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The Shih Tzu Life Span: How Long do Shih Tzu’s Live For?

By Kerry
Updated on

The shih tzu life span

When you are picking out your next dog breed, a morbid thought might be lurking in the back of your mind: how long will it live for?

You can’t be blamed for thinking this, as you quickly become attached to your pet and will want them around for as long as possible.

There are many different types of dog breed, some of which have been bred to have distinctive characteristics and physical defects that affect their lifespan.

A bulldog, for example, has a very distinctive snub nose, however, as it gets older it can lead to breathing problems.

Because a Shih Tzu is a smaller dog breed, they will generally live for much longer than larger breeds.

This is because larger breeds are generally a lot more energetic and can suffer increased wear and tear on their bodies as the years go on. However, Shih Tzus are known prone to their own genetic conditions.

There will be many things that you’ll need to be aware of when you are buying a Shih Tzu and they will need very particular attention when it comes to their diet and their exercise routine.

There will be a few things that we’ll list later in this article that you can do to make sure that your puppy pal stays with you for a lot longer.

So how long do Shih Tzu’s live for exactly? How best can you look after this dog and make sure they live a long and healthy life? What health issues affect them? How can you extend their lifespan by diet and certain types of exercise?

Well, if your dog’s lifespan is of concern to you, then you should keep reading, as we’ve got a comprehensive guide to the Shih Tzu and how you can best look after them.

We’ll also have a look at the best dog foods to give them, as well as some tricks and tips to giving them a long and healthy life.

What Is the Average Lifespan Of A Shih Tzu?

When it comes to buying a Shih Tzu, a lot of people will probably ask their local pet store owner how long one of these dogs will last.

Dogs quickly become members of the family and you’ll want a pet that will stay with you for at least a few years, especially if you have children.

Well, luckily Shih Tzus have been household pets long enough for us to know their average life expectancy. The lifespan of one of these dogs is roughly between 10 and 16 years, with the average lying at around 13 years.

So if you have children, then you can expect your four-legged to be with them for a majority of their childhood and adolescence.

However, whether your Shih Tzu will live nearer 16 years or 10 years will all depend on what you feed it, how much exercise it gets and how happy their overall mood is.

One thing that dogs have always picked up on is energy. If your dog lives in a calm house with very little excitement, the chances are that it will be a very relaxed animal. A relaxed animal has a lower heart rate and will not be as stressed.

In contrast, a dog who lives in an environment that is very hectic, with plenty of shouting and high energy, will be very excitable, which could lead to heart and general health problems further down the line.

Stress can lead to a whole host of digestive and skin problems.

If this seems slightly daunting to you as a first-time dog owner, then you might be interested to see the oldest Shih Tzu in the world.

Hopefully, this will encourage you to look after your Shih Tzu and, who knows, maybe one day you can break this world record! 

How Old Was The Oldest Shih Tzu?

According to the World Record books, the world’s oldest living Shih Tzu was 23 years old, which is pretty incredible considering that the average age is 13. This dog ultimately passed away in 2009, but that was after a long and happy life.

The dog was named Smokie and it lived in Florida. Its birth certificate showed that it was born on January 18th in 1986, so the owners were indeed able to verify that it was 23 years old at the time of its death.

However, you should not expect your Shih Tzu to live to the same age as Smokie, although that’s not to say that with some tender love and care that you can’t try and get as close to this age as possible.

Very often age is determined by genetics as well as environmental factors.

The fact that this dog was born in Florida and had affluent owners might go some way to proving how circumstance can determine the age range of your pup.

Again, if your dog lives in comfort with frequent exercise, then you can be sure that it will have the best chance of living to a ripe old age.

Is It Possible For A Shih Tzu To Live Longer Than 20 Years?

How long do shih tzu’s live for

Looking at the case of Smokie the Shih Tzu, we can determine that these kinds of dogs can live over 20 years, but if we widen our focus then we can see these cases are very rare.

There are barely any other records that document dogs like this one living beyond the age of 20.

When you are raising a dog, even from a puppy, you should always keep your expectations within realistic limits. There aren’t many cases of Shih Tzu’s living beyond 20, then yours probably won’t either.

However, there’s no reason that your dog can’t live upwards of 13 years or more if given the proper care.

What Is The Most Common Cause Of Death For A Shih Tzu?

There are many contributing factors to the ill health of your dog, the main two being the environment as well as the genetics of the animal. Like any other dog, there are specific health concerns that only afflict the Shih Tzu breed of dog.

There are three main causes of death for the Shih Tzu:

  1. Old age – through general wear and tear on the internal organs and muscles, your dog will often give up the ghost.
  2. Heart conditions – being smaller dogs, your Shih Tzu will have a frailer heart than a lot of other pets.
  3. Kidney failure – this is when the kidneys fail to filter water in the same way as they would have when the dog was younger.

By studying the most common causes of your dog’s illness, you can anticipate what issues they have when the symptoms arise.

By knowing the early signs of kidney failure, you can get in front of the condition and quickly nip it in the bud before it gets too serious.

What Is The Personality Type Of A Shih Tzu?

Looking at a Shih Tzu, it is very obvious that they have a very distinctive look, These dogs have short, stubby legs and long hair that sometimes extends to the ground.

These dogs are usually favored by senior users, as they require a lot less physical exercise than a dog like a labrador, for example.

However, this does not mean that they don’t have their own energy. If you are entertaining guests, you can expect your Shih Tzu to become very animated and want to play and get attention from people they haven’t interacted with before.

You could not describe Shih Tzus as a type of guard dog, however. They do not bark or yap a great deal, which is good if you have neighbors that live close by and want to keep the noise down to a minimum.

Unfortunately, if you are looking for a hound that will protect your property, then a Shih Tzu is probably not the right pet for you.

These dogs are remarkably friendly, and will no doubt approach an intruder by licking their face and rolling over on their belly for tickles. However, if you want a dog that will lighten up a family setting, then a Shih Tzu is a great option.

A Shih Tzu often comes with a very expensive price tag, which makes the dogs themselves the target of a lot of thieves. If you are out for a walk, make sure that Shih Tzu is on a tight leash, as they will approach anyone who wants to give them treats or affection.

Shih Tzus are very clever dogs, but they are quite difficult to train. Again, if you are looking for a dog that will fetch you a stick every time you throw it, then you’ll probably be wanting to go for the Jack Russell type that is way more amenable to instructions.

When it comes to measuring training abilities, most trainers count the repetitions that it requires to learn a specific skill.

For example, a larger dog like a border collie requires 5 repetitions of instructions before it learns it completely, after which point it can complete the task with 95% accuracy every time.

Compare this with the Shih Tzu, which requires a mammoth 80-100 repetitions to learn an instruction, after which point they can only repeat it perfectly 25% of the time.

You can see how teaching a Shih Tzu would be a very frustrating activity and anyone wanting to train one would probably give up after a few attempts.

A Shih Tzu is probably the best at being a companion that will elevate the overall spirit of your home. These dogs have a particularly high standing in Tibetan society, where they are renowned as leaders who do not follow instructions.

What Health Issues Does A Shih Tzu Suffer From?

Moving onto this dog’s health issues, sadly, there are many ailments that a Shih Tzu will suffer with, especially as it moves from youth into old age.

These issues can be managed, although you can be certain that some of them will cause your dog some discomfort and in some instances pain.

One of the main benefits of Shih Tzu genetics is that it has a very thick double coat, which gives it much comfort during those cold winter seasons.

If you want to take your dog along the beach during the colder months, then you probably won’t have to worry about an additional jacket.

When the weather gets warmer, then this dog can shed just like any other. You might want to make sure that you’re dog is well-groomed during this period as the excess hairs can become tangled and matted.

This could lead to hygiene problems that will cause your dog to smell over time.

Also, if you do not groom your Shih Tzu regularly during these winter months then you can be sure that parasites and other harmful tics will soon start to accumulate on your dog’s skin.

Using a special parasite comb, you’ll be able to sift out a lot of your dog’s unsightly parasites.

If you take your dog to a special dog groomer, then you can trim down the longer hairs so that they are in line with the shorter ones. However, make sure that your dog is being continuously groomed during the summer season.

If you are grooming using improper grooming utensils, then your Shih Tzu could develop skin abrasions that will eventually, if left undetected, lead to some painful sores.

These sores can take quite a while to heal and will cause your dog significant pain.

A Shih Tzu is also very prone to skin allergies, so you might have to be more aware of which grooming products that you use on its skin to accurately target any parasites and not cause any rashes or sores.

Shih Tzus can also be prone to water buildup in the ear, which will then lead to ear infections and other issues that will require veterinary intervention if left unchecked.

This can lead to a buildup of ear wax, which will be very painful to your Shih Tzu, resulting in a much lower mood.

Shih Tzus also have short faces, which is what gives them their characteristic look.

However, it can also lead to significant breathing problems, especially as your dog gets older. These breathing and nasal problems will often be an issue during running and periods of intense exercise.

This dog also has slightly bulbous eyes, with can lead to dryness around the edges, which will, in turn, lead to tear duct infections, cataracts and ingrown eyelashes.

You must be sure that when wiping their weeping eyes that you do not do so too roughly, as this will lead to more infections and dryness over time.

How To Increase The Lifespan Of Your Shih Tzu

Now that you know that a Shih Tzu will struggle with numerous health issues, you can be much more acutely aware of them, especially as they get older. However, knowing these things means you can treat them sooner.

Make sure that you are aware of the type of breeder that you’ll be acquiring your dog from, as an unscrupulous breeder will sell you a dog that it knows has health problems.

You should also be aware of your Shih Tzus lineage – if your dog has parents that suffered with any of the above conditions, the chances are that it will have inherited these issues as well.

You should also take your new Shih Tzu to the vet to get it checked for signs of any illnesses or ongoing syndromes.

You should also make sure that it has plenty of vaccinations to avoid it contracting any diseases in the future. Make sure that you book regular appointments and have it checked with a vet if it develops any symptoms such as coughing or wheezing.

If your dog suddenly develops skin abrasions, then this might be a sign that it is not taking that well to its food. Switching dog food can have a massive impact on the health of your animal, so make sure you consult with your vet before you do so.

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About the author


Kerry White is an avid dog lover and writer, knowing all there is to know about our furry friends. Kerry has been writing for PetDT for three years now, wanting to use her knowledge for good and share everything she can with new dog owners.Kerry has two dogs herself - a German shepherd called Banjo and a chocolate labrador called Buttons. Kerry knows more than anyone how adjusting to new life with a puppy can turn your life upside down, and she wants to ease some of the burdens through her articles.