The Shih Tzu: Common Health Issues
Although disease affects all different breeds of dog, certain breeds are more prone to certain ailments than others, due to their particular anatomical structure, genetic make-up, or other factors. In this article, we will briefly describe some of the most common ailments that affect the Shih Tzu.
Eyes and Ears: Because of the anatomical structure of the Shih Tzu’s head, their eyes are especially vulnerable to being injured. This can be caused by collisions with foreign objects, encounters with other animals, rough play, etc. Eye injuries are probably the most avoidable of all ailments that affect the Shih Tzu and can be prevented to a large degree by providing a safe environment for the dog to play in, with special care taken to removal of potentially injurious objects. Shih Tzu should always be supervised when interacting with other animals and should discouraged from rough play. Another important preventive measure is to keep the eyes and eye area as clean as possible. Avoid allowing crustiness or dirt to accumulate. When grooming, it is recommended that the hair covering the eye area be left at a reasonable length as it protects the eyes from dirt and debris.
A genetically linked disease that often affects the Shih Tzu is Progressive Retinal Atrophy, or PRA. PRA is basically the de generation of the retina and retinal tissue over time and can lead to blindness at an early age. If a dog is suspected of having PRA, veterinary care should be provided. As PRA is an inheritable disease, dogs that suffer from the affliction should not be bred.
Shih Tzu are also very susceptible to ear infections. Ear infections are generally not serious and can be treated easily by a veterinarian. Some preventive methods include keeping the inside of the ears immaculately clean and free of hair and other debris.
Bones, Joints, and Internal Organs: Another genetically linked disease that affects ShihTzu is Hip Dysplasia. Hip Dysplasia is a degenerative disease that affects the function of the ball-and-socket joint of the hip. This can be an extremely debilitating disease and cannot always be corrected by surgery. Dogs suffering from Hip Dysplasia should not be bred.
Renal Dysplasia is an inherited disease that affects normal kidney function which, in turn, affects the overall health of the dog. Although Renal Dysplasia is more prevalent in older dogs, it can also affect young puppies and in some cases, can be fatal. Dog with Renal Dysplasia should not be part of any breeding program.
Other Concerns: Just as in humans, some Shih Tzu suffer from abnormal thyroid function. This can be treated with medication prescribed by a veterinarian, although the dog may have need of the medication for the entirety of their lives.
Shih Tzu also seem to be prone to certain types of allergies including food allergies, flea allergies, and hypersensitivity to environmental substances. This can lead to any number of secondary ailments, such as irritated skin, hair loss, and overall poor health. Allergy testing can be performed by a veterinarian and can be treated with medication.