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How Long Do Shih Tzus Live? | 13 Things to Know

Are you thinking about adding this beautiful-haired pup to your family? Or do you already have a Shih Tzu as a companion? It’s sad to think that one day your dog will no longer be running onto your lap for cuddles. It’s only natural that you would want your best friend to be around for as long as possible. So how long do shih tzus live?

This little lion mane dog lives longer than your average dog. But when we’re talking about the Shih Tzus’ health, things can get a little complicated.

There are things that can impact how long your Shih Tzu will live, such as genetics or a sudden accident. But the good news is there are things you can do to take proper care of your dog that will it live a long life.

So, keep reading this guide to know all about the Shih Tzu and the 13 important things to know about that may affect your shih tzu’s lifespan.

how long do shih tzus live

How Long do Shih Tzus Live?

The average lifespan of a Shih Tzu is a little over 13 years. The average purebred lives around 11 years. However, small dogs like the Shih Tzu generally live longer than larger ones. The oldest shih tzu recorded lived to 23 years of age.

What Factors Shorten the Life Span of a Shih Tzu?

Health conditions and genetics are contributing factors to how long Shih Tzu dogs live. There are also certain health problems shih tzu owners will need to be aware of that typically account for more deaths in this breed than others.

The things that Shih Tzus usually die from in order of the most common, are heart conditions, kidney failure, and old age. However, it is important to note that these are the most common fatalities for a Shih Tzu but they are not the only factors that may shorten your puppys’ life expectancy.

The Body Shape of a Shih Tzu

The shape of a dog’s body can be an indication of potential health problems known as Conformational Defects. This means that one or more of the breed’s features are too large or too small, and this can cause complications and impact their lifespan. Some of these defects can be fatal, especially in the case of Shih Tzu dog breeds.

brown faced white body shih tzu imperial

What Conformational Defects Impact the Shih Tzu?

A Shih Tzu’s short muzzle often causes them trouble with their breathing and issues with overheating. Overheating can be prevalent when it comes to excessive playtime or exercise, especially on hot days for these little dogs. Their small size makes the problem even worse.

Another conformational defect that Shih Tzus face is Patellar luxation, which is common in small breeds. This is when the dog’s kneecap (patellar), which normally sits on the groove of the thighbone, shifts out of alignment. They can also face dental problems because their mouths are so tiny.

Tracheal Collapse

Tracheal collapse is a potentially fatal disease in Shih Tzus. When the windpipe (trachea) gets weak, the organ can flatten and prevent air from entering your pups’ lungs.

When a Shih Tzu experiences a tracheal collapse they can have labored breathing, coughing, vomiting, gagging, wheezing, or Cyanosis. This is when their gums turn blue.

There are more severe and less severe cases of tracheal collapse in dogs, though none can be cured completely.

If your Shih Tzu has tracheal collapse, in the long term, it is best that your pup lives a life free of stress, excitement, or too much exercise. With regular checkups and treatment, your Shih Tzu can live a sweet life.

shih tzu mini 5

The Shih Tzu and Hip Dysplasia

Due to the small breed characteristics that a Shih Tzu can inherit, these pups can suffer from body deformation. Hip dysplasia is a common development issue with these pups. This occurs when the hip socket doesn’t develop properly. This can cause pain for your pup as well as arthritis, which can cause a decline in their health and longevity.

A veterinarian can diagnose this health issue and come up with a treatment plan for a Shih Tzu with hip dysplasia.

The Shih Tzu and Thyroid Problems

When a Shih Tzu’s thyroid is not producing enough hormones, this is called Hypothyroidism. This can affect your Shih Tzus’ metabolism and organ function.

When Hypothyroidism is left untreated in a dog, they will continue feeling poorly, not eating well and their symptoms will get worse. Eventually, severe complications will develop which may lead to their sudden death.

The Shih Tzu and Eye Infections

The eyes of a Shih Tzu are prone to infections and diseases. Dry eye is one of the eye problems that Shih Tzu’s are susceptible to. This is when a dog is not producing enough tears. If not treated, a Shih Tzu with dry eyes might develop ulcers or even become blind. Shih Tzus with dry eyes will have a lot of discharge around their eyes. A simple treatment for this problem is prescribed eye drops.

Shih Tzu Mixed with Yorkie

Distichiasis is another common eye problem in Shih Tzus. This means they have an extra set of eyelashes. Sometimes this doesn’t impact the dog at all, while other times it can be very irritating or even harmful depending on the severity.

Corneal ulcers are also common in Shih Tzus, as their eyes are large and protrude from their face. A Shih Tzu with this disease will suffer from light sensitivity and may squint a lot, or have red eyes. This can cause blindness. However, if caught early it can be managed by a veterinarian.

Lastly, Shih Tzus may develop cataracts. This means the lens of their eye becomes cloudy due to too much protein in the lens. This causes the pupil to look clouded or white. The cloudy appearance from cataracts can continue to expand as it develops and the dog will lose vision in that eye. If caught early, a veterinarian can help diagnose and treat cataracts before it progresses or worsens.

The Shih Tzu and Congestive Heart Failure

Heart failure is one of the leading causes of death in older Shih Tzus, but can also affect Shih Tzus in their early years too. 75% of heart disease in these puppies is caused by valve deterioration. Early detection of your dogs’ heart health and a healthy diet will prolong their longevity.

black and white maltese shih tzu

The Shih Tzu and Kidney Disease

The Shih Tzu is prone to a kidney disease called Juvenile Renal Dysplasia. This is unfortunately a genetic disease. This is yet another developmental defect that affects the kidneys. Many times this will impact many puppies within a single litter and the puppies affected with this disease, unfortunately, die from it.

The Shih Tzu and Liver Disease

Shih Tzus can develop a disease called Liver Shunt. A pup with a liver shunt has a  compromised flow of blood to and from the liver. The Shih Tzu can be born with this disease.

Unfortunately, dogs with liver shunt don’t grow normally and tend to be smaller and weaker than other Shih Tzus their age. Leading to a shortened life expectancy.

maltese mix shih tzu on the grass

The Shih Tzu and Ear Infections

The Shih Tzus ears are prone to infection. As a preventative measure, it is advised that the Shih Tzus ears are cleaned on a regular basis. When itching or redness occurs around your puppy’s ears, take them to the vet as soon as possible.

The Shih Tzu and Allergies

Shih Tzus can have many types of allergies. Common contact allergies that the Shih Tzu are prone to inside the house include dust mites, cleaning products, plastics, and shampoos.

Outside the home, Shih Tzus frequently also have a reaction to grass, pollen, and lawn products.

Shih Tzus can also experience skin allergies to perfumes, cigarette smoke, molds, and other airborne allergens. While food allergies are rare, common dietary intolerances for Shih Tzus include wheat, corn, soy, particular proteins, eggs, and food additives.

Depending on the severity of all these allergies and intolerances, your Shih Tzu can get a prescribed treatment from your veterinarian. However, prolonged untreated allergies can become infections and worsen.

white and ginger Maltese mix shih tzu

Although intolerances and allergies in Shih Tzus are generally not deadly, they can sometimes trigger anaphylactic shock, which is life-threatening.

The Shih Tzu and Parasites

All kinds of worms and bugs can invade your Shih Tzu’s little body, inside and out. Everything from fleas and ticks to ear mites can infest their skin and ears. Parasites such as hookworms, roundworms, heartworms, and whipworms can get into their system in a variety of ways.

Some of these parasites can be transmitted to you or your family members and this can be of serious concern for everyone in the household. For your canine friend, these parasites can cause pain, discomfort, and even untimely death, so it’s important that you visit the vet and get your Shih Tzu tested for them on a regular basis.

The Shih Tzu and Bad Breeders

If you’re adopting from a breeder, the very first thing you need to ask for is your Shih Tzus’ medical history. A good breeder should willingly share these details of their healthy dogs with you. Do not buy a dog from a breeder who refuses to share the parents’ and puppy’s vet records.

black and white maltese mix shih tzu

Unfortunately, at times breeders can act irresponsibly and don’t have the parents of your Shih Tzu tested for health problems despite knowing that Shih Tzus are most likely to have these health issues passed down to them genetically.

The only time it is somewhat acceptable to not be fully informed about your Shih Tzu’s history is when you’re adopting them as a rescue. In this case, you just have to do the best you can with the information you are able to obtain.

If your Shih Tzu is a rescue, it is advisable that you consider having it tested for some common health problems. This will be advantageous as an owner so that there are no unexpected issues.

How to Encourage a Longer Happy Life for a Shih Tzu

Given the number of issues that your Shih Tzu could be prone to when it comes to their health – it is advisable to choose your puppy carefully. Get to know the breeder well. An unethical breeder may ignore the symptoms of declining health for the sake of profit.

However, don’t be discouraged about a deceptive breeder.  There are a lot of things you can do at home to prolong and better your Shih Tzus life on a daily basis.


A high-quality and well-balanced diet is the very foundation of a healthy pup.

maltese mix shih tzu tabby tongue out in grass


Never give your Shih Tzu water from unchecked sources. This also includes unfiltered tap water. Their sensitive kidneys can suffer a lot of damage even from a small number of toxins.


Shih Tzus, just like all dogs, need to be maintained on a regular exercise program of physical activity. A strong and fit body can help avoid problems involving the spine and the joints. These dogs are prone to becoming obese due to living sedentary lives. But be sure not to over-exert them either.


Having your Shih Tzu spayed or neutered will potentially prolong your little furry friends’ life.

Mammary tumors, prostate cancer, and womb infection can all be avoided by spaying or neutering your Shih Tzu. But neutering can also come with a lot of risks, so do extensive research before making that decision.


A Shih Tzu’s coat is long and uniquely silky, like something out of a hair commercial. It can grow down to the floor if properly maintained. They are considered to be part of the group of dogs that are hypoallergenic. This means they don’t trigger allergic reactions in sensitive people.

It is important to note that regular grooming will prevent matting and dry skin that is more prone to infections. Grooming also includes nail trimming, teeth brushing, and ear cleaning.

By now you may have already gathered that most of the diseases causing death in Shih Tzus can be prevented if detected early. You should also watch your dog for any changes in behavior, as these might point to developing health concerns. Regular veterinary check-ups are highly advised and beneficial for your pup.

brown and white maltese mix shih tzu

So, How Long Does a Shih Tzu Really Live?

As we’ve discussed earlier, the Shih Tzu has a longer life expectancy than that of a large dog. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be prone to health issues listed in this guide, which could reduce their life span on an individual basis.

Your Shih Tzu will live longer if you keep them up to date on vaccines and bring them to your vet regularly. This is the best way to ensure their continued health. And last but not least, you can increase the lifespan of your furry friend by keeping up with their daily needs. This means feeding them, brushing them daily, and most importantly making time for cuddles.

white maltese mix shih tzu running

Related Posts:

Common Shih Tzu Problems

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