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Do Shih Tzus Have Breathing Problems? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ

Written by: Adam Mann

Last Updated on June 27, 2024 by Dogster Team

shih tzu eyes close up

Do Shih Tzus Have Breathing Problems? Vet Approved Facts & FAQ


Dr. Lauren Demos  Photo


Dr. Lauren Demos

DVM (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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If you’re thinking about getting a Shih Tzu or already have one, there are a few common health concerns you should be aware of. For starters, Shih Tzus are far more likely to have breathing problems due to a few characteristics of the breed, but we’ll discuss how you can keep them safe.

We’ve highlighted everything you need to know here, including the common health problems a Shih Tzu can experience.

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Reasons for Shih Tzu Breathing Problems

While Shih Tzus certainly are more likely to have breathing problems, there are a few reasons. There are biological traits that make them more likely to have these problems, and we’ve highlighted them for you here:

close up of a shih tzu dog panting outside
Image Credit: opalledo, Shutterstock

Brachycephalic Airway Obstruction Syndrome

This is one of the most severe problems affecting a Shih Tzu’s breathing and consists of several other conditions. Signs of Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS) include excessive snoring, respiratory noise, mouth breathing, and respiratory distress.1

BOAS has no cure, and it’s prevalent in Shih Tzus. If your Shih Tzu suffers from BOAS, they can’t handle excessive exercise, and they’re especially prone to heat stroke.

Elongated Soft Palates

Shih Tzus often have elongated soft palates in relation to their overall head shape.2 This leads to an abnormally narrow windpipe, which makes breathing more difficult. In layperson’s terms, the Shih Tzu has a very flat face, which doesn’t give them enough space to have a thicker windpipe.

Stenotic Nares

Stenotic nares affect the Shih Tzu’s nostrils; some call the condition “pinched nostrils.” This condition occurs when the Shih Tzu’s nostrils are extra small, making it harder for them to pull air through them.

shih tzu with puppy cut
Image Credit: AlexFilim, Shutterstock

Collapsed Tracheas

This is a very severe and potentially life-threatening condition that can affect your Shih Tzu. As the name implies, it occurs when the Shih Tzu’s windpipe collapses inward. Trauma can cause this condition, but it can also occur naturally. Shih Tzus are especially prone to collapsed tracheas.

Tips to Avoid Shih Tzu Breathing Problems

Now that you know that Shih Tzus often have breathing problems, it’s up to you to take the necessary steps to keep those problems from worsening and limit the likelihood that your Shih Tzu will suffer from the worst signs. Below, we’ve highlighted a few things you should do if you have a Shih Tzu.

Get a Family History

Before you adopt your Shih Tzu, get a complete family history from the breeder and contact their references. Since most of the breathing issues are genetic, if the parent doesn’t suffer from the worst signs, it’s less likely that the puppies will.

Black shih tzu puppy sitting in grass
Image By: Brian Muck, Shutterstock

Keep Temperatures Cool

Shih Tzus are especially prone to heatstroke, so keeping their environment cool will prevent them from overheating. Keep them indoors as much as possible during the hottest days of the year, and limit exercise even further as the temperature rises.

Get the Right Sized Collar

A collar that is too tight can put extra pressure on your Shih Tzu’s trachea. Since Shih Tzus are more likely to have narrower airways that are more prone to collapse, it’s important to get a collar that fits correctly.

Use a Humidifier

Dry environments can irritate your Shih Tzu’s airways, so maintaining a comfortable humidity can alleviate some of the breathing issues. Putting a humidifier near your pup’s sleeping area is especially beneficial.

humidifier with light
Image By: Anke Sundermeier, Pixabay

Limit Exercise

While you want to keep your Shih Tzu healthy and happy, you can’t give them too much exercise. The problem is the more you exercise them, the higher their body temperatures get, making it more likely for them to suffer from heat stroke.

You can certainly take them out for walks, but try to walk them early in the morning on the hottest days of the year, avoid long runs, and ensure they get plenty of water.

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Other Common Shih Tzu Health Concerns

Shih Tzus are more prone to breathing problems than many other breeds, but it’s not the only health concern you need to keep an out for. Below, we’ve highlighted a few more health issues that affect Shih Tzus.

Ear Infections

Shih Tzus have floppy ears and hair in their ear canals, which is the ideal environment for ear infections. Ear infections can also come from allergies. If your Shih Tzu is suffering from frequent ear infections, talk to your vet, and they should be able to help you get to the bottom of what’s going on.

Female veterinarian cleaning ears to nice Shih tzu dog with ear cleaning rod or cotton stick
Image By: Orawan Pattarawimonchai, Shutterstock

Canine Dental Disease

Canine dental disease is far from a problem that solely affects Shih Tzus. It’s one of the most common issues affecting dogs. To prevent this problem, brush your Shih Tzus teeth at least once a day.

Eye Problems

A Shih Tzu’s eyes protrude a bit from their head, making them more susceptible to a wide range of eye problems. Common eye problems affecting Shih Tzus include glaucoma, dry eye, and cataracts.

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Although it’s concerning that Shih Tzus can experience common breathing problems, it isn’t difficult to keep them safe and healthy. Avoiding strenuous exercise, limiting their outside time on hot days, and ensuring they stay in a comfortable environment are a few ways you prevent them from overheating and suffering a heat stroke. They’re a very loving and adorable breed, so don’t let their breathing problems keep you from adopting one. If you’re interested in learning more about the Shih Tzu’s breathing complications, you can reach out to a vet for further advice!

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Featured Image Credit: Anne Kitzman, Shutterstock

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