How Long Do Shih Tzus Live? What’s The Typical Life Span?

February 8, 2021

What Is The Lifespan Of a Shih Tzu?

If you’ve recently brought a Shih Tzu or your thinking about buying one then you might be wondering how long these furry friends live for (not the cheeriest of topics, we know, but useful).

So to answer your question, Shih Tzu’s on average can be expected to live up to 13 years, however, the lifespan can differ between a range of 10-16 years, with female Shih Tzu’s tending to live up to 1 1/2 years more than male ones. 

This life expectancy can depend on some external factors such as whether you neuter or spay your Shih Tzu, or if your dog has any health problems they are dealing with.

We’ve gone a little deeper in our guide below explaining how you can improve your dog’s lifespan and handle any health problems that the Shih Tzu could potentially have.

At What Age Is My Shih Tzu An Adult?

A Shih Tzu generally becomes an adult when they are around 2 years of age and before they are classed as a young adult/puppy.

They become a senior dog around the age of 10, this is when you might start to notice health problems developing or your dog showing ageing signs.

Typical Health Problems In Shih Tzu’s

Shih Tzu’s like any dog can be prone to developing genetic/hereditary illnesses, these types of illness can consist of respiratory problems, missing teeth or popping knee caps which is known as ‘patellar luxation’, a health problem very common in Shih Tzu’s.

Exercise and food can all help keep these health problems under control, we have listed out the most typical health issues in Shih Tzu’s below too so as you can spot them easily in your dog if one starts to develop as they age.


Hypothyroidism is a metabolic problem that can occur in Shih Tzu’s which causes the thyroid gland within the dog to not work properly and stop producing the right level of hormones.

This thyroid health issue can be spotted in most middle-aged Shih Tzu’s and have symptoms such as; weight gain/loss, hair loss and lack of energy.

Luckily, hypothyroidism can be managed by medication from your vet.

Tips For Handling Hypothyroidism

  • Feed your dog a well-balanced diet.
  • Keep your dog active.
  • Let your Shih Tzu seek warmth.

Eye Problems

Shih Tzu’s can develop some eye diseases overtime and even injuries due to the way the eyes protrude on these breed of dogs.

One of the first common eye problems in these dogs is dry eye, which can cause ulcers around the Shih Tzu’s eye or even potential blindness if left untreated.

Corneal ulcers may also develop around your Shih Tzu’s eyes which can make them red or squint more than usual. Cataracts could additionally make your Shih Tzu’s eye look cloudy and as it develops, could bring sight issues.

Most of these eye problems can be treated by a vet and prevented before your Shih Tzu loses its sight.

Tips for Handling Eye Problems In Shih Tzu’s

  • Clean your Shih Tzu’s eyes often from inner to outer.
  • Remove hair that could be irritating your Shih Tzu’s eyes.
  • Use a tear stain wipe for removing these stuck stains.

Respiratory Problems/Allergies

Due to the way, a Shih Tzu’s head shape is, this makes the trachea of the dog very narrow which can cause respiratory issues.

Symptoms of breathing issues in Shih Tzu’s could be snorting or making unusual sounds when breathing, they may also get more exhausted than usual after playing games and have trouble breathing in hot or cold air.

Due to the flat face and nose of Shih Tzus, this could also make them more likely to overheat than other breeds.

Tips For Handling Breathing Issues In Shih Tzu’s

  • Keep them hydrated.
  • Calm them down when they get too excited.
  • Allow them to relax in hot conditions.

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is caused in a Shih Tzu when they hip socket fails to develop properly in the dog, causing the soft tissue around the joint of the dog to make the bones and joint unsteady or loose.

Shih Tzu puppies can even have this disease but may not show any symptoms that are detectable till they become around 4 to 6 or even 10 years old.

Some symptoms of Hip Dysplasia in Shih Tzu’s could be; stiffness, a narrow stance, bunny hop or a swaying gait.

Tips For Handling Hip Dysplasia In Shih Tzu’s

  • Keep your Shih Tzu at a healthy weight.
  • Control exercise.
  • Keep your Shih Tzu warm.

Spine Problems

As Shih Tzu’s are very small, their shape is likely to have back issues as they develop.

One of the most common back issues in Shih Tzus is Intervertebral disk disease which means your dog has a slipped disc in its back.

This slipped disc can cause a lot of pain for your dog and affect its movement and would ideally need surgery from the vet.

Tips for Handling Spine Problems In Shih Tzu’s

  • Use a harness on your dog instead of a leash to reduce neck pull.
  • Try stair gates to reduce injury.
  • Check with the vet regularly.


Obesity is now a common problem in many Shih Tzus and can reduce their lifespan if not taken seriously.

Overweight Shih Tzu’s can run into the bone and joint problems, as well as developing heart disease.

The plus side of this health issue is that can be reversed quickly with the right exercise and diet.

Tips for Handling Obesity In Shih Tzu’s

  • Exercise your dog regularly.
  • Avoid feeding them table scraps.
  • Smaller portion sizes.

Patellar Luxation

Patellar Luxation in Shih Tzu’s is a knee problem that happens when the knee cap of the dog slides in and out during movement.

Some symptoms of this disease can be seen when the dog is jumping and if they hop often when walking, holding one back leg up.

Tips For Handling Patellar Luxation In Shih Tzu’s

  • Reduce physical movement.
  • Give them pain medication.
  • Add a joint supplement to there food.

How To Help Your Shih Tzu Live Longer

Now we have gone over some common issues that could decrease your Shih Tzu’s life expectancy and you know what to watch out for, there’s also some great tips about how to improve there life expectancy also.

If you notice any of the health problems in your Shih Tzu above its best to take them to a vet, however, you can make some different lifestyle choices for your dog in the meantime to help them live healthier.

We have listed out some great ways to improve your Shih Tzu’s lifespan below.

Feed Them Right

Nutrition for your Shih Tzu is extremely important, you want to be making sure that your dog is getting enough food per day with the right amount of vitamins so as it can have a healthy immune system and bone development.

Some high-processed dog foods can contain fillers which don’t have any nutrition, therefore you should make sure you source your food from a reputable brand.

You could even try making your dog food for you Shih Tzu with recipes such as sweet potato and chicken, just make sure there is the right balance of nutrition in it for your dogs daily needs.

Make There Life Positive

One of the best ways to help your Shih Tzu live a long life is by ensuring they encounter little stress and have lots of love and attention.

Shih Tzu’s especially are very social breeds and like to be around people so try to avoid leaving them alone for long periods. You can also keep your dog mentally stimulated with new games and tricks.

Happy dogs are proven to live longer!

Exercise & Weight

Making sure your Shih Tzu stays a healthy weight is essential for them to live a long and happy life. Letting your dog become underweight or overweight can give them health problems and make them fatigued or withdrawn.

Exercise can help maintain your dog’s weight and also give them mental stimulation which can reduce stress and anxiety within a dog.

Can Where I Buy My Shih Tzu Impact There Lifespan?

Yes, where you buy your Shih Tzu from can impact their lifespan as this can determine whether you are buying a healthy dog or not.

Your Shiz Tzu should always be registered with family history if you are buying from a breeder for example.

  • Breeders – When buying from a Shih Tzu breeder its best to ensure they are registered and have a healthy family history with good genetics. You can always ask to see the mum and dad of the dog if available.
  • Adoption shelters – Getting your Shih Tzu from a shelter is a great thing to do and can help rescue and give a dog a happier life. These Shih Tzu’s however are more likely to come with health problems and abuse, so its a good idea to check everything with the shelter before making a decision.
  • Puppy mills – Puppy mills are a place to be avoided, the dogs here are often not kept well in terms of health and are bred in mass numbers to make money.

What’s the Oldest a Shih Tzu Can Live To?

It’s reported the oldest Shih Tzu has lived up to 23 years called Smokey, this Shih Tzu only suffered from age-related health problems.

As we mentioned above, on average these furry friends do typically live to 13 but you can help increase there lifespan by spotting any health issues and keeping them on a healthy lifestyle as we mentioned above.

Frequently Asked Questions about Shih Tzus Lifespan

Do I need to groom my Shih Tzu?

Yes, grooming your Shih Tzu should be done regularly so as you can keep an eye out for any health problems and prevent problems such as ear infections happening by cleaning their ears weekly.

How long should I exercise my Shih Tzu for?

Your Shih Tzu should ideally have at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, this can be broken down into two 15 minute walks too so as your dog can have two trips outside rather than one.

What weight should my Shih Tzu be?

The adult weight of your Shih Tzu should be from 7-9kg, puppy weight, however, varies from dog to dog and can’t be averaged.

How can I reduce stress in my Shih Tzu?

If you Shih Tzu is prone to get stressed this might be they have anxiety triggers. Ways to reduce this stress could be by leaving your scents around the house, keeping the radio on and comforting your dog with physical touch/voice.

Last Words

Overall, a Shih Tzu will live to an average life expectancy of around 13 years or 16, however, you can increase the chances of your companion living even longer by watching out for common health problems and helping them live a positive and healthy life!

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Kirsten Carter is a freelance content writer who specialises in writing about travel, technology and health. When she's not traveling between her home of Tanzania and England, she writes for her blog Rightminded Travelling and features on a variety of different travel and technology sites.

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