Shih Tzu Lifespan: How Long Do Shih Tzus Live?

Written by Jennifer Gaeng
Published: January 18, 2022
Image Credit Angel LeBlanc/Shutterstock.com
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Shih Tzu (Canis familiaris) - puppy running
Shih Tzu is a toy dog breed said to have originated from China as Temple dogs.

Daz Stock/Shutterstock.com

Shih Tzus are utilitarian and toy dogs considered to have originated in China or Tibet as temple dogs.

The name Shih Tzus, or X Sh qun (Hsi Shih dog) comes from the Chinese term for “lion” since this dog was created to seem like “the lion in traditional eastern painting.” This breed is also called the “lion dog” in China.

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This breed is known for its tiny nose, huge round eyes, ever-growing coat, floppy ears, and short and sturdy posture. Despite their diminutive stature, they are noted for their happy, active, and sociable disposition. So how long do these pups live and what can we learn about them to help their longevity? Keep reading to find out!

How Long Do Shih Tzus Live?

Shih Tzu (Canis familiaris) - portrait
The average lifespan of a Shih Tzu is 13 years, although some can live even longer.

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The average longevity of a Shih Tzu is 13 years, with the majority lasting between 10 and 16 years. At 23 years old, the world’s oldest Shih Tzu is still alive and well.

Shih Tzus are highly independent dogs who may thrive in a wide range of environments. However, due to their independent nature, they aren’t considered the most obedient breed and they require a lot of attention to thrive.

Are Shih Tzu Good Family Dogs?

Prettiest / Cutest Dogs - Shih Tzu - running through grassy field near lake
Bred solely to be companions, Shih Tzus are affectionate, happy, outgoing house dogs who love nothing more than to follow their people from room to room.

rebeccaashworth/Shutterstock.com

It’s recommended that Shih Tzus have owners who can spend most of their time at home because they do best in social settings and enjoy being at your feet or by your side. Puppies of this breed need a lot of socialization because they are distrustful of strangers and prefer to meet people on their terms.

Generally speaking, Shih Tzus are thought of as having a positive outlook on life and a contagious sense of humor. They’re energetic and friendly. Humans of all ages can get along with them, and so can other dogs and animals if correct introductions are made.

Watch out for kids playing with Shih Tzus, as they don’t take kindly to roughhousing and are quick to express their emotions. It’s rare to find a snippy Shih Tzu; most of these dogs are wonderful.

What Are the Most Common Health Concerns for Shih Tzus?

Shih Tzu (Canis familiaris) - standing against white background
The most common health issues for Shih Tzu’s involve the eyes ears and skin, including cataracts and infections.

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A variety of health issues, some of which may run in families, have been discovered in Shih Tzus. People have bred them in a terrible way because of the breed’s popularity. This results in widespread and long-lasting health problems, typically beginning at an early age.

The most common health problems in this breed are those involving the eyes, ears, and skin.

Eyes

Shih Tzus are more prone to eye problems as they get older. Cataracts are common in Shih Tzus as they get older, but they can be fixed with surgery. If the cataract is not treated, the dog may lose vision in the affected eye. An ulcer could form if they scratch their unusually large eyes. In Shih Tzus, corneal irritation is the most common ailment, due to the fur on their eyelids.

Ears

Because Shih Tzus have long coats and hair grows in their ears, ear infections are a common occurrence for them. To avoid recurrence of ear infections, it is necessary to clean and pluck the ears on a regular basis and to use ear cleaner and medicine from the veterinarian. There are several telltale indicators of an ear infection, including an unpleasant odor originating from the ears and a proclivity for head shaking and ear scratching.

Skin

Shih Tzu’s skin is particularly delicate and susceptible to allergies. As a preventative measure, they should be bathed every 2 to 6 months. Many of them suffer from digestive issues, and they’re also known for their fussy eating habits.

What Do Shih tzu’s Sleep With Their Eyes Open?

Shih Tzu (Canis familiaris) - standing in grassy field
The Shih Tzu is known to sleep with its eyes open, a condition known as lagophthalmos.

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Some breeds are more likely than others to sleep with their eyes open. Shih Tzu’s are more susceptible to this condition known as lagophthalmos. Eyelids can be partially opened if they are unable to maintain muscular control when asleep. This has been known to affect their long-term eye health, including vision loss.

What Are The Signs A Shih Tzu Is Dying?

End of life symptoms in Shih Tzu’s may include odd breathing, loss of appetite, and digestive issues.

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If your dog has lost his or her zest for life in their later years, it’s a sure sign that their time is running out. End-of-life symptoms in your Shih Tzu might include depression and loss of coordination, odd breathing, excessive lethargy, and changes in appetite, as well as issues in the digestive system.

If you notice these signs in your Shih Tzu, get them to your vet asap. If their time is ending, your vet can help make them, and you, as comfortable as possible with the process.

What Can Be Done To Help A Shih Tzu Live Longer?

Shih Tzu (Canis familiaris) - puppy running
Focus on providing attention, healthy diet, regular vet visits, and physical activity for your Shih Tzu.

Daz Stock/Shutterstock.com

Constant Attention

Shih Tzus can live long and healthy lives, but they require the same level of care and attention as a human toddler. They are high maintenance in this area, so be sure you are ready to keep up with their demands.

Healthy Diet

Be aware of what your Shih Tzu eats. Nothing should be overlooked. Check the packaging. Ensure that the food you’re serving is healthy, chemical-free, and organic whenever possible. Look for food and snacks that don’t include any preservatives. If there are preservatives, look for ones derived from plants or herbs, as well as vitamin mixes (often referred to as mixed tocopherols).

Regular Vet Visits

Scheduled and up-to-date health checks are necessary. Puppies should be inspected every 1 to 3 months for vaccinations. It is recommended that adult dogs between the ages of 1 and 7 be examined once a year. Every two years, adults over the age of eight are seen.

Spay or Neuter

Spaying or neutering your Shih Tzu should be taken care of by your veterinarian. Surgery can be postponed if the female has weight or size issues until she is at least one year old, although it should be done as soon as possible. One-year-old boys should be neutered to prevent them from establishing unhealthy habits.

Regular Exercise

The best way to ensure that your Shih Tzu puppy or dog lives a long and healthy lifespan is to make sure that they get plenty of activity from an early age.

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About the Author

A substantial part of my life has been spent as a writer and artist, with great respect to observing nature with an analytical and metaphysical eye. Upon close investigation, the natural world exposes truths far beyond the obvious. For me, the source of all that we are is embodied in our planet; and the process of writing and creating art around this topic is an attempt to communicate its wonders.

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