Shih Tzu Life Expectancy:  How do you Add to Your Shih Tzu's Lifespan?

Shih Tzu Life Expectancy  |Published 12-02-2023

The life years of a Shih Tzu is something that any owner needs to understand. This breed, known for its luxurious coat and friendly traits, lives longer than many other dog breeds.

But there's more to know about the Shih Tzu life expectancy than just numbers. Diet, exercise, genetics, and overall health care significantly affect the pet's longevity.
On average, Shih Tzus lives between 10 and 16 years.

However, some Shih Tzus also reach the age of 18 or even 20. Despite this range, many factors decide how long a Shih Tzu might live.

Two white Shih Tzu dogs are cuddling on the stairsHow do you add to your Shih Tzu's lifespan?

Shih Tzu Life Expectancy: Factors Influencing Shih Tzu Longevity

Knowing what impacts their longevity is essential when considering Shih Tzu's lifespan.

Diet & Exercise

A woman is walking a pack of dogsExercise is important for them and you.

Shih Tzus needs a balanced diet and regular exercise like any other dog breed. It helps to maintain the right weight and overall well-being. Obesity can cause many health complications like heart disease, diabetes, and even tooth decay.

Yes, you heard it right; tooth decay is not just a human problem; dogs suffer from it, too, especially if their diet has excessive sugary treats. So, always include a good amount of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats in their diet. Do not forget regular dental checks.

Health Care

Regular health checks are essential for Shih Tzu. It's recommended to see the vet, ideally once or twice a year, even if your pet seems perfectly healthy. The check-up frequency might increase with age or if they have any pre-existing conditions.

Mental Stimulation

A liver and white colored Shih Tzu looking at the cameraMental stimulation is important for all dogs

Like the body, your pet's mind must also stay active. Brain games and toys can give the mental stimulation they need. For instance, a scratchboard keeps them engaged and helps keep their nails in check.

Genetics & Lifespan

The genetics of Shih Tzu can also influence the life years. This brings up the fact that obtaining a Shih Tzu puppy from a reputable breeder who cares about health is imperative for obvious reasons.

Always ask about the health of your prospective puppy’s parents and grandparents. If the breeder is more interested in the hair color than health, it should raise a red flag.

Likewise, if a breeder tells you not to worry because his/her dogs don’t have any health problems. Everyone has a health problem now and again.


We don’t think about safety when we consider the life span of our dogs, but unfortunately, safety plays a vital role in how long our dogs will live.

Shih Tzu dogs are particularly susceptible to eye injuries due to their eye’s prominent position. While losing an eye is not fatal, their quality of life can suffer if they lose their ability to see.

Another habit of Shih Tzu dogs is their propensity to jump. From a very young age, puppies love to jump, either off high surfaces or for the sheer joy of jumping up. Back problems, hip and knee problems can creep up as the dog ages which may result in costly vet visits.

Puppies are very curious and will put anything in their mouth, like how a human baby explores his environment. Puppy proofing is vital to keep toxic substances locked away along with other substances such as foods that dogs should never eat.

It goes without saying that the Shih Tzu is safest when wearing a harness and walking on a leash. Though this breed is not known to bolt at the sight of a squirrel, it does happen. And, when it happens, the results can be catastrophic.

Tips for Improving Shih Tzu Lifespan

  • Walks, playtime, and even hiking keep them fit and healthy.
  • Maintain portion control, avoid table scraps, and prioritize a well-balanced diet.
  • Early detection of health issues through regular vet check-ups
  • Provide puzzle toys, training sessions, and interaction for mental engagement.

Can Healthy Routines Enhance a Shih Tzu's Life?

Caring for your furry friend is about more than just understanding how long they can live. You must implement strategies to ensure the years are vibrant and fulfilling. Here is how you can do that-

Grooming & Health

A gold and white shih tzu dog is sitting on a grooming tableGrooming Your Shih Tzu can cause problems such as parasites, dental plaque and infected ears.

Shih Tzus are well-acknowledged for their beautiful, long, and flowing coats. Regular grooming not only keeps them looking their best, but it also serves as a way to spot potential health issues early, like skin problems or ticks.

Paying attention to your pet's dental hygiene is equally important. Tooth decay can be a severe issue if not addressed promptly. Regular brushing and dental chews are recommended to keep those pearly whites healthy.

Socializing Your Shih Tzu

An old bulldog with a young Shih Tzu puppyThis Shih Tzu puppy is being socialized around an older and larger dog

Shih Tzus are playful social creatures. They enjoy company and interaction with both humans and other animals. Socialization helps keep them happy, contributing to their longevity and overall well-being.

Monitor Your Shih Tzu's Weight

It is essential to watch your pet's weight. Obesity can be the reason for several health issues that can impact Shih Tzu life expectancy. Feeding them a well-balanced diet and ensuring regular exercise can keep their weight in check.

Dealing with Shih Tzus Age-Related Changes

Shih Tzus goes through several changes with growing age. Some may be more subtle, like nutritional needs or behavioral changes, while others may be physical, like graying hair or a slowing pace.

As they age, Shih Tzus, like all dogs, become prone to certain health conditions, including arthritis, kidney issues, and vision problems.

Regular vet check-ups become even more important, which might need to be increased based on your vet's recommendation. To keep up with health and behavioral changes, you can do the following things-

An old black and white Shih Tzu dog who has one eyeDana, a 12-year-old Shih Tzu is showing all the signs of old age, including the loss of one eye.
  • Observe daily behavior closely.
  • Adjust diet for age-related nutritional needs.
  • Create a comfortable living environment.
  • Make them do gentle exercises.
  • Maintain social interactions for behavioral signs.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, ensuring a long and joyful life for your Shih Tzu involves proactive care, regular vet check-ups, and adapting to their evolving needs.

Know that aging is a natural process; your pet needs love and attention throughout every stage. By prioritizing their health, nutrition, and overall well-being, you can cherish precious moments with your furry companion, making the most of the years you share.

Check out these additional resources on Shih Tzu health, grooming tips, life expectancy, and more.

The Shih Tzu Lifespan:
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About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, beagles, English bulldogs, carin terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

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