The Shih Tzu is a very old breed of dog from China that is very genetically close to the Chinese wolf. The breed is known to be playful and affectionate, if stubborn at times. Like many dogs with shortened faces, the Shih Tzu can have breathing difficulties, particularly when excited. Also, the length of this dog’s spine can result in vertebral injuries. The Shih Tzu’s typical lifespan is approximately 11 to 14 years.
Primary Health Conditions of the Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu is a brachycephalic breed, meaning that its head has been shortened through breeding. As a result, the dog can be subject to breathing difficulties when it is excited or when it is cold or hot outside. Owners of the Shih Tzu should watch for such difficulties in respiration and allow the dog to rest indoors should such problems develop. Because of the length of the dog’s spine relative to its size, the Shih Tzu can develop intervertebral disk disease, in which the disks between the vertebrae rupture. The condition can be painful to the dog and lead to lack of coordination or even paralysis. Restricting the dog’s movement may be necessary, as may medicinal or surgical intervention.
Secondary Health Conditions of the Shih Tzu
The Shih Tzu can be prone to hypothyroidism, a condition which causes the thyroid to under-produce a hormone necessary for proper metabolism. As a result, the dog can appear listless and weak, and may lose their appetite or experience hair loss. The condition can be treated with administration of thyroid medication. The Shih Tzu can also be susceptible to Portacaval Shunt, in which the blood bypasses the liver and toxins build up in the system. The condition can have serious health consequences for the dog, and surgery may be required to save the dog’s life.
Shih Tzu Exercise and Walking Needs
The Shih Tzu is well suited for apartments, given its small size and relatively low activity needs. However, the dog will require a daily walk and the opportunity to run and play each day. Much of this play can occur indoors, although the dog will enjoy short romps in a yard. Because of the dog’s potential for breathing problems, care should be taken not to overexert the Shih Tzu, especially on very hot or cold days.
Shih Tzu Nutritional Needs
Small dogs like the Shih Tzu may be prone to dental problems and a tendency to obesity, so care should be taken not to feed the dog table scraps or sweets. Rather, the Shih Tzu should receive a high quality dog food well balanced in protein, carbohydrates, and nutrients. The long, fast growing coat of the Shih Tzu requires a food high in vitamin A and Omega fatty acids.