Shih Tzu breed information

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Own a Shih Tzu, or welcoming one into the family? Here's everything you need to know about your furry friend, from grooming and exercise to common health problems.

  • Size: Small
  • Lifespan: 10 years
  • Coat: As they're long-haired, Shih Tzus need daily, careful grooming
  • Exercise: Up to an hour a day for adult dogs

Shih Tzu personality

Pint-sized with a loving, friendly heart, the Shih Tzu makes the perfect house dog. Although the name literally translates as 'little lion', this breed is far from ferocious, but they are full of character. Shih Tzus are small, playful and known for their sense of companionship. Did you know, Shih Tzus were originally bred as a lap dog for Chinese royalty? The Shih Tzu is outgoing and loves to play, but can also be stubborn, so you'll need a lot of patience when you're training them.

With persistent, consistent and gentle training, they learn all the tricks easily. They're an excellent choice for a first-time pet owner, and a great companion for those who wish to shower a dog with love and affection.

Tibetan monks call the Shih Tzu the 'Snow Lion Dog' and used to regard the breed as holy.

Shih Tzu dog

Common health problems and illnesses

Corneal ulcer

Because Shih Tzus have a flat face, their eyes are vulnerable to damage – with corneal ulcers a common condition. The ulcers can be caused by a scratch to the dog's eye and could potentially harm their vision. Look out for signs such as your dog's eyes being red and more watery than usual, frequent blinking or rubbing, and sensitivity to being touched on the area around the eye. Your vet will be able to advise on treatment options such as eye drops or ointment.

Breathing problems

A dog's respiratory system runs from the nose to the air sacs in the lungs. Any part of this system can become diseased. Pneumonia, for example, means 'inflammation of the lungs', and is caused by infections or parasites such as lungworm. Dogs like Shih Tzus with short, broad heads can also suffer from a condition known as brachycephalic airway syndrome, which makes breathing more difficult. Narrow nostrils, a long soft palate at the roof of the mouth and a collapsing larynx combine to partially obstruct the passage of air through the upper airways. Treatment may include surgery if the dog's breathing is severely compromised.


Skin conditions

Like other dogs, Shih Tzus can suffer from allergies that lead to dermatitis (skin inflammation). Allergies can be caused by many different items, including things that are inhaled, such as pollen or dust mites, items that are eaten (for example, wheat), items that the dog comes into contact with, like washing powders, or bites from parasites such as fleas. Another skin problem, pyoderma, is usually caused by bacteria, fungi or yeasts. Skin disorders can be managed using various treatments, usually required long-term, which means the dog can get on with enjoying life.


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Time Limited pet insurance policies

  • Our Time Limited policies cover an illness or condition (and their related conditions) for a maximum of 12 months from the date of the first treatment up to the limit you choose
  • No more claims will be paid once the 12 month limit has been reached 
  • This cover is most suited for short-term illnesses and injuries 

Lifetime pet insurance policies 

  • Our Lifetime policies provide cover for all illnesses or conditions that occur in the policy year, up to the policy limit you choose
  • The policy limit is then refreshed and applied again at renewal, so you know your furry family member is always covered
  • This covers illness and injuries needing cover for longer than 12 months. 

Don't forget: if your pet has any pre-existing medical conditions when you take out your policy, we may not cover these or any condition linked to them.