Shih Tzu Health Problems !! Small-size dogs, or Toy dogs, suffer breed specific problems. The Shih Tzu is not an exception. There are several congenital diseases (dogs are born with these diseases) that might present serious health risk in this breed of dog: patellar luxation, back problems and eye abnormalities. If the timely and correct preventive care is provided and if the breeding stock is free from genetic defects, then you have a healthy Shih Tzu.
Patellar Luxation The patella or kneecap is usually located directly in the center of the knee joint. Luxation, or dislocation of the patella, occurs when the patella slides out of its groove. Patellar luxation occurs mostly in toy and small breeds of dogs weighing 22 pounds or less such as the miniature poodle, the pomeranian, yorkshire terrier, and some other toy breeds. Females are 1.5 times more affected than males. In most cases, luxation is a congenital condition (that appears at birth), but it may appear some time later. It is thought to be inherited although the exact mode of transmission has not been determined. In some cases, the condition is acquired through trauma. An affected dog can lame occasionally, or walk on three legs. Sometimes, a dog will show pain and hold his leg up. Surgery is the treatment of choice. Conservative treatments such as prednisone and/or restricted activity doesn't give much benefit and is recommended mostly for mildly affected or older dogs.
Pinched nostrils and teething “Shih Tzu puppies often have slightly pinched nostrils that generally open with time. The bubbly discharge from a Shih Tzu puppy’s nose is NOT serious if the discharge is clear and watery and the dog is otherwise thriving. This problem is most acute during the teething stage. Even the nostrils of a dog that has difficulty simultaneously eating and breathing or is lethargic at this time may open satisfactorily as the dog matures, but a few dogs this severely affected may require surgery later on.
TEETHING PROBLEMS- Some puppies in this breed experience teething trouble. The noses swell and pinch off AIR WAYand they WILL have a little clear discharge. They make some snorting and snuffling sounds. They will usually outgrow this after the adult teeth come in. As long as they are playful and active and eating and drinking well, they are ok. If they can’t eat or drink well and are lethargic or the discharge changes color, they may have developed infection and need to be checked and treated. Most Shih tzu pup are fine after adult teeth have come in. AS long as pups are eating and drinking well and can play they are fine, The official book OF this breed recommends not letting any surgery be done until after adult teeth are in as most will then resolve.**Many Shih Tzu puppies nose's will become tight during the teething phase. It will often cause them to snort and mouth breath. This will go away usually around 12-16 weeks of age sometimes longer. It is very different the Stenotic Nares (Pinched Nostrils). Which is noticed from birth. Many Vets will try to talk you into an unnecessary surgery.
Stenotic Nares- are part of the brachycephalic syndrome of short-nosed dogs. Breeds such as Boxers,Bulldogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Pugs, Boston Terriers, Shih Tzus, Lhasa Apsos, etc. are all considered brachycephalic breeds. Stenotic nares means the nostrils are pinched or narrow. This makes it more difficult to breathe and causes snorting and snoring in these animals. It is a congenital trait; these animals are born with it. Veterinarians perform a simple surgery to help widen the nares, often at the same time as a spay or neuter. (Picture on bottom of page) Dog cleft palate is a failure of the two sides of the palate to fuse correctly during the embryonic stage of development. It can just be the soft tissue, in which case it is only cosmetic defect, but if the hard palate is affected, a puppy usually dies. It can be congenital or result from intoxication resulting from using steroids (cortisones), Vitamin A in over dosages, and some antibiotics. A cleft palate can be corrected surgically; however the puppy must be old enough to undergo an anesthesia.
If you get hernias consistently from the same dog and the breeder has cut the cords and not allowed the mom to chew them, then this is most likely inherited (but could be from the mom or dad or the combination of both) Sometimes they just simply pop up out of no where. Very rarely is an umbilical hernia any health concern what so ever. They are quite common in the Shih Tzu and are easily fixed if so desired. About Umbilical Hernias and Pinched Nostrils The following is an excerpt from THE OFFICIAL BOOK OF THE SHIH TZU, by Jo Ann White, regarding umbilical hernias and pinched nostrils, which are quitecommon in Shih Tzu puppies: "The Shih Tzu is a brachycephalic (short-faced) breed. Many Shih Tzu puppies, especially those with very short noses, have slightly pinched nostrils, particularly when they are teething. They may snort and snuffle, snore, and have a watery, clear nasal discharge... This problem generally clears up with age...Small umbilical (belly button) hernias are quite common in Shih Tzu puppies. If the opening is small, it will likely close by itself as the puppy matures. As with slightly pinched nostrils, many vets unfamiliar with our breed are much too quick to recommend corrective surgery." Delayed Closure or Hernia? Delayed closures are VERY common in the Shih Tzu. Most so called "hernias" are actually delayed closure of the umbilical or inguinal (groin) area. We call it a hernia, because at that time, that seems like what it is. Sometimes I do not mention on my website if a puppy has an inguinal or a umbilical hernia at first because some of the time it is actually already closed by the time they go home. If small, sometimes they are closed by 8-12 weeks. If it seems as if it won't be closed when the puppy is old enough to go home, I feel it is important for you to know. You really can not tell the difference between a true hernia or a delayed closure unless the hernia is severe, but if as the puppy gets older and the hernia is getting a little better as he/she grows, then most likely you are just dealing with a delayed closure. Sometimes a breeder just simply knows based on experience that a particular dog has puppies that just simply are a little slower at closing up...that being said most breeders will not continue to breed a dog that has continually throw true inguinal hernias. It is not uncommon for a umbilical Hernia not to close, almost all are simply cosmetic and do not cause any health concern what so ever, but can be stitched close for very minimal cost at the time of spay/neuter if desired. Almost all "inguinal hernias" are simply delayed closures and require no medical help.
Umbilical Hernias Umbilical hernias really are of little concern and are very common in the Shih Tzu breed. They usually show up at around 2-5 weeks of age and some of them will close on their own by around 6 months of age(delayed closure). If it is large enough that it is "in the way" then it probably should be closed up when the puppy is spayed/neutered if it hasn't closed on it's own, very large hernias should always be closed up so the muscle doesn't close up around it and cause internal injury (however this is very rare to have a umbilical hernia that is large enough to become strangulated). A lot of Vets will do it free of charge or for a small fee as long as they are already spaying or neutering the dog. An umbilical hernia is usually a small soft bump where your puppies umbilical cord was (their belly button) and for whatever reason the muscle Fails to close up. There are a couple of reasons why a puppy gets an umbilical hernia. Because of a Shih Tzu’s uneven bite, sometimes the moms tend to have a harder time "cutting the cord" and will tug, pull or even chew to close to the skin or sometimes a difficult delivery and the puppy had to be pulled out. Most breeders will not allow the mom to chew the CORD. You can not tell if a puppy has a true hernia until they are at least 5-6 months old. They are almost always just delayed closures.
INGUINAL HERNIAS INGUINAL HERNIAS A weak area (hole) in the inguinal region allows a small amount of fat to pass into a small sac creating a visible "bulge". In male puppies the fat may pass into the scrotal sac. Small hernias containing only fat do not present a health hazard. Small hernias generally "close up" with maturity as the muscles surrounding the hole grow together.An inguinal hernia is the result of abdominal organs, fat or tissue protruding through the inguinal ring. Inguinal hernias are skin-covered bulges in the groin area. They can be bilateral, involving both sides, and unilateral, involving only one side. Inguinal hernias are more common in females than males, but do occur in both sexes. Most all inguinal hernias will shrink and disappear as the puppy grows, although you must keep an eye on the size of the hernia. I recommend you push the tissue back into the cavity a couple of times a day or whenever you notice it "sticking out" (if it is on the larger side). Small Inguinal hernias are of little concern and do generally close up on their own. As with an umbilical hernia, if it hasn't not closed up on it's own by the time it is time to spay or neuter your puppy, then I recommend to have a vet close it up at that time. Very Small inguinal hernia's usually would be fine if left, but I recommend to play it safe and just have it fixed when the puppy is spay/neutered if you are at all concerned about it. Large inguinal hernias if ignored could potentially cause a health concern for the dog if the muscles closes up around the hernia and strangles it. However this would not happen if you are pushing in the bump and you get it corrected if it is still present by 6 months of age. Inguinal Hernias can be a big deal to a breeder as a female that has had an inguinal hernia that didn't close on it's own should never be bred as that area will be weak and could potential be a major health risk when whelping puppies. However, again, true inguinal hernias are rare in the Shih Tzu.True inguinal hernias are actually rare in Shih Tzu's. Almost all so called inguinal hernias (actually delayed closures) are completely healed by 4-6 months of age. I believe delayed closures are very common in the Shih Tzu and even though I have had numerous delayed closures I have not seen any of mine that have had a true inguinal hernia.
Quick note on repairing hernias: Some breeders will have hernias repaired before going to their new home when the puppy is young. This may sound very good and I am sure the breeders mean well, however..... after consulting my veterinarian and based on my own opinion and views......... a surgery on any puppy less than 4-5 months old (actually any age for that matter) is very risky. I do not think it is a good idea nor very safe to have a young puppy’s hernia repaired before going to their new home (unless it is a life threatening situation). Since most all inguinal are not true hernia's they heal on their own, there is no sense in risking the health of a puppy on an unnecessary surgery or having to have two surgeries when it could be done with just the one surgery at the time of their spay/neuter. Bleeding Disorders Von Willebrand disease is considered to be a mild to moderate bleeding disorder and it results in a reduced quantity of a glycoprotein necessary for normal blood clotting. Clinical signs of bleeding that are typical of the decrease include bleeding from the gums, urinary system, nose bleed, intestinal bleeding, with or without diarrhea. Small hemorrhages on the gums may develop. Dogs affected with this disorder may experience prolonged bleeding at any site of injury, trauma or surgery.
Renal Cortical Hypoplasia Renal Cortical Hypoplasia is a condition where the kidneys develop inadequately and are smaller than average. It usually results in infection and stone formation. Among other clinical signs are excessive urination, vomiting, convulsions, anemia and weakness. First signs may appear at 10 - 13 weeks of age.
Harderian Gland Prolapse (Cherry eye) In this condition, the gland of the third eyelid, which produces about one-third of the tear film, prolapses as a pink fleshy mass protruding over the edge of the third eyelid, between the third eyelid and the cornea (clear front part of the eye that provides the first step in the collection of light). The condition usually develops during the first year of life. The cause of the prolapse is unknown but is considered to be a weakness of the connective tissue around the gland. The gland starts to move and becomes irritated. Irritation leads to swelling and discharge. The third eyelid can become bloody and ulcerated and develops conjunctivitis. The treatment involves a surgical procedure where the prolapsed gland is pushed back in its pocket. This procedure can be performed under local anesthesia.
Hypothyroidism Hypothyroidism is a thyroid malfunction that occurs when the thyroid gland stops functioning and producing thyroid hormone responsible for proper metabolism. This malfunction is commonly attributed to immune system problems. It is usually affects middle-aged dogs and is seen in all breeds. Symptoms include hair loss, weight gain, muscle loss, and lethargy. If left untreated, it can result in heart problems. This disease is usually diagnosed through blood tests. It can be effectively treated with drug therapy.
General Respiratory Problems Shih Tzu has a lot of respiratory problems related to the shape of their face and head (the brachycephalic syndrome) which affects mostly dogs with a short nose (brachycephalic breeds). Due to an obstruction in the upper airways, the dog is forced to labored breathing. Not every brachycephalic dog will develop respiratory problems but most will to some degree or the other. Severe problems may require surgery.
Intervertebral Disk Disease - Back Problem Intervertebral Disk Disease (IVD) in the dog is a common disorder manifested by acute pain, loss of movement coordination and paralysis. It commonly occurs in certain breeds of dogs called chondrodystrophoid breeds, such as Dachshund, Pekingese, French bulldog, Beagle, Basset Hound, American Cocker spaniel, Shih Tzu, Lhasa Apso, Welsh Corgi.