normally live, really?

Pet parents of healthy Shih Tzus can expect to enjoy anywhere from 10 to 18 years with their best friends. Small dogs often live longer than their larger counterparts.

What are some pointers on helping your Shih Tzu live his longest, most productive life?

Shih Tzus are known as one of the toy breeds, which means they tend to be small, cute and incredibly cuddly. But they are also prone to a few specific health concerns that pet parents should be on the watch for:

  • Packing on the pounds: While packing on pounds can affect the health of any pet, it's especially dangerous for little dogs like Shih Tzus, where even a few extra ounces can weigh heavily on a dog's back, joints and other organs. One way to tell if a pup is tipping the scales is to run your hands over his sides. A dog at a healthy weight will have a small covering of fat over the ribs, but each bone should still be distinct. Pet parents should also work closely with their veterinarian to ensure their dog is eating nutritionally balanced meals, getting the right amount of exercise and only sparingly indulging in calorie-laden treats.

  • Knee problems:The most common orthopedic abnormality the vets at Petplan see in small and toy breed dogs is called patellar luxation. In this condition, the patella (or knee cap) slides in and out of place, causing lameness. Small and toy breeds often have a genetic disposition to a shallow patellar groove, making them more prone to this type of injury. About half of dogs with luxating patellas are affected in only one knee, but the other half develops the condition in both knees. If your Shih Tzu is experiencing intermittent lameness, there's a chance she could have a luxating patella, so schedule a check-up with your vet to be sure.

  • Tooth troubles:Toy breeds may have big personalities, but they have tiny mouths. However, their 42 adult teeth are relatively large when compared to their bigger dog friends. When all of those teeth crowd into a small space, there are more crevices where tartar can build up, leading to bad breath, gingivitis and periodontal disease. Frequent at-home brushing and regular veterinary dental cleanings can help keep your Shih Tzu's pearly whites healthy.

  • Eye issues:The big, beautiful eyes of the Shih Tzu can also be a cause for concern if pet parents notice excessive tearing, yellow discharge, redness, swelling or itchiness. Shih Tzus can be prone to cataracts, dry eye and a condition called entropion, in which the eyelid rolls inward and the eyelashes can cause irritation on the cornea. Any signs that something may be amiss should be checked by a veterinarian as soon as possible.
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