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How Long Do Shih Tzus Live?

Written by Ella White


Shih Tzu in grass

Introducing a Shih Tzu to the family is an exciting time – but before you get carried away with the cuteness of your new pup, it’s important to research all the things you need to know about the breed. For example, how much exercise do they need? What should they eat? And what is the life expectancy of a Shih Tzu?

In this article we’ll explore how long Shih Tzus live and everything else you need to know about helping them lead a long and healthy life.

About The Shih Tzu Breed

Shih Tzus originated in ancient China where they were highly regarded guardians of temples and palaces. With a name that translates to ‘mini lion’ these small yet strong pets have long made brilliant companions for humans. They’re friendly, loyal, affectionate, and get on well with children and other animals.

Shih Tzus have a regal appearance with long hair that needs a fair amount of grooming to stay sleek and clean. Though small in size, they are resilient and smart, but also have a tendency to be stubborn. Though they love to play and need a moderate amount of daily exercise, they’re also the perfect lap dog that’s happy to nap and relax on the sofa with their owner.

What Is The Average Life Expectancy Of A Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus live from 11 to 16 years, with females expected to live an average 1.5 years longer than males. As a smaller breed, they have a longer life expectancy than larger dogs that mature at a faster rate. The oldest Shih Tzu lived to 23 years old.

There are some simple steps that owners can take to help their pup reach an older age, for example getting them spayed and neutered to avoid reproductive cancers. Some owners of Shih Tzus also feed their water through a bottle – similar to that on a hamster’s cage – rather than a bowl. This is because their flat faces and short snouts means their nose is open to water inhalation that can make it harder to breathe and drink.

Hereditary Diseases In Shih Tzus

They’re generally a healthy breed that aren’t prone to any serious hereditary conditions. However, all dogs can develop illnesses and conditions so it’s useful for owners to be aware of the symptoms of the diseases that Shih Tzus are more likely to contract.

The three most common causes of death in adult Shih Tzus are:

  1. Cancer 
  2. Urogenital disease  
  3. Infections. 

They can develop all varieties of cancer including lymphoma, mast cell tumors, bone cancer, sarcomas, and mammary gland tumors.

These pups are also known to be more prone to dysplasia, which affects the growth of tissue around the joints and can lead to painful deformation in the hips and elbows. They are also more likely to develop:

  • Luxating patella or slipping kneecaps 
  • Malformation of the eyelash 
  • Entropion where the eyelid rolls inward 
  • Progressive retinal atrophy. 

To help prevent the spread of these illnesses, only buy your puppy from a reputable breeder that can give you the full genetic background of your dog. Trusted breeders will not breed Shih Tzus known to carry these hereditary conditions.

Improving Your Shih Tzu’s Lifespan

Though Shih Tzus already have a longer life expectancy than many larger breeds, we still always wish our pets could live even longer. Simply taking good care of your pet can help them live a longer life by keeping them safe and healthy and ensuring all their needs are fulfilled.

And though we can’t reverse genetic diseases we can do our best to keep our dogs healthy. So by following these simple dog ownership tips, owners might find their dogs live to the higher end of their life expectancy.


Though Shih Tzus only need about 30 minutes of exercise a day – which might not seem much – missing out on walks can lead to poor physical health and weight gain. So be sure to take your Shih Tzu out for daily walks together (they’re good for you, too!/learn/dog-lifestyle/are-dog-owners-healthier) and make time to play with them at home.

Though Shih Tzus are great indoor dogs that love to lounge with their owners, those with enclosed gardens should give their dog access to outdoor space whenever possible. However in hot weather, this breed should avoid heat and direct sunlight that can lead to overheating and difficulty breathing.

Mental stimulation

As well as physical exercise, mental stimulation is key to keeping your dog healthy. Dogs that don’t get enough mental exercise through things like games, toys, and puzzles like snuffle mats, can become anxious. 

Anxiety in dogs is a rising issue that can lead to destructive behavior that can often be unsafe and lead to injury – as well as messing up your home. So take the time to play with your pup and make sure they have plenty of toys and chews to keep themselves entertained when you can’t.

Regular checkups

Though generally healthy dogs, Shih Tzus – like all breeds – should receive annual checkups at the vet. This can help owners stay on top of any health issues that they might not have recognized which will in turn help your dog live longer.


A healthy diet is essential if you want your Shih Tzu to live a long and happy life. High quality food that’s free from fillers and additives is the best way to make sure your dog gets all the protein, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients they need. Just like humans, they need a balanced and calorie controlled diet to keep them healthy and energized without gaining weight.

Front of the Pack’s air dried food is the perfect choice for Shih Tzu owners that want a quick and easy way to feed their dogs all the goodness they need without the fuss of raw food diets. Air dried to a jerky-like consistency, Front of the Pack dog food has the consistency of kibble but without any of the added nasties. It’s your answer to 100% pure and natural dog food that can be served in one fuss-free scoop.