Pam Crump    Shih Tzu


Health of a Shih Tzu



Life Span

A Shih Tzu can live up to 18 years.  Buyers should examine their circumstances to make sure they can provide a good home for their Shih Tzu for that lifetime.



Upon weaning our Shih Tzu, we feed Wellness canned puppy food until the teeth develop enough to handle dry kibbles.

We then begin mixing in some Wellness chicken, oatmeal & salmon dry puppy food, gradually decreasing the portion of the canned food.

At about 8 months old, we switch to Wellness chicken & oatmeal dry adult food.


Whenever we switch to a new food, we mix the old food with the new food (about half and half) for 3 or 4 days to reduce the likelihood of loose stool.


Congenital Conditions, Injuries, Illnesses

A Shih Tzu (just as any other breed of dog) is susceptible to various congenital conditions, injuries and illnesses.  The degree of frequency of each condition varies among the various breeds of dog.  We can recommend some good sources to learn about these issues.


Open Fontanels, Umbilical Hernias and Delayed Closures

A Shih Tzu puppy may have an Open Fontanel (soft spot at top of the skull).  A small Open Fontanel almost always closes before the puppy is 6 months old.

A Shih Tzu puppy may have a Delayed Closure of the umbilical opening.  This is a very common condition for the breed, and is not genetic in nature.  The condition nearly always corrects itself by the time the puppy is 6 months old. 

A Shih Tzu puppy may have an Umbilical Hernia.  This genetic condition is fairly rare.

Many veterinarians do not distinguish between the non-genetic Delayed Closure and the genetic Umbilical Hernia.


The distinction between Delayed Closures and Umbilical Hernias is well described on the following webpage:


As of April 2007, every one of our nine females who have had at least two litters has produced at least one puppy with a delayed closure.  Some have had delayed closures in more than half of the puppies in one litter, and yet have no puppies with delayed closures in another litter with the same sire.  Of the 165 puppies we have so far produced, only one has had an umbilical hernia.  We had that hernia surgically corrected when we had the puppy spayed (at 6 months of age) before we placed her in a pet home.  We have a couple of breeding females who had delayed closures.  They have had no difficulty in breeding or whelping, and there has been no greater frequency of delayed closures in their puppies than in the puppies of our females who never had a delayed closure.


The American Shih Tzu Club (ASTC) takes the position that delayed closures in Shih Tzu are not a cause for any concern about the health and lifestyle of the dog or in the suitability for breeding, as long as there is no strangulation of internal organs.  In concurrence, we consider the condition to be a non issue for Shih Tzu, whether or not they will be bred.  See

If that external link does not work, we have a copy of the article at


If a buyer asks about the existence of these conditions in a specific puppy before it is delivered, we will check the puppy for the conditions and report our findings to the buyer.  If a buyer does not ask about the conditions in the specific puppy before it is delivered, then the existence of these conditions will not constitute cause for any refund unless we have inaccurately stated that the conditions are absent for that specific puppy, in which case we will pay a licensed veterinarian to correct the condition if the condition requires correction for the health of the puppy, but no earlier than 6 months of age.



Some of the most common (and serious) diseases can be effectively prevented by vaccinations.  A puppy should get these vaccinations in a series of shots.  Our puppies are vaccinated for Parvo at 4 weeks and 6 weeks.  They get vaccinations for Distemper, Adnovirus Type 2, Parainfluenza and Parvo (DAPPv) at 8 weeks, 11 weeks and 14 weeks.  We prefer to let the new owner take care of getting the rabies vaccination if possible, so that the rabies tag identifies the veterinarian of the new owner.  Thereafter, they should get booster shots every 12 months.  Until the puppy has completed the series of puppy shots (including rabies vaccination), he should not be let out anywhere that infected dogs could have been.  That NOT walk him in your neighborhood until all puppy shots are completed.  All of our puppies have at least the first DAPPv shot before they leave for their new home.



A Shih Tzu (just as any other breed of dog) is susceptible to fleas, ticks, ear mites, and heartworms.  We recommend that dog owners use Revolution monthly to prevent fleas, ticks and heartworm.  To prevent ear mites we keep the hair pulled out from inside the ears and use MalAcetic Otic solution to clean the ears when we bathe our pets.  If we do find ear mites, we treat the ears with Otomite Plus.

Intestinal parasites include:  coccidia (which can cause diarrhea) is usually due to stress such as weaning or changing homes, and can be easily treated with a liquid Albon; giardia (which can cause diarrhea), and can be easily treated with a liquid Panacur; various worms (which can cause diarrhea) can be treated with various liquid medicines, which we give our puppies at 4, 6, and 8 weeks.  We include on our website a good article on giardia at


Dew Claws

A Shih Tzu (just as other breeds of dog) is born with dew claws.  For dogs that will spend a lot of time outdoors, especially in wooded or brushy areas (e.g. hunting dogs), removal of the dew claws within about 3 or 4 days of birth is crucial to prevent unnecessary injury in the field.  Since a Shih Tzu will not live in these conditions, it is doubtful that there is any real benefit in removing dew claws.  Our veterinarian discourages this practice, so we do not remove them.


AKC breed standards for the Shih Tzu states that Shih Tzu entered in shows may have the dew claws removed.  Thus, the removal of the dew claws (or non-removal) has no effect on eligibility for showing a Shih Tzu.


Veterinary Care

Any dog should receive regular veterinary care.  At a bare minimum you should get an annual examination at the time of the annual booster shots.  If you observe any unusual change in behavior or physical condition, find out what could cause the change.  We research the internet as well as ask our veterinarian about our own concerns.  We will share our own knowledge and experience with you upon request.


Bathing and Grooming

As a long-haired breed, the Shih Tzu requires more bathing and grooming than a short-haired dog.  Their long hair can more easily become dirty and even matted.  Brushing and combing out mats should be done daily (about 30 minutes) or at least every other day.  Bathing should be done weekly (more often with puppies, which seem to get dirty during outside play more so than adult dogs).  You should brush well just before the bath to get out all the mats.  Otherwise the mats will become a larger problem for you after getting them wet.  Take care when bathing to prevent water from going into the nose, and make sure the ears are well dried inside to prevent yeast infection.  The whole coat should be dried with a blower until almost completely dry.  Then you can begin the brushing and combing.  As the Shih Tzu gets older, the hair on top of the head will need to be secured in a top knot by a small (very elastic) rubber band.  When removing the rubber band for the next bath, you should carefully cut it without cutting any of the hair. 


Ena Lane has produced a great video “Show Off Your Dog Grooming Basics”.  We have watched it several times, taking notes.  In it she bathes and grooms her Champion “Humor Me”.  You can find great grooming aids also at her website .


Giving your dog a “puppy cut” can reduce the effort required to keep your Shih Tzu clean.  Your Shih Tzu will like this, but will no longer have the look of a “show” Shih Tzu, and cannot be shown.


We recommend using a professional groomer at least once every 6 weeks for sanitary grooming.  A good groomer will also clip nails, brush teeth, and pull hair from inside the ears, as well as watch for conditions that may need to be brought to the attention of your veterinarian.  Many groomers will trim the facial hair on young Shih Tzu without even asking the owner.  Do NOT let them do this.  That hair will soon grow long enough to lay down into the distinctive mustache of the Shih Tzu.  Until it is that long, use a hair gel to lay it down, keeping it from poking the eyes.  Instruct the groomer to cut NO hair other than around the pads of the feet (such that the hair is flush with the floor) and around the anal area (for sanitary reasons).  The only exception (unless you opt for the “puppy cut”) should be cutting hair on the underside of a female just before whelping.


Living Conditions

Shih Tzu cannot survive well living outdoors.  Their long hair, thick coats and short noses combine to make the outdoors quite dangerous to their health and well-being.  They should live indoors in relatively cool (not cold) temperatures.


We describe more specific living requirements for a Shih Tzu on our web page   Preparing for Arrival of your Shih Tzu .



A Shih Tzu can be house broken and trained to obey your commands.  The breed is a little more obstinate that many others, but patience and consistency in balancing firm rebuke for error and praise for good performance will work every time.  Acting in anger and expressing frustration will only serve to make matters worse.  Do NOT reward bad behavior (e.g. give a treat to stop excessive barking) just to give yourself a break.  Your dog will associate the reward with the bad behavior.  You will be training your dog to misbehave.  Both your Shih Tzu and you will gain greater pleasure in your years of companionship if the initial training effort is not short-changed.



Shih Tzu require less exercise than most breeds of dog.  They should be allowed to play vigorously outdoors a couple of times a day in good weather.  Providing a fresh bowl of water will help your Shih Tzu enjoy his play time with less stress.  Please make sure the gate to your fenced area is latched each time your Shih Tzu goes into the yard.  If the weather is warm, the play times should be during the cooler times of the day.


A Shih Tzu should be walked at least once a day for a short distance. Whenever you have your Shih Tzu outside of your fenced yard, he should be on a leash with a choke chain or a halter.  This breed is too easily able to squirm out of even a tight collar.  Do NOT rely on a collar when walking your Shih Tzu. 


Please give your Shih Tzu a dog tag (and even better a microchip implant).



Breeding any dog is unwise for a novice.  We will share upon request what we have learned about the many serious pitfalls of attempting to breed your pet.  Although we do not require spaying or neutering of pets by the buyer, we do encourage this practice.  It is a very significant way of enhancing your pet’s lifetime of companionship with you.


If you buy a pet from us and later are tempted to try breeding it, please call us or email us first.  We will assist you in any way we can for the sake of your Shih Tzu.


If you purchase breeding rights with your puppy, then there are a couple of additional conditions covered in our health guarantee.

1.      The puppy will have no inquinal hernia.

2.      A male puppy will have two descended testicles by the age of 6 months.