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Shih Tzu Common Puppy Concerns

Like any other breed, Shih Tzu's have a few common issues that can occur, and if you are considering a Shih Tzu, you need to be aware of these conditions. In most cases these conditions are acute and are NOT serious. No individual can possibly be totally familiar with the common conditions of every breed, and that includes veterinarians. Veterinarians are not breed specific and some may over-react to some common conditions of the Shih Tzu.

  • Tight (Pinched) Nostrils
    Tight nostrils are very VERY common in the Shih Tzu breed and will generally open with time. The bubbly discharge from a Shih Tzu puppy?s nose is NOT serious if the discharge is clear and watery and the dog is otherwise thriving. This problem will generally come on when the puppy is teething and sometimes not go away until the adult teeth have fully come in (even up to a year old). Sometimes it will come and go as the puppies gums are swelling from the teething process. Some puppies can hardly breath out of their noses at all during this time and it will often cause them to snort and mouth breath. They will usually outgrow this after the adult teeth come in. As long as they are active, eating and drinking normally it should be of little concern. If they can't eat or drink well and are lethargic or the discharge changes color, they may have developed infection and need to be checked and treated. Never have surgery done on a puppy that just simply has tight nostrils as it should eventually go away. Even the nostrils of a dog that has difficulty simultaneously eating and breathing as a puppy may open satisfactorily as the dog matures. Some dogs will have tighter nostrils than others and some will snore and snort more than others during their entire life.


  • Stenotic Nares
    Stenotic Nares are slightly different than Tight/Pinched Nostrils since Stenotic Nares are present at birth. Sometimes it can be hard to distinguish Stenotic Nares from Pinched Nostrils as the signs and symptoms presented are basically the same. From the time the puppy is born he has difficulty breathing through his nose and struggles with nursing from early on due to the inability to breath and eat at the same time (this can happen with tight nostrils also, however the pup is generally almost weaned by this time). Occasionally surgery will need to be done on Stenotic Nares as the puppy may always have this issue, and over time could cause other health concerns. HOWEVER, even with Stenotic Nares the condition can improve as the puppy matures. Observe your puppy and use common sense. Does your puppy have difficulty eating or drinking? Does your puppy tire easily and need to rest after only a short period of play? Does your puppy mouth breathe often? If you answer "no" to these three questions, your puppy is breathing fine through his/her nostrils and no intervention (surgery) is needed at that time. If you answer "yes" to any of these questions, medical intervention may be needed.Due to the extreme difficulty in diagnosing and distinguishing the difference between Stenotic Nares and Pinched Nostrils, I would wait until the puppy is over a year old before considering surgery, UNLESS the condition is causing difficulties in normal daily activities.! Some veterinarians are way to eager to perform surgery, when it may not be needed.


  • Umbilical Hernia
    Small umbilical hernias (a bubble-like protrusion of fat at the navel through an opening no larger than the tip of your little finger) are common in Shih Tzus, and are often due to excess stress on the umbilical cord during delivery. Such hernias are often just "delayed closures" and will close naturally as they mature and require no medical help or concern. True umbilical hernias pose no health risk and can be easily repaired at the same time as spay/neuter. In comparison, they are basically the same as a human having an "outey" bellybutton.


  • Undershot Bites
    Shih Tzu quite often cut their teeth relatively late and lose them relatively early. Undershot bites (lower jaw protruding beyond the upper one) are characteristic of this breed (it's even included in the breed standard), and crowded, poorly aligned, and missing incisors are common.


  • Reverse Sneezing
    Reverse sneezing describes a condition in which the dog seems to be unable to get its breath and begins to honk or snort. It is most often caused by a slightly elongated soft palate that sticks until the dog takes a deep breath through its mouth. The most effective way to stop this is to put a finger over the dog's nostrils, thereby forcing it to breathe through its mouth. Sometimes just a hug and some reassurance will do the trick! Unlike more serious problems found in brachycephalic (short-faced) dogs, reverse sneezing in a Shih Tzu is quite common and considered normal. It is not life-threatening.


  • Collapsing Trachea
    A windpipe that periodically closes on itself. This condition typically appears as your dog gets older. Symptoms include shortness of breath, honking coughing fits (attempts to re-open the trachea), and, because of the restricted air flow, fatigue. Due to this possible condition, NEVER connect a leash to a collar!! Harness ONLY! Collars should be used for "bling" or "fashion" purposes only.


  • Heatstroke
    A Shih Tzu is very sensitive to the heat. Most people know to never keep their dog in the car when parked, however your Shih Tzu can get heatstroke if they run around too much in temperature's over 85 degrees F (29.4 C) (whether inside or outside) or they go too long without water. Symptoms will be dizziness, confusion, faintness and finally passing out. If you do not bring down your dog's temperature, death can occur! Do this promptly by applying cool towels to your dog's body, running a fan over him/her and supplying water. After you have stabilized your dog, you should take them to the vet immediately for evaluation.


  • Eye Injuries
    Eye injuries are common in short-faced, large-eyed breeds, and require immediate veterinary attention. If your dogs eye is red, or if it is squinting or pawing at one eye, take it to the vet at once.


Disclaimer: I am not a veterinarian and you should never take my advice over your veterinarian unless you choose to do so. You'll find many of my own personal opinions, advice, views, suggestions and recommendations here at Precious Family Jewels, all based on my personal research, experiences and years of raising and breeding Shih Tzu and Yorkshire Terriers. In no way do they replace the advice and expertise of your Veterinarian or any other pet care professionals. Any diagnosis or treatments should be left to a professionally trained veterinarian. If you have ANY concerns you should ALWAYS consult a vet. The information provided on this website is intended as a point of reference for INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY!