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Shih Tzu Lifespan: How to Help Your Shih Tzu Live Longer

The Shih Tzu is a highly popular toy dog breed loved for its adorable appearance, spunky & energetic personality, and lovely affectionate nature. Shih Tzus have a long flowing coat, floppy ears, and huge eyes.

The Shih Tzu was ranked the 20th Most Popular Dog Breed by the American Kennel Club in 2022.

They originated in China and are thought to be a cross between the Pekingese and the Lhasa Apso.

They make great lap dogs due to their small size and devoted loyalty toward their owners — the perfect companion dog.


Shih Tzus are the perfecct companion dog

Understanding the life span of a Shih Tzu and how you might influence it is an important aspect of Shih Tzu ownership. 

It also helps you in determining your dog’s needs, such as exercise, nutrition, and veterinary care, and how these will affect their lifespan.

How Long do Shih Tzus Live?

A Shih Tzu can live for an average of 13 years, but most live between 10 and 16 years. 

The Oldest Shih Tzu in the World

The world’s oldest Shih Tzu lived to be 23 years old — he was a Shih Tzu named Smokey from Florida.

Factors Influencing Shih Tzu Lifespan

The following are some of the major factors that influence a Shih Tzu’s lifespan:

  • Genetics: Genetics is a major factor in determining a Shih Tzu’s lifespan. Certain genetic factors can affect a Shih Tzu’s longevity, such as inherited health conditions and predisposition to certain diseases. Additionally, a Shih Tzu’s overall genetic health can play a role in determining its lifespan.
  • Nutrition: Proper nutrition is crucial for a Shih Tzu’s health and longevity. A balanced and nutritious diet can help prevent obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and other health issues. Providing a diet that is appropriate for a Shih Tzu’s age, size, and activity level is key to ensuring its good health and long life.
  • Exercise & Mental Stimulation: Regular exercise and mental stimulation are important for a Shih Tzu’s physical and mental well-being. Lack of exercise can lead to obesity and other health problems, while lack of mental stimulation can lead to boredom and behavioral issues. Providing regular opportunities for exercise and mental stimulation can help promote a longer and happier life for your Shih Tzu.
  • Regular veterinary care: Regular check-ups with a veterinarian are essential for a Shih Tzu’s good health and long life. A veterinarian can catch potential health issues early and ensure that your Shih Tzu is receiving the appropriate preventative care, such as vaccinations and parasite control. Regular dental cleanings and other preventative measures can also help prevent health issues and promote a longer life.


Genetics are a major factor in the lifespan of your Shih Tzu.

Shih Tzus are genetically predisposed to a variety of health issues, which can shorten their lifespan. The following are some of the most prevalent health problems that Shih Tzus suffer from:

Common Shih Tzu Health Problems

Shih Tzus are generally considered a healthy breed — though they do have their fair share of health issues that they are predisposed to.

These include: Breathing issues, ear infections, eye problems, skin allergies, joint issues such as hip dysplasia, tracheal collapse, heart diseases, and a condition known as portosystemic shunt (PSS).

Some of these can be avoided through responsible breeding

As many of these health issues are hereditary, with responsible breeding, they can be avoided in Shih Tzus. 

Genetic testing can be done before breeding

Before breeding, both male and female Shih Tzu should be genetically checked for diseases.

If any of them tests positive for a genetic health issue, they should not be bred.

A Shih Tzu puppy sleeping


Nutrition has a significant impact on the health and lifespan of Shih Tzus. 

Feeding an imbalanced dog food with low-quality ingredients, preservatives, and additives to a Shih Tzu will result in health problems and ultimately reduce the dog’s lifespan.

What should I feed my Shih Tzu?

A Shih Tzu should preferably be fed an all-natural, additive-free, chemical-free, and wholesome diet. A Shih Tzu’s diet should include plenty of protein as well as vitamins, minerals, fats, carbohydrates, and antioxidants.

Supplements aren’t always required

Remember that not every Shih Tzu requires supplements, so only feed them if recommended by a veterinarian; otherwise, they will cause more harm than good.

They need clean water

When it comes to nutrition, many Shih Tzu owners neglect the importance of clean water, which is also a vital nutrient that a Shih Tzu requires daily. Unfiltered water or water that is unsafe for human consumption should never be given to a Shih Tzu since it might cause kidney problems and other illnesses.

Exercise and mental stimulation

Exercise plays a significant role in a Shih Tzu’s lifespan and overall health, just like any other dog breed. 

Taking your Shih Tzu for walks is an excellent way to provide them with their daily dose of exercise.

How long does my Shih Tzu need to walk each day?

Young Shih Tzus generally require two 20-minute walks each day, whereas adults may require 30 to 60 minutes of walking time.

Mental stimulation for your Shih Tzu

Along with physical activity, mental stimulation is essential for preventing behavioral issues in Shih Tzus, especially in puppies. 

Obedience training and puzzle dog toys are another excellent way to mentally stimulate your dog.

Regular veterinary care

Many Shih Tzu owners are either unaware of the importance of regular veterinary checkups for their dogs or skip them in order to save money. 

This is never recommended.

Shih Tzus are susceptible to life-threatening diseases such as canine parvovirus, canine distemper, canine hepatitis, and others.

Vaccinations help prevent illness

Some of these diseases can only be prevented through vaccinations.

Skipping regular veterinary checkups may cause your Shih Tzu to miss a vaccination dose, making them susceptible to infections.

Prevention is cheaper than treatment

If your Shih Tzu becomes affected by any of these diseases, the cost of treatment could exceed the amount you saved by skipping vaccinations. 

Additionally, delaying or avoiding regular veterinary checkups can lead to the development of chronic conditions that may be more difficult and costly to treat later on.

Early detection of any illness is best

Shih Tzus are prone to a variety of hereditary diseases, and early detection and treatment of these problems can have a major effect on your dog’s life expectancy.

To ensure your Shih Tzu’s health and well-being, it’s crucial to schedule regular veterinary checkups and vaccinations. 

These appointments provide an opportunity for your vet to detect and treat any health issues early on, potentially saving your dog’s life and avoiding costly treatment expenses.

Tips For Extending Your Shih Tzu’s Lifespan

The following are important recommendations and tips to help a Shih Tzu live longer:

Healthy And Balanced Nutrition

A nutritious and balanced diet is the most important thing you can provide to help your Shih Tzu live a longer life.

Nutritional deficiencies and low-quality ingredients in Shih Tzu diets can have a severe impact on their health, making them more susceptible to numerous health conditions and resulting in a shorter lifespan.

Avoid foods, diets, and treats that contain food additives and preservatives since they can cause food allergies, liver issues, and kidney issues in a Shih Tzu. 

Be sure to make gradual changes to your Shih Tzu’s diet — you’ll want to slowly introduce the new food to make sure they don’t have stomach issues.

Nutritional needs change with age

When choosing dog food for your Shih Tzu, keep in mind that nutritional needs change with age.

Shih Tzu pups, for example, require more protein and nutrients than adults to support their rapid development and growth. 

Feeding a puppy’s diet to an adult Shih Tzu will result in deficiencies and may minimize the dog’s lifespan.

Regular Exercise

Many dog owners ignore the importance of regular dog exercise. 

Lack of exercise not only harms your dog’s physical health, but it may adversely impact your dog’s mental health.

Shih Tzus are no exception — as big of couch potatoes as they are.

There are many benefits of regular exercise for your dog.

  • Helps maintain a healthy weight: Regular exercise helps dogs maintain a healthy weight and prevent obesity, which can lead to health issues such as joint problems, heart disease, and diabetes.
  • Improves cardiovascular health: Exercise increases stamina and improves cardiovascular health, which can lead to a longer lifespan.
  • Provides mental stimulation: Exercise provides mental stimulation and helps reduce boredom, which can lead to destructive behavior in dogs.
  • Reduces stress and anxiety: Exercise helps reduce stress and anxiety, which can be beneficial for dogs with separation anxiety or other behavioral issues.

Shih Tzus aren’t the biggest athletes

Because Shih Tzus are a toy breed with flat faces, it’s very important to avoid over-exercise and know when it’s time to stop.

You should also take short breaks and bring water & travel-bowls with you on long walks.

Indoor exercise can be ideal at times

If the weather is hot outside, go for indoor activities and play sessions with your dog at home. 

Toys should also be used to provide mental stimulation to Shih Tzus. They also help to encourage pet and owner bonds and reduce the likelihood of behavioral problems.              

Focus On Dental Health

The state of a Shih Tzu’s dental health is one of the most crucial factors that can impact its life expectancy. 

Poor dental health can cause weight loss, lack of appetite, dehydration, and malnutrition.

Why it’s important not to ignore dental health

Pain and discomfort caused by tooth decay, dental tartar, and gum infections can make Shih Tzus distressed and they may lose interest in food and physical activity.

If left untreated, gum infections can progress to generalized infections and spread to vital organs, resulting in major health complications for the dog.

How to care for your Shih Tzu’s teeth

Regularly brushing a Shih Tzu’s teeth (ideally two or three times a week) can help prevent dental plaque and tartar buildup and improve overall dental health. 

Don’t share toothpaste — use dog toothpaste!

However, it’s essential to use dog toothpaste instead of human toothpaste.

Human toothpaste often contains xylitol and fluoride…

These are harmful to dogs.

Dental chews are also great for their teeth

Dental chews are recommended for Shih Tzu puppies to promote the development of healthy and strong teeth.

They’re also good for dogs of any age as they can help clean teeth of plaque & tartar — they’ll love them too, they’re just like a treat.

Provide Affection And Attention

Shih Tzus are outgoing dogs with bright personalities. 

They make excellent companions but sometimes can get overly attached to their owners. 

Don’t leave them alone for too long

While they can handle being alone for short durations, leaving them unattended for extended periods may lead to separation anxiety.

If your Shih Tzu experiences separation anxiety, it can lead to destructive behavior and other unwanted behavioral problems

Separation anxiety can drive some owners crazy

Sadly, this is a major reason why many dogs end up in shelters or rescue centers.

To keep your Shih Tzu happy and motivated, it’s important to give them lots of love, time, and affection. 

By doing so, you’ll help them live a happier & longer life.

Outdoor Supervision

Shih Tzus are curious dogs who like to explore, and their curiosity can sometimes land them in harm’s way, therefore supervision is required, especially while they are outside, whether in the backyard or at the park.

Beware of dangers outside

Poisonous plants in the garden, insects, and wild animals are common backyard dangers for a Shih Tzu. 

Supervising your dog when it is in the backyard will help keep it safe from these dangers.

Keep them away from big & rough dogs

When taking your Shih Tzu to a dog park or on walks, keep them away from bigger dogs like Pitbulls and Rottweilers. 

Many incidents have been reported where large dogs have brutally attacked Shih Tzus, resulting in serious injuries and even death.

Don’t Skip Regular Vet Checkups

Skipping veterinarian appointments is one way to shorten your Shih Tzu’s lifespan. 

Shih Tzus are prone to a variety of health issues; however, early detection and treatment of these issues can help keep your dog safe and healthy.

Regular vet visits ensure that a Shih Taz is fully vaccinated and dewormed, lowering the chance of infections. 

Make Your House Dog Safe

Injuries, consuming toxic substances, and other occurrences can all have a major impact on a Shih Tzu’s life expectancy. 

Because Shih Tzus spend the majority of their time indoors, it is critical that they do not have access to anything detrimental to their health.

This is your responsibility as their owner.

Make sure your home is secure enough that your Shih Tzu cannot escape if you are not around. Things that contain dangerous chemicals, such as paint, oils, soap, detergents, and so on, should be kept out of your dog’s reach.

To avoid the danger of injury, make sure your Shih Tzu cannot climb on high spots in the house.

Get Your Shih Tzu Spayed/Neutered

Getting your Shih Tzu spayed/neutered at the right age will help extend your dog’s life expectancy by eliminating the risk of several diseases.

In male Shih Tzus, neutering can help prevent prostate issues and testicular cancer, and spaying can help prevent ovarian cancer, uterine cancer, endometritis, and pyometra (pus in the uterus) in female Shih Tzus.


Shih Tzus make incredible companions that can survive for years if provided with the right care and attention. 

Some factors that influence the lifespan of a Shih Tzu include nutrition, exercise, veterinary care, dental health, and a few others.

Responsible pet ownership plays a vital role in Shih Tzu’s lifespan. By offering a balanced diet, regular exercise, a safe and loving environment, and addressing health issues promptly you can certainly extend the lifespan of a Shih Tzu.

Adopting good lifestyle habits such as brushing your dog’s teeth regularly, engaging them in mental stimulation activities, and supervising them when they are outside, among other things, can ensure your Shih Tzu lives a longer and happier life.


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