Each breed has its own set of health problems. Luckily for the Shih Tzu, their list of health worries is relatively short! Working our way from head to toe, here is a list of the most common Shih Tzu health concerns:
The Shih Tzu's short face and big, bulgy eyes can present him with several different eye problems. Some of the most common include:
Infections: Because the Shih Tzu has large eyes and shallow eye sockets, foreign materials that fly around in the air can enter the area under his eyes, leading to inflammation and infection.
Corneal ulcers: The Shih Tzu's protruding eyes are not only at risk for infections and injury, but also for corneal ulcers. This condition can be caused by wind, rubbing his eyes with his paws, or any foreign object that scratches the eye.
Cataracts: This condition is characterized by the loss of transparency of the lens of the eye. When this occurs, a Shih Tzu will lose vision in that eye. If this condition affects both eyes, it can lead to blindness.
Entropion: A Shih Tzu suffers from entropion when one or both of the eyelids turns inwards, causing his eyelashes to irritate the eyeball.
Epiphoria: Epiphoria is also referred to as "wet eye," or an overflow of tears or excessive tearing. This condition sometimes occurs when a dog's tear ducts do not drain properly. This occurs because the Shih Tzu has a short face. Infections and other eye issues can also cause epiphoria.
Breathing Problems: Heatstroke
The Shih Tzu's short face not only makes them susceptible to eye problems, but also respiratory issues, such as heatstroke. When temperatures rise and humidity kicks in, it becomes much more difficult for short-faced dogs like the Shih Tzu to breath. This can cause a Shih Tzu to collapse on very hot days and even put them at risk for heatstroke.
Because the Shih Tzu has a long back, he can suffer from back and neck problems. The most common is intervertebral disk disease. The intervertebral disks are made to cushion the spine. When they bulge or rupture they often cause nerve problems as well as severe pain. This condition can lead to permanent weakness or paralysis if not treated appropriately.
Playing and having fun helps to eliminate stress from your life—and the same holds true for your dog. In fact, incorporating various forms of play into your dog's daily routine is vital to helping him develop a healthy, loving personality.
The benefits of play
Here are some of the ways that playing and having fun is important:
Physical health. Active play helps keep your dog's heart healthy, keeps the joints lubricated, and improves his overall balance and coordination.
Mental health. Games with rules force your dog to use his brain, not just his body. This can help keep his mind sharp and focused.
Social skills. When your dog plays with other dogs and other people, it helps improve his overall social skills. He learns basic rules and how to play by them.
Bonding. Even if it's only for a few minutes a day, playing with your dog helps strengthen the bond between you.
Your health. What better way to alleviate the stress of a busy workday and get a bit of exercise than to come home and play with your dog? It's a win-win for both of you.
How to play with your dog
There are right ways—and wrong ways—to play. The most important thing to remember is that you're the boss. You decide what games should be played and you set the rules. This helps establish your credibility as the pack leader. It also helps keep your dog from getting overly excited and out of control while you play. If your dog does become difficult to manage, simply put a stop to the game until he calms down again.
When you're teaching your dog a new game, reward him when he does well. Remember, rewards don't have to be just treats. You can also reward him with his favorite toys or lots of hugs and praise.
When you start out teaching your dog a new game, keep it simple and go through the game slowly, until your dog fully grasps the rules. Also, wait until he fully understands one game before you teach him a new one, otherwise it will end up confusing him.
Avoid games like keep away, wrestling, or tug-of-war. Those games encourage biting or dominant, aggressive behavior.
Stay in control of the game at all times. Show your dog that you're the pack leader, not just another member of the pack. Retrieval games are good at teaching control.
Don't include your body or clothing as part of any game.
Incorporate the SIT or DOWN and STAY commands in every game.
You decide when it's time to end the game, not your dog. The best time to stop the game is when your dog is still eager to play.
If, for some reason, your dog doesn't seem to understand the game at some point, go back to the beginning, or simply leave it and try again a few days later. Don't get angry if you're dog isn't "getting it" right away. Remember it's supposed to be a fun experience for both of you!