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The Shih Tzu is known as a toy breed due to their size. When reaching adulthood, they will be around 18 pounds in weight and around 8 to 11 inches in height. This breed of dog is actually very energetic, cheerful, and full of personality.
Shih Tzu dogs are known for all the love they show their human companions. As a future or current owner of a Shih Tzu, you should know that this dog will be very friendly and will almost always run to you when you get home. They like to throw a few happy barks when their owner gets home and make him as happy as possible. They will constantly show immense amounts of love crawling in your bed on next to you on the couch on every occasion they get.
The bad part is that you will probably outlive a Shih Tzu, just like you’d probably outlive any breed of dog out there. But how long will this small toy dog live? Although the lifespan of each dog will depend on a lot of factors, including the lifestyle and the care it gets from its owner, there is an average lifespan you should expect a Shih Tzu to have.
What is the average Shih-Tzu lifespan?
Different experts will give a different lifespan for Shih Tzus as a breed, but most will agree that the usual dog from this breed will live anywhere between 10 and 14 years. For example, the VCA Hospitals website talks of an average lifespan of 11 to 14 years, while the AKC believes that these dogs should reach the age of 18 years. Keep in mind that these numbers should only be taken as a breed average, which means that there are Shih Tzus that might live less, while some others might live more.
You might also like my articles on the lifespan of other dogs like the Pit Bull, the German Shepherd, or the Rat Terrier.
The most important factor to influence your dog’s life will usually be its health. Although very healthy dogs in general, Shih-Tzus still have some health conditions they are more prone to developing, like:
- Joint problems: Among these Shih-Tzus are more susceptible to hip dysplesia and patellar luxation or slipped kneecaps.
- Eye problems: Some common eye-related problems Shih Tzus might have to deal with are corneal inflammation or dryness, retinal detachment, or cataracts.
- Heat exhaustion: Shih Tzus are more prone to overheat than other breeds, mostly because of their face size and their coat type.
- Drowning: Swimming is very tough for these dogs, especially because they have short faces and very heavy coats.
Ways to keep your Shih-Tzu healthy
You should know right from the start, that even if you do everything right, you can’t protect your dog from everything, and some conditions are simply outside your capabilities. For example, genetics and life, in general, can shorten your pup’s lifespan. That being said, there are some ways in which you can keep a Shih Tzu healthy and happy for as long as possible.
Always give them plenty of water
It’s very important to give your Shih Tzu enough water because this dog is very prone to overheating, particularly in higher temperatures. By giving your Shih Tzu enough water, you will help it regulate its body temperature, which will basically act as a protection from dehydration. Decent amounts of water also help with cognitive function and digestion and also prevent severe issues like kidney failure or diabetes.
Keep the dog away from the heat
Shih Tzus really hate hot weather. If you can’t keep the dog inside when the temperatures go over certain limits, then at least find a shady spot where you can keep the dog while outside. Regardless of the weather or the season, never leave your Shih Tzu alone in the car. Never leave your Shih-Tzu unattended in a car, regardless of the temperature outside. There are some studies that have managed to show that a day with just 70 degrees outside will make the temperature reach 115 degrees inside a stopped car. If you feel it would be too hot for the dog outside, it would be a lot better to just leave it inside your home with the air conditioner on, than take it with you on your trips.
Don’t take your dog swimming
Keep in mind that a Shih-Tzu won’t be the perfect companion to take into the ocean for a swimming session. This is something you will have to understand before getting this type of dog because this is a breed that won’t be born and will have a really hard time learning how to swim. You will find some alternative ways of cooling this dog, like staying under the air conditioning with it or cuddling under trees in the park. You will also have to be extra careful when taking your dog to a house with a pool so it doesn’t get curious and get too close to the water.
Schedule regular vet visits
Periodic vet visits can help you spot some issues before they become severe and threaten the life or wellbeing of the dog. You should schedule appointments with your vet at least two times per year to check your dog’s general health. These visits will consist of your vet checking the dog’s knees and other joints for any red flags of common conditions like hip dysplasia. The eyes of your dog will also be checked for common conditions like dry eyes (keratoconjunctivitis). These visits will set the way towards mitigating or treating any issues found. You should also talk with your vet about vaccinations to prevent rabies or other diseases.
A proper diet and enough exercise
One of the issues that can impact the lifespan of this dog is obesity, which can be countered by physical activity and a healthy diet. You should try to get only AAFCO-approved food for your pup and only give it serving sizes approved by your vet. These dogs will love the daily walk, although they aren’t known as running dogs. To get them to undergo some physical exercises, along with the daily walks you should also offer them plenty of playtime.