Shih Tzu Breed Information

Shih Tzus are a member of the ‘Utility’ breed group. Dogs in the Utility group were essentially bred for a specific purpose and so contain a variety of breeds. The function they have been bred for is not included in the sporting and working categories.

Shih Tzus are very affectionate dogs who make ideal family pets. They love living with children and get along well with other household pets, given the right socialisation as puppies. They’re playful and affectionate, but can sometimes also be quite stubborn, making training a bit more of a challenge. For this reason they’ll need patience and commitment when training – for more information on training using reward-based techniques, take a look at our dog behaviour page where you can pick up plenty of tips to help you and your canine companion better understand each other.

Breed-related health problems:

Owners are, understandably, upset when their dog develops a health problem linked to its breed. Often they wish they’d known what problems the breed was prone to have. The potential health problems that Shih Tzus are prone to include:

  • Luxating patellas - the kneecaps slipping temporarily out of place.
  • Keratoconjunctivitis sicca or ‘Dry eye’ – decreased tear production, leading to dry eye and damage to the cornea (surface of the eye).
  • Hip dysplasia – hip joint laxity as a result of poor development, which will eventually lead to arthritis.
  • Portosystemic shunt – a blood vessel that carries blood around the liver instead of through it.
  • Brachycephalic obstructive airway syndrome (BOAS) – occurs when the nostrils of a dog are narrowed (stenotic nares) and the soft palate is elongated. This causes breathing problems and symptoms such as exercise intolerance, increased noise when breathing and difficulty in breathing. Shih Tzus are prone to this and it is often the cause of their characteristic snoring or wheezing. There are both surgical and medical managements available and you should speak to your vet if you think your Shih Tzu is showing any symptoms of BOAS and having any difficulty breathing.
  • Shih Tzus can have a prominent eye position, larger eyeballs and sometimes their eyelids don’t close properly when they blink. This makes them more prone to eye infections and corneal ulcers. If you’re worried your Shih Tzu is having eye problems, you should speak to your vet straight away.
  • Atopy – hypersensitivity to certain allergens, causing itching and skin trauma.
  • Urolithiasis – stone formation in urine.
  • Intervertebral disc disease – abnormality of the discs that provide cushioning between the vertebrae (back bones).
  • Dry eye – Keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS) occurs when one or both eyes don’t produce a normal amount, or type, of tears. This leads to the eye becoming very dry, which in turn can cause infections and ulcers.
  • Cataracts – opacity of the lens of the eye – giving a ‘cloudy’ appearance.
  • Distichiasis – a condition in which small eyelashes grow on the inner surface or the very edge of the eye, which can then rub on the surface of the eye, causing irritation.
  • Entropion – inward turning eyelids.
  • Cushing's syndrome (Hyperadrenocorticism) - hormonal disorder which results in the production off too much cortisol.

For some conditions, there are screening programmes available through the British Veterinary Association (BVA) and the Kennel Club. The Canine Health Schemes allow breeders to screen for a range of inherited diseases, so it’s a good idea to check the parents of any puppy you’re looking to rehome have been screened under these schemes. We’d also recommend discussing the medical history of your potential puppy’s parents and grandparents, and think very carefully before taking on a dog with any of the health conditions listed above evident in the family line.

You can find out more about the Canine Health Schemes on the BVA's website.

You can read our statement on the problems with brachycephalic (‘flat faced’) breeds here.

Exercise and grooming requirements:

Shih Tzus will need around an hour of exercise daily. They need daily grooming to keep their coats in good condition, and some owners prefer to have the coat clipped short so that it’s easier to maintain.

Estimated lifetime cost:

The likely lifetime costs for a Shih Tzu are based on estimates calculated using current market prices and include:

The list above does not include veterinary costs if your pet becomes sick or injured, so these average lifetime costs could be even higher.

Insure your Shih Tzu with PDSA:

1 in 3 pets need vet treatment each year and vet bills can come to hundreds of pounds. PDSA Pet Insurance can give you peace of mind when your pet is poorly, especially for breeds like Shih Tzu that are prone to certain conditions. PDSA Pet Insurance offers:

  • 5 Star Pet Insurance* - from the vet experts
  • 4 levels of cover to suit you
  • Monthly payment at no extra cost

*Defaqto 5 Star rating applies to our Plus and Premier policies only. Defaqto’s Star Ratings provide an independent assessment of the quality of financial products.

By insuring your Shih Tzu with PDSA you’ll also be helping to provide vet care to some of the UK’s neediest pets.

For more information on taking care of your dog please visit our puppies and dogs section

Rehoming from a reputable source:

Where you get a dog from can have a big effect on how healthy and happy it is for the rest of its life. Find out where our PDSA vet experts recommend you get your dog from.

Energy levels
Easy to train
Exercise needed
Barking/likely to be vocal
Size Small
Average height 27 cm
Average weight 4.5-8 kg
Average lifespan Over 10 years
Minimum exercise (per day) 1 hour
Coat length Long
Minimum cost (per month) £70

Not sure if the Shih Tzu is the right pet for you?