When you first bring home a new Shih Tzu, you’re likely not thinking about their lifespan. You’re probably just excited to have a new furry family member, and you don’t want to worry about when it will come to an end. However, no dog can live forever, so it’s important to know your dog’s life expectancy long before you have to say goodbye. So, how long is a Shih Tzu lifespan?
What is a Shih Tzu?
The Shih Tzu, originally referred to as the “lion dog,” first originated in China. These dogs were bred to warm the laps of royalty and guard Chinese emperors. Not a lot has changed since then, as they are still loyal companions who love to cuddle and protect their humans. In fact, today, they are one of the most popular dog breeds since they’re usually the perfect mixture of playful and laidback.
What Do They Look Like?
Shih Tzus are known for their soft, silky coats. Their coats are made up of hair instead of fur, which means it grows out like human hair would instead of shedding like many dog breeds do. Thus, they are considered one of the best low-shedding dog breeds. But you’ll need to remember that low-shedding often means more maintenance. You’ll need to bring your Shih Tzu to regular trips to the groomer to maintain their beautiful coats.
Many photos of Shih Tzus show them with floor-length hair and a bow on the top of their head. But in reality, this is only common for show dogs. Most companion Shih Tzus have a short coat since it’s easier to maintain. The longer a Shih Tzu’s hair is, the more often you’ll need to brush them.
Shih Tzus also have a wide variety of coat colors. Some are a solid color like black, brown, or brindle while others are spotted with white and brown or white and black. So, it’s likely that no two Shih Tzus will have the exact same coloring.
The most notable feature for a Shih Tzu is their adorable face. Their nose is much shorter than most dogs, so they’re referred to as a “brachycephalic breed” or simply a “flat-faced dog.” This is the same category that breeds like Pugs and all Bulldogs fall under. While these short snouts are extra adorable, they could cause breathing problems. But if properly cared for, you can help ensure that their short snout doesn’t get in the way of their lifespan.
What are Their Personalities Like?
Like all dog breeds, personalities can vary from one dog to the next. Most Shih Tzus are affectionate and outgoing, while still having a lazy, easygoing side. They love lounging around and taking naps, but they’re also thrilled when it comes to walks and playtime too. They don’t need too much exercise, so they’re the perfect dogs for families who live in apartments.
While many Shih Tzus are angels, they can still misbehave now and then. Most Shih Tzus have a stubborn side, which can make training difficult. They like to try and boss their humans around instead of listening, so you’ll need to have extra patience when teaching them new things. Of course, a Shih Tzu can learn new commands and become well-behaved as long as their family is dedicated to their training sessions. But similar to most dog breeds, the positives always outweigh the negatives.
How Long Do Shih Tzus Live?
Since Shih Tzus are a smaller breed, they generally live longer than large breed dogs. The life expectancy of a Shih Tzu is anywhere from 10 to 18 years. The average sits at around 13, which is because many Shih Tzus don’t live as long due to health concerns or trauma. However, many Shih Tzus have lived well beyond their expected age. A Shih Tzu named Smokey from St. Petersburg, Florida, lived to be 28 years old, making him one of the oldest dogs to date!
Shih Tzu Lifespan Compared to Similar Breeds
Compared to other small dog breeds, a Shih Tzu’s lifespan is fairly average. Other similar breeds, like the Pekingese and the Lhasa Apso, live approximately 12-15 years. Their lifespan range is much shorter than a Shih Tzus, and while the minimum isn’t as low as 10, the maximum isn’t as high as 18. So, if you take good care of your Shih Tzu, then it’s possible for you to spend about 18 years with them!
However, there are a few small breeds that typically live longer than Shih Tzus. For example, the Chihuahua has been known to live anywhere from 12 to 20 years. These life expectancies are not a guarantee for any dog, but it can help give you an estimate as to how much time you have left with your pup.
For Shih Tzus, one of the main reasons they might not live as long as some of the other small breeds is because they’re considered a brachycephalic dog breed. This term refers to a dog with a flat face and a squished nose. While many people consider these features adorable, they can actually cause breathing problems for your Shih Tzu, especially as they age.
How to Lengthen a Shih Tzu Lifespan
It’s unfair that dogs can’t live as long as humans, but it’s just the way the world works. Even though you know your Shih Tzu’s approximate lifespan, it’s near impossible to know what their cause of death will be.
Oftentimes, Shih Tzus pass away due to genetic conditions or unavoidable health concerns. These are things that are out of your control, but there are still plenty of aspects that you can manage in your Shih Tzu’s life. In order to give them the best life possible, there are a few things you can do to help them live longer.
Work on Weight Management
Since Shih Tzus are a lazier breed, it’s easy for them to gain some extra weight. This is especially true if you give them treats on a daily basis. If you notice your Shih Tzu getting a little chunky, don’t ignore it. It might not seem like a huge problem at moment, but it could lead to more serious health concerns later on in their life.
Helping your Shih Tzu get some extra exercise each day is a great place to start. Take them for more walks and give them extra play time. Even if they prefer not to go for long walks, you should still find more ways to get them moving throughout the day. A little exercise can go a long way for small breeds.
Also, consider their food portions. What’s recommended on the dog food bag is often a bit more than you should actually be giving them. So, don’t feel bad if you have to decrease their serving sizes just a little bit. Once you modify their serving sizes, it could take months for any significant weight changes to show, so be patient.
Choose the Right Food
Sometimes your Shih Tzu’s serving sizes aren’t the thing affecting their health the most. If the food they’re eating is unhealthy, it could possibly shorten their lifespan. Before choosing food for your Shih Tzu, make sure you look closely at the ingredients. Many popular kibble brands, even ones that vets often recommend, are extremely unhealthy. Make sure their food is free of by-products and cheap fillers. Instead, they should be eating food with a quality meat source and superfood ingredients that can improve health aspects like joints, hair, and hearts.
If it’s possible, preparing your Shih Tzu’s food yourself or serving them fresh dog food is actually much better than serving them kibble. While some kibble brands are much healthier than others, they’re all still processed food. If you talk to a registered canine dietitian about switching your dog to a homemade diet, you might notice some significant improvements for your Shih Tzu’s health and wellbeing.
Be Aware of Their Health Concerns
Every dog has slightly different health concerns, and those medical conditions should affect how you care for them. For example, since Shih Tzus are prone to breathing problems, you should make sure you never work them too hard. Take them for multiple short walks throughout the day instead of one extremely long walk. Also, when it’s extremely hot out, make sure you limit their time in the sun because the heat is even harder on their little noses.
Shih Tzus are also prone to joint problems. They like to try jumping up and down from furniture items that are way too high for them, but this is not okay for their health. Jumping too often could greatly harm their joints and hips, so do what you can to prevent them from jumping too far. An easy way to help is to provide special dog stairs next to your bed or couch so they can get up without working themselves too hard. You can also purchase joint supplements to help improve their joint health too.
Finally, a main health concern for all dog breeds is dental health. Many people neglect brushing their dog’s teeth regularly, which can lead to gum disease. Gum disease not only harms your Shih Tzu’s teeth, but it can also increase their risk of heart, liver, and kidney problems. To prevent this, it’s recommended that you brush your dog’s teeth daily, but even if you brush their teeth at least once a week, they will be much better off.
Visit the Vet Regularly
The best way to help any dog live longer is to have them visit the vet on a regular basis. Most dogs should visit the vet once yearly, but as they get older and develop more health concerns, you might want to visit twice annually instead, just to be safe. During a check-up, your vet can ensure that your dog is looking as healthy as possible and that they’re up to date on all their vaccinations. Plus, it’s your opportunity to talk to your vet about any concerns you have.
It’s also okay to visit your vet in between checkups if something unusual occurs. If your Shih Tzu has an unusual bump on their body or if they’re having sudden digestive problems, it can’t hurt to ask your vet for help. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your dog’s health.
Give Them the Love They Deserve
Shih Tzus are a very loving dog breed. If they are left alone too often, they can easily get stressed. So, as obvious as it might seem, you need to give your Shih Tzu plenty of love. Spend lots of time with them such as taking them to the park or just playing with them whenever you get the chance. The more love you show your Shih Tzu, the happier and healthier they’ll be!
No dog can live forever, but it’s important that we make the time we have with our dogs worth it. Instead of worrying about how much time you have left with your Shih Tzu, live in the moment and give them the best life possible. It’s what these sweet little dogs truly deserve.