How Long Do Shih Tzus Live? Everything You Should Know About the Shih Tzu’s Lifespan

Admired for their silky, flowing coats, adorable pushed-in faces, and glamorous appearance, it’s not hard to see why Shih Tzus turn heads wherever they go. 

This playful, stubborn-at-times toy breed — whose name loosely translates to “Little Lion” in the Mandarin language — traces its origin to Tibet, Asia, where they were kept as companion dogs for Tibetan Monks and Chinese royalty. Shih Tzus were then imported to Europe and later found themselves in the United States when American soldiers stationed in European countries came back with them to the country. 

Shih Tzu’s Lifespan

Shih Tzus are among the most popular toy breeds in America, thanks to their winning personalities. Their outgoing, friendly, gentle, and affectionate disposition makes them incredible family dogs who get along wonderfully with kids and other household pets. 

On average, this fun-loving breed — nicknamed the Chrysanthemum dog because the way the hair on their face grows out with the nose at the center makes them resemble the Chrysanthemum flower — weighs anywhere between 9–16 pounds and reaches heights of up to 10.5 inches tall. 

The ever-devoted Shih Tzu — believed to be a crossbreed between the Pekingese and Lhasa Apso — loves nothing more than being the center of attention and following their favorite human from room to room. 

If you’re thinking of adding a Shih Tzu to your family, chances are, you also have thoughts about their average life expectancy. Well, read on as we explore all you need to know about the lifespan of a Shih Tzu, health factors that affect this breed’s longevity, and more.

Average Lifespan of a Shih Tzu

Close up of a Shih Tzu lying on a chair by the window, the Shih Tzu's lifespan ranges between 10-18 years
(Photo Credit: Belen Capello | Pexels)

According to the American Kennel Club, the Shih Tzu’s lifespan, on average, ranges between 10–18 years. This is a pretty long lifespan, considering the fact that dogs, in general, are estimated to have an average life expectancy of 10–13 years.

The Shih Tzu’s small size has everything to do with their impressive longevity. Unlike medium and large dog breeds, small breeds like Shih Tzu’s do not age at a rapid rate, meaning their bodies don’t experience wear and tear at an earlier point in their lifetime.

Findings by WebMD show that 10 years for a small dog is equivalent to 56 human years, whereas 16 years equals 80 human years. So, if the question, “What is the Shih Tzu’s lifespan in human years?” has ever crossed your mind, we’re guessing you now have a rough idea of how long Shih Tzus live in human years. You’re so welcome!

It’s worth noting that a healthy Shih Tzu with a good quality of life can live longer than the average 10–18 years. You’d be surprised to learn that the oldest Shih Tzu on record was a pup from Florida named Smokey, who died at the age of 23. 

Common Health Issues That Affect the Shih Tzu’s Lifespan 

Close up of a leashed Shih Tzu standing on the sidewalk, the Shih Tzu's lifespan ranges between 10-18 years

Like other breeds, Shih Tzus are susceptible to various health conditions that can negatively impact their lifespan. These health problems include:

1. Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS).

Classified as a brachycephalic breed, Shih Tzus are prone to developing Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). BOAS arises due to airway abnormalities in flat-faced dogs such as the Shih Tzu breed. This potentially deadly condition leads to frequent breathing difficulties. Shih Tzus with a severe case of BOAS may need surgery to live a healthier life. 

2. Eye Abnormalities 

One of the Shih Tzu’s distinct features is their big protruding eyes, which unfortunately puts them at risk of eye infections and various eye problems, including ocular proptosis, cataracts, corneal ulcers, dry eye, and progressive renal atrophy. 

Shih Tzu’s Lifespan

3. Patellar Luxation 

Shih Tzus are prone to Patellar Luxation, a hereditary condition characterized by the dislocation of the kneecap. Patellar Luxation — which causes serious orthopedic issues if left untreated — is associated with symptoms such as difficulty walking or jumping and limping.

4. Hip Dysplasia

While more prevalent among large dog breeds, hip dysplasia is also common in Shih Tzu dogs. It is characterized by defects in the hip joints and worsens in severity if not medically addressed. 

5. Ear Infections 

The floppy, long-haired nature of the Shih Tzu’s ears puts them at risk of severe fungal and bacterial ear infections. Recurrent ear infections can significantly lower your Shih Tzu’s quality of life and, ultimately, their lifespan.

Shih Tzu’s Lifespan

6. Dental Diseases 

Due to their small mouths, Shih Tzus tend to have overcrowded teeth that make them highly prone to dental diseases. Without timely treatment, these diseases can become life-threatening.

7 Ways to Prolong Your Shih Tzu’s Lifespan 

Close up of a Shih Tzu standing on a wooden piece, the Shih Tzu's lifespan ranges between 10-18 years

Like other Shih Tzu owners, you have great influence over how long your cherished pup lives. It’s possible for your Shih Tzu to stick around longer than you expect them to, particularly if you take the following tips into consideration: 

  • Make regular vet visits a priority, not an option.
  • Be sure your Tzu feeds on healthy, well-balanced dog food.
  • Prioritize regular physical activity and mental stimulation to ensure your Shih Tzu maintains a healthy weight and happy life.
  • Prioritize your Shih Tzu’s dental hygiene and consult your vet on further actions to take to improve their oral health.
  • Talk to your vet about joint supplements that will help protect your Shih Tzu’s overall joint health. 
  • Inspect and clean your Shih Tzu’s ears regularly, and consult your vet in case of any concerns. 

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