Shih Tzu Life Span – How Long Do They Live?

Reviewed By Kim •  Updated: 09/30/21 •  6 min read
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Shih Tzu Life Span

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Are you a new pet parent to a Shih Tzu? Then we’d like to offer congratulations to you both! Nothing is sweeter than bringing home a newly adopted dog!

As a new pet parent, you may have many questions about your Shih Tzu. One common question most pet parents ask is how long their Shih Tzu will live. We’ll cover that information in this article and more. Let’s get started!

The Average Lifespan of a Shih Tzu

On average, a healthy Shih Tzu may live for about 12 to 16 years. The average life expectancy of these dogs is about 14 years. However, some dogs will live longer, while others will have shorter lives. That’s because there are various factors that have a bearing on how long a Shih Tzu may live.

The oldest Shih Tzu was named Smokey. He lived in St. Petersburg, Florida, and lived to the ripe old age of 23 years!

While it’s true many factors can determine how long a dog will live, there are some things you can do to help keep your dog happy and healthy, which may also extend his life.

Health Issues that Can Effect a Shi Tzu’s Life Span

There are several health issues that can have an impact on a dog’s life expectancy. The two most obvious are a dog’s size. Large dogs tend to have shorter lives than smaller dogs. And the shape of a dog can also have a bearing on how long a dog may live. That’s because some features that are too large or small can cause health issues.

Joint Issues

Hip dysplasia and other joint problems can take a toll on a Shih Tzu’s life. Hip dysplasia is common in these dogs. In this condition, the hip moves away from the thigh bone, causing patellar luxation (the kneecap pops out).

In some dogs, surgery is necessary to repair the damage caused by this painful hip condition.

Back Problems

Shih Tzus are prone to a condition called intervertebral disk disease (IVD). This condition causes a disk to slip out of place and then press against the dog’s spinal cord. This can lead to muscle weakness, muscle spasms, and even paralysis.

This condition may need to be treated with surgery and medications.

Breathing Problems

Shih Tzus have small passageways that make breathing more challenging for this breed. Without the right amount of oxygen, a dog can become sick. Another problem with these dogs is that they can suffer from a collapsed trachea. This condition causes the dog’s windpipe to flatten due to weak cartilage, which makes it difficult to breathe.

If a dog develops breathing difficulties, this condition must be treated quickly.

Eye Problems

Shih Tzus are also prone to problems with their eyes. Some of these can lead to blindness if left untreated. Another condition that plagues this dog breed is called proptosis, which means the eyeball comes out of the socket.

Some of these eye conditions can be fixed with surgery, which means the earlier the condition is diagnosed, the easier it may be to fix.

Ear Problems

Shih Tzus are also prone to ear problems, including ear infections. The problems can be caused by the accumulation of ear wax, wet ears, allergies, or even hair growing inside the ear canals.

For these reasons, a Shih Tzu needs his ears cleaned about once a week to avoid these ear problems.

Dental Problems

Shih Tzus are also prone to dental problems. One of the most common dental issues is that the dog’s teeth may not be lined up correctly, or the dog may be missing some teeth. This may be caused by the dog breed having such small mouths.

In addition, Shih Tzus are prone to periodontal disease (gum disease), which can affect a dog’s overall health. For example, infections can spread through the bloodstream, reaching the kidneys or liver, the heart, or even the brain.


Hypothyroidism is another common health problem in Shih Tzus. This happens when the dog’s thyroid doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones. This can negatively impact the dog’s metabolism and organ function.

Kidney & Liver Disease

Another problem common in Shih Tzus is kidney and/or liver trouble. Some dogs may suffer from a genetic disease of the kidney called juvenile renal dysplasia. Most dogs with this disease often don’t live very long.

Liver problems are also common in this dog breed. Shih Tzus are prone to a condition called a liver shunt. This condition keeps blood from flowing correctly to the liver. This is another genetic disease, which can be treated by a vet.

How to Increase Your Shih Tzu’s Life Expectancy

While it seems that Shih Tzus can suffer from a wide range of medical conditions, there are some things you can do to keep your dog healthy and help him live longer!

1). Buy from a responsible breeder: buying only from a responsible breeder means that your dog should be free of genetic problems that cause some of the diseases mentioned above. The breeder will be able to show you papers on the puppy’s parents and whether or not they suffered from genetic health issues.

2). See the vet regularly: taking your Shih Tzu to the vet for regular checkups can help your fur baby live longer! That’s because, during regular checkups, the vet may find a problem in the early stages. This is when the condition is usually easier to treat. What’s more, if your dog develops any health issue, have it checked right away. The vet can also make sure your dog’s teeth are in good shape. Early treatment and prevention can go a long way to keeping your dog healthy and helping him live longer.

3). Keep vaccinations up to date: while you’re seeing the vet, make sure to keep your dog’s vaccinations up to date. Many dog illnesses are preventable with the right vaccinations.

4). Feed your dog a healthy diet: make sure your dog eats healthy dog food! You can also make sure your fur baby also gets plenty of exercise to control his weight and keep him fit.

These are the main ways you can help your Shih Tzu live a longer, happier life. Keeping him healthy and happy will improve the chances your dog will be around for many years to come!


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Kim is a talented author, who loves animals especially dogs. She engaged in writing books and articles relating to animals a decade ago. Kim resides in Chicago with her husband and son. The family is the proud owner of a dog and a parrot (Jack and Lily). Kim wanted more than these two pets, but her husband put his foot down... She often visits elementary schools to talk to the kids about what she learned about pets and how they could learn from them.

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