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How Long Do Shih Tzus Live? Average Lifespan, Data & Care Guide

Written by: Nicole Cosgrove

Last Updated on June 19, 2024 by Dogster Team

Black and White Shih Tzu

How Long Do Shih Tzus Live? Average Lifespan, Data & Care Guide

The Shih Tzu is a popular companion dog breed. It is small, so can adapt easily to life in an apartment. It was bred originally as a companion dog, so it doesn’t have any predatory instinct and is loyal and loving. They are also happy, active, and sociable dogs that, although need a daily walk, don’t require too much exercise.

Possibly another reason for their popularity is their predicted lifespan, as Shih Tzus are one of the longest-living breeds, with a lifespan between 12 and 16 years. This breed commonly lives to 13 years and they can live a lot longer, giving the owner a lifetime of companionship. How long your Shih Tzu will live is determined by a lot of factors, including nutrition and general care, as well as genetics and living environment.

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What’s the Average Lifespan of a Shih Tzu?

The Shih Tzu is said to live between 12 and 16 years, although this is only a rough guide. Some may not live as long as 12 years, and some may live longer. Smokey, a Shih Tzu from Florida, was known to have lived 23 years, and there may be some that have lived longer but have never been documented or recorded. The average lifespan is just over 13 years, and this figure is higher if you exclude death by traumatic incident.

dog breeds shih tzu
Image by: Liliya Kulianionak

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Why Do Some Shih Tzus Live Longer Than Others?

While it is true that some Shih Tzus live as long as 16 years or more, others may only live 10 to 12 years. A variety of factors contribute to determining how long a dog of any breed will live, and while owners do have some control over some elements, some of it comes down to genetics and even a degree of luck.


Dogs are omnivores, which means that they naturally eat a combination of meat and plant ingredients, like people. Furthermore, the food we give to our dogs needs to meet their nutritional requirements for everything from protein and carbohydrates to different vitamins and minerals. When buying dog food, owners are advised to make sure it meets American Association of Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) standards as a complete and balanced meal for dogs.

You can also find foods that are specially formulated for small dogs, as well as some that are geared towards Shih Tzus specifically. As well as feeding the right food, it is important to feed the right amounts, according primarily to your vet or, if your dog is healthy and has no dietary plan set out by a veterinarian, according to manufacturer recommendations. Daily food allowances should also be split over two meals a day, spaced as evenly apart as possible.

Environment and Conditions

Environment and living conditions can play a big part in how long a dog lives. A dog that has plenty of space in an environment that is free from toxins and potential hazards and harm will naturally live a longer life. While you might not be able to choose where you live according to whether it is best for your dog, you can ensure that the internal and external property conditions are as safe as possible.

Keep medicines, cleaning products, and other toxins in closed cupboards out of the way, and check that there are no plants in the garden that might cause harm.

soldier cuddling his shih tzu dog
Image by: Drazen Zigic, Shutterstock


Shih Tzus are small dogs and smaller breeds do tend to live longer than large dog breeds. Size can also take into account the size of your dog compared to that of the breed as a whole. Shih Tzus should weigh between 9 and 16 pounds, according to whether they are small or large for the breed standards. Overweight and underweight dogs are less likely to reach their full lifespan potential, which is another good reason to ensure that you feed an appropriate diet.


Assuming they have been desexed, male and female Shih Tzus live approximately the same length of time. However, some reports suggest that females may actually live a little longer—even as long as 18 months longer than their male counterparts.

close up of a white shih tzu dog
Image by: Julia Barrantes, Shutterstock


Like any breed, Shih Tzus are more prone to certain conditions than the average dog. They are more likely to suffer arthritis and intervertebral disc disease, which can cause mobility problems. They are also prone to chronic bronchitis and because they are a brachycephalic breed, they can also suffer Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome (BOAS). Both of these conditions can cause breathing difficulties that may shorten the life of the dog.

There is nothing you can do to beat genetics but do ensure that the breeder had the puppy’s parents screened for common problems and seek veterinary assistance if you believe your Shih Tzu shows symptoms of any of these conditions. Early identification and treatment increase the likelihood of successful treatment.

dogster paw dividerThe 4 Life Stages of a Shih Tzu

1. Puppy

Black and white shih tzu puppy playing on the green grass
Image by: Druzhnieva Veronika, Shutterstock

The puppy stage of a Shih Tzu’s life is when it will develop socially, physically, and mentally. The true puppy stage will last for approximately 6 months, although most puppies leave their mother at around 3 months of age, and continue their development with a new owner.

2. Adolescent Dog

By the time the Shih Tzu reaches 6 months of age, it is reaching the adolescent dog stage. Females will likely have their first heat at around this time and males will also become sexually active. Adolescent dogs should know their place in the hierarchy of the family, and physical growth starts to slow by this stage.

3. Adult Dog

shih tzu puppy sitting on sofa
Image by; Pattarit S, Shutterstock

By 9 months, physical growth will have virtually stopped, and the dog is considered an adult when it reaches around 12 months of age. It grows a little more until it reaches 15 months of age, but this isn’t always the case.

4. Senior

The senior stage is a little more difficult to pinpoint and is said to occur when an adult dog slows down and enters its twilight years. For smaller breeds like the Shih Tzu, most consider senior age to occur at 10 years, although some owners say senior age starts at 7.

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How to Tell Your Shih Tzu’s Age

Obviously, if you got your Shih Tzu from a breeder or when it was a puppy, you should have a good idea of its age. But, if you have adopted one, it can be more difficult to tell. Up until adulthood, you can check their teeth. Shih Tzus get their adult teeth at about 6 months. Beyond this, you will have to make the best judgment based on health, mobility, and looks. A veterinarian will generally look at dental health and other factors to give a clearer picture of the dog’s age.

shih tzu at the vet
Image by: Usoltsev Kirill, Shutterstock

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The Shih Tzu is a very popular breed of small, companion dog. It is lively, friendly, and loyal. It can live in an apartment and is generally well-behaved, although it will expect treats and attention all the time. Another reason for the popularity of the breed is its 12 to 16-year lifespan, although exactly how long one will live is determined by much more than just breed.

Factors like nutrition, general healthcare level, and even the environment in which the dog lives will have a big impact on how many years a dog lives. Some Shih Tzus have been known to live 20 years or longer.

Featured Image Credit: NcikName, Shutterstock

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