How Long Do Shih Tzus Live? [Average Lifespan]

Do you have questions about how long Shih Tzus live? You’re not alone. This is a common question among those who are thinking about adding a Shih Tzu to their family. In this post, we’ll take a look at how long Shih Tzus typically live and what factors might affect that lifespan. 

We’ll also provide some tips on how to care for your Shih Tzu so that they enjoy a long, healthy life. So, whether you’re just curious or you’re currently in the process of choosing a Shih Tzu, read on for answers to all your questions.

how long do shih tzus live
How long do Shih Tzus live? [Average Lifespan]

Shih Tzu Breed Overview

The Shih Tzu is a toy dog breed that originates from China. They are known for their long, flowing coats and friendly dispositions. Shih Tzus typically weigh between 9 and 16 pounds, making them one of the smaller breeds of dogs

Shih Tzus are bred to be companion dogs, and they take their job very seriously. They are loving, devoted, and affectionate with their family and friends, but they can also be stubborn and independent when they want to be. 

running Shih Tzu
An adorable running Shih Tzu.

Average Lifespan for a Shih Tzu

While they may be small in size, Shih Tzus have big personalities and can live quite long lives. In fact, the average lifespan of a Shih Tzu is 11 to 16 years.

Typically, female Shih Tzus tend to live a year to a year and a half longer than male Shih Tzus but the generalized average for both Shih Tzu genders, according to the UK Kennel Club, is 13 years and most live longer than a minimum of ten years

However, there are quite a few health conditions that Shih Tzus are susceptible to that might alter this expected lifespan. So, before you can say exactly how long do Shih Tzus live, you might want to take a look at a few of the health conditions that might pop up.

a shih tzu licking its owners face
A Shih Tzu licks its owners face. Lick frenzy!

Common Shih Tzu Health Issues 

Shih Tzus are prone to eye and respiratory problems, and they can also become overweight if not exercised enough. By knowing what to watch out for, you can help keep your furry friend healthy and happy. So, keep an eye out for these common Shih Tzu health issues:

Hip Dysplasia

Shih Tzu owners need to be especially aware of hip dysplasia, a condition that can cause significant pain and mobility issues for affected dogs. Hip dysplasia specifically affects the hip joints and they become loose due to wear and tear. 

The disease can be genetic, but it’s also amplified by types of exercise or improper weight/nutrition levels, making it important to watch how much or little your Shih Tzu exercises and monitor their food intake. This disease, when untreated or ignored, can lead to other health issues that may shorten your Shih Tzu’s life expectancy.

If your Shih Tzu has hip dysplasia, there are a few different treatments you can try depending on the severity, including:

  • Surgery
  • Physical therapy
  • Joint supplements
  • Anti-inflammatory meds
  • Dieting
  • Joint fluid modifiers
shih tzu puppy licks tonuge out
A Shih Tzu puppy wiht its tongue out. Expect a Shih Tzu puppy to lick EVERYTHING!

Renal Dysplasia

Renal dysplasia is a condition that can affect your dog’s health, and it often occurs when there are problems during the development of their kidneys

The early onset typically happens between six months to two years old while the later stages happen towards adulthood. Unfortunately, there isn’t a current cure for renal dysplasia. However, you can treat it a few ways, which might include:

  • Intravenous fluid therapy
  • Appetite stimulants
  • Anti-emetics
  • Potassium supplements
  • Phosphate biners
  • Hypertension treatment
  • Oral bicarbonates

Despite the various treatments available to manage the symptoms and pain, dogs with this disease only tend to live a few years. 

Canine Chronic Bronchitis

It’s a sad day for pet owners when they learn that their dog has chronic bronchitis. This condition causes inflammation in the respiratory system and, over time, permanent lung damage which is irreversible, progresses slowly, and does not have a cure. Unfortunately, this disease is common in small dogs and toy breeds like the Shih Tzu. 

While this disease will decrease your Shih Tzu’s life expectancy, there are a few treatment options available to alleviate the pain your pup might feel, such as:

  • Corticosteroids for inflammation in the lungs
  • Intravenous medication
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Bronchodilators

To prevent canine chronic bronchitis, you would do best to stop smoking generally but especially around your Shih Tzu, and monitor specific allergens that might cause your dog respiratory distress. 

sad Shih-Tzu
A sad-looking Shih Tzu is on the couch.

Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVDD)

If your dog has a shorter build with a large back, they may be at risk for this debilitating condition.

Intervertebral disk disease occurs when a disk slips out of line and presses against the spinal cord. It can cause muscle spasms, limb weakness, difficulty walking, and intense sensitivity to touch as well as paralysis in extreme cases. 

The disease typically appears between the ages of three and six in smaller breeds, like the Shih Tzu or overweight dogs. While intervertebral disk disease might not be the direct cause of a Shih Tzu’s life, it can negatively impact its overall health and ultimately take years off of its life, especially in severe cases. 

While there is no exact cure for intervertebral disk disease, there are different treatments you can take to correct the issue or lessen the effects so that your pup can continue living a somewhat normal life. These treatments include:

  • Anti-inflammatories or steroids for less severe cases
  • Applies heat
  • Massages or physical therapy
  • Surgery 

Final Thoughts

While no dog is immune to illness or injury, Shih Tzus tend to be healthy dogs that live long lives. In fact, the average lifespan of a Shih Tzu is between 11 and 16 years, with most dogs living to be at least ten years old. 

As with any breed of dog, there are some health issues that may affect a Shih Tzu’s life expectancy, such as hip and renal dysplasia, canine chronic bronchitis, and intervertebral disk disease. However, by knowing what these health concerns are and how to prevent them, you can help your furry friend live a longer, healthier life.