The 10 Serious Health Disorders Probable in Shih Tzu

January 5, 2017 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ Health and Care

The Shih Tzu is a pretty healthy breed having lifespan of 10 -16 years. The genetic health problems can develop in any dog breed, same is the case with Shih Tzu. The Health problems listed below are very common in smallest breed dogs & have been recognized as being probable in Shih Tzu.

  1. Tracheal Collapse Disease
  2. Hip Dysplasia
  3. Hypoglycemia
  4. Hypothyroidism
  5. Juvenile Renal Dysplasia or JRD
  6. Liver Problem
  7. Otitis Externa or Ear Infections
  8. Pyometra
  9. Umbilical Hernia
  10. (vWd) Von Willebrand Disease

Tracheal  Collapse

It is a disease in Shih Tzu which is supposed to have genetic susceptibility i.e. due to the results from specific genetic variations, inherited from a parent.

The trachea (windpipe) is a rigid tube in the neck through which the air passes into the lungs when dog breathes (inhales or exhales). It consists of C- Shaped rings made of tough cartilage & covered with a muscle called the tracheal membrane that holds the trachea & adjusts its shape and size subject to the amount of air passage.

Tracheal collapse is caused when the muscle of the trachea weakens the trachea loses its C shape & the rings begin to flatten. Disorders such as respiratory diseases, reaction to pollutants such as smoke & dust, heartworm infection & obesity influence the C shaped tracheal rings to flattened. As the air leaves the lungs, the windpipe flattens & gives a tickling feeling that reasons coughing response & if not addressed in time there can be an blocked airway resulting distress to the shih Tzu.

Shih Tzu aged 6-8 years are mostly observed with this disorder. The primary symptom that surface is coughing or sneezing after exercise or when it gets excited.

The other symptoms observed as the condition worsens are as below:

  • Tire easily.
  • Breathing problem during play or exercise.
  • Respiratory distress (Shortness of breath).
  • Gagging while eating or drinking
  • Coughing in typical honking sound (similar to the sound made by goose) triggers while eating or drinking fast.
  • Blue discoloration of the gums

The above symptoms are considered an emergency case so the dog must be taken to the hospital for treatment.

This disease is diagnosed through X-rays. The treatment involves:

  • Weight management through dieting.
  • Cough suppressants.
  • Tracheal stents & prosthesis
  • Cartilage supplements

Treatment works for about 70% of dogs with a slight form of disorder. Extra serious cases often need specialized surgery.

Tracheal Collapse in Dogs

Hip Dysplasia

It is a degenerative joint disease in Shih Tzu & is congenital. That styles the distressed dog to walk or run differently, like a bunny hop (The dog uses both back legs at the same time). It causes weakness & the dog experiences stiffness, lameness to the rear legs that finally results in painful arthritis.

The abnormal development of the hip joint, abnormal growth of soft tissues that surround the joint in a dog & flattening of the ball of the hip joint are the main causes of Hip dysplasia. No or too much exercise, obesity & few environmental factors like excess of calcium, high protein & calorie in dog’s diets are also included in the causes.

Sometimes the Shih Tzu puppies at their 4 to 5 months’ age are diagnosed with this disease, but mostly the clear signs are seen in the adults between 4 to 6 years of age.

Diagnosis are X-rays based. The treatment consists of managing with pain relievers. Surgery is the second option.

Shih Tzu before & after Hip Dysplasia

Recognizing Hip Dysplasia in Dogs


It is exactly interpreted as low blood sugar. Hypoglycemia follows when blood sugar or blood glucose concentrations fall below the required level to correctly support the need of body for energy & stability.

Shih Tzu puppies less than 3 months of age are susceptible to hypoglycemia which becomes an urgent health problem in such toy-breeds, it can cause the puppy to become confused, disoriented, tired, have the shivers & there is risk of puppy of falling into coma and probably dying.

Typical symptoms:

  • Weakness
  • Tiredness
  • Sadness
  • Shocking gait
  • Tremors

Treatment: The treatment is easy, but you must act fast when your puppy experiences incidents of hypoglycemia, it is essential to quickly restore the blood glucose level, by giving it little Clear Karo Corn Syrup or Honey, under its tongue or rub on its gums. The puppy will improve within about 15 minutes. If not contact your vet.


The Shih Tzu is likely to suffer from Hypothyroidism. A disorder in which, thyroid begins to produce a lesser amount of hormone needed for suitable metabolism. Due to this the dog starts gaining weight, losing hair, appears lethargic, weak, seeks heat & loses its appetite.

When the Vet runs tests the Hypothyroidism is diagnosed & he/she administers the treatment with thyroid medication, often needed lifelong for the dog. The recovery progresses with time & mostly the dogs recover completely.

Hypothyroidism in Dogs 

Juvenile Renal Dysplasia (JRD)

Juvenile Renal Dysplasia (JRD) is found most commonly in Shih Tzu.  JRD is a growing or inherited defect in which the kidneys of the dog don’t develop ordinarily.  It is quite different from other common types of kidney diseases that occur in adult or aged dogs.

In this disorder, nephrons (microscopic structures in the kidneys) which filter blood & support remove wastes by forming urine, remain undeveloped & function incompetently throughout the dog’s life. The glomeruli (which filter waste products from the blood) are also in a reduced quantity in the affected dogs. All these irregularities badly affect the shih Tzu kidneys’ ability & don’t let them function properly.

Sometimes no symptoms are shown for few years & the slightly affected dogs live a standard life, nearly symptom-free, while passing it down to the following generation, but severely affected dogs, due to progressive kidney failure will have a reduced life.

There are 3 Stages of Renal Dysplasia:


Silent & progressive reduction in kidney function over months or years.


The kidneys work at about 30% efficiency and symptoms appear. (Stage-2 can last for months to few years).


The vomiting, more weakness & debilitation shows renal failure. (Stage-3 usually lasts a month or two causing death).


  • Excessive Thirst.
  • Pale urine
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss.
  • Lack of appetite.
  • vomiting
  • Severe weakness
  • Renal failure resulting death.


As there exists is no cure for Renal Dysplasia, so the only way of prevention that may be adopted will be by preventing the distressed dog from breeding, hence removing the deadly disease from the gene pool.

Liver Problems

The liver Problems, including chronic hepatitis is a potentially fatal condition that may affect some Shih Tzu. The function of the liver is to defend the body by detoxifying the chemicals within the body. There are several causes of chronic hepatitis e.g. an inherited defect, viruses, immunologic abnormalities, a drug related reaction or the autoimmune disorder i.e. body’s own immune system attacks the liver.


  • Weight loss
  • Vomiting or diarrhea
  • Depressed
  • Tiredness
  • More drinking & urinating
  • Lack of appetite
  • Jaundice (white area in the eyes & the gums may be yellowish)
  • The illness either remains unchanged during a dog’s life or progressive and deadly.


  • Blood Tests (To check abnormalities in liver values)
  • X-rays (To see the change in Liver size)
  • Ultrasound (To evaluate size, texture & allows biopsies while eliminating the necessity for investigative surgery)

The Identified cause leads to treatment & prognosis.

Liver Disease

Otitis Externa

It is the bacterial infection of the external ear canal (outer ear infection) & is one of the most common types of infections seen in dogs, mostly in those with large, droopy or hairy ears.

This infection can be caused due to wet ears which have not been dried up suitably after bath or swimming, ear wax accumulation, ear mites, buildup of pollen, and growth of hair inside the ear canal. The main symptoms are that the dog on getting ear infections rubs & scratches its ears, shake its head & inclines its head to one side. Ear mites also cause some of these symptoms, but as well as a black discharge and head shaking. Ear mites sometimes lead to bacterial or fungal infection.

These infections are not life threatening if medicated early, so the Vet must be consulted to do a thorough ear examination. The Vet will prescribe a medicated ear wash and some antibiotics & If mites are found responsible then the medication to kill the mites will be prescribed.


It is a life threatening condition in which the uterus gets infected & slowly fills with pus. The uterus is the womb where the fetus is developing.

This infection can appear irrespective of age & whether female has ever been bred or not. Pyometra often results due to hormonal changes in the reproductive tract.


  • Abdominal swelling.
  • Mucus discharge from the vulva.
  • Vomiting.
  • Depression.
  • Increased drinking.
  • Increased urination.
  • Fever.

The prognosis is good if observed & treated at the early stage otherwise, without quick veterinary attention death usually follows.

Pyometra Treatment:

Ovariohysterectomy or spay (To remove surgically the ovaries & uterus) is the most common form of treatment for pyometra. The vet will examine the bitch to see whether the cervix is open or closed & how progressive the infection is. The next step depends on the condition of the pet. In some cases, ultrasound, x-ray may be used & blood tests will be run to check the presence of white blood cells (an assurance of infection). If the infection is at its early stage then it stands possible to be treated with antibiotics, but in the severe stage the spay will be the only choice left.

Prevention of Pyometra:

If the bitch is effectually spayed before her first season, she will remain protected from Pyometra and various other reproductive diseases.

Pyometra Surgery

Shih Tzu after Pyometra Surgery

Umbilical Hernia

Hernia is defined as the projection of body tissue, fat or organ through an abnormal opening in the adjoining tissue. An umbilical hernia is a pouch formed from the inner lining of abdominal cavity, that pushes through a hole in the abdominal wall at the place where the umbilical cord was attached during birth. In a large opening the contents from the abdomen can extend beyond.

Most umbilical hernias are small & grow smaller as a puppy grows. Commonly they disappear completely by the time a puppy is several months old. Umbilical hernias are not life threatening & rarely require surgical intervention but larger hernias are to be managed surgically.


Von Willebrand (vWD)

 (vWD) is the most common inherited blood clotting disorder often found in Shih Tzu.  In this disease a clotting protein (a substance essential for normal blood clotting) called von willebrand factor is deficient or defective. This disease can cause a serious & occasionally deadly excessive bleeding even from superficial wounds. The typical clinical signs of this vWD include bleeding from gums, nose, urinary & excretory system.

(vWD) disease is incurable, but can be managed medically as for the dog to recover completely after any injury or during surgery. The main ends of treating dogs with vWD are:

  • To control spontaneous bleeding.
  • To reduce the rate of bleeding episodes.
  • To correct circumstances contributing to the dogs’ bleeding disorder.

Bleeding at local wound sites can be controlled by proper supportive care, including pressure wraps, sutures, tissue glue/or bandaging.

Intravenously clotting factors & medications are given to the affected dogs before surgery to restore suitable levels of von willebrand factor & prevent dangerous bleeding. During surgery, several transfusions are generally required to the dogs with vWD.

Prevention: Dogs with vWD should be kept away from rough play with other dogs, as light injuries can be challenging.

Soft meals may be suitable as dry causes excessive bleeding of the gums & hard bones & biscuits should be avoided.

  1. ShihTzu said on February 6, 2017 3:06 am:

    The most painful and serious health problems, we must always try to keep our lovely shih tzu dogs away from. ❤️️????

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