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Shih Tzu Allergy Information


Many dogs with allergies are mistakenly diagnosed with an illness, such as a respiratory infection. Why are so many pets given the wrong treatment? It is because the the symptoms of an allergic reaction may be very similar to an illness...

We discuss both internal and external symptoms to better help you diagnose your dog. If your Shih Tzu shows signs of a possible allergic reaction, it is essential to have your dog properly treated. Once identified, most allergies can be managed to keep both owner and canine happy. 

What are the Signs?

The symptoms your Shih Tzu will show regarding an allergy will depend if your dog is allergic to an outside element or an internal element. Outside elements will be a substance that the dog touches or breaths in. Internal elements will be something that your dog actually ingests. 

Of course, this is most often food. However this could also be supplements (in rare cases). Once identifying the type of dog allergy, an owner can then begin to narrow down the suspects.  Relieving a dog's suffering is the goal and this can be done with a bit of patience. 

Allergy Diagnosing

The symptoms and treatments will vary greatly depending on what type of allergy your dog has. Once you determine what is causing your dog's discomfort, action can be taken to eliminate the culprit and get your Shih Tzu feeling back to normal.

External Allergies

You will know that there is a good possibility that your Shih Tzu has allergies that are external if your dog has:
  • Uncontrollable scratching
  • Any type of rash on their tummy or the their skin when the hair is lifted
  • Redness on any part of their body
  • Sores, lesions and bumps
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Coughing
  • Watery eyes
  • Nasal discharge
If not treated the symptoms can worsen to:
  • Infection where your Shih Tzu was scratching
  • A nasty odor from an infection left untreated
  • Hair loss
Read about Hair lossOne serious symptom of various allergies

If showing the above symptoms, your Shih Tzu may be allergic to many elements, including but not limited to:
  • Dog shampoo - this is the #1 cause of an external reaction
  • Detergent - when you wash your dog's clothes, dog bed linking, etc. remnant of the soap will remain on the items
  • Rug Cleaner - It is nice to keep your carpet clean, however keep in mind that usually it will only be your feet or shoes that touch the carpet but it will be your entire Shih Tzu that is exposed to the chemicals in these cleaners, thus causing the reaction.
  • Flea bites


Treating these symptoms is rather easy, although it may take a while for your Shih Tzu to completely recover. You must of course, get rid of the substance that is causing the reaction.

Begin with the dog shampoo you use or any other bathing products. Change brand names and change to an allergy free product. 

If fleas are the cause, immediately treat your Shih Tzu for fleas and begin a preventive maintenance routine that is never broken.
Shih Tzu allergies
Any rash that may have progressed into infections will need to be treated with antibiotics.  Rashes and redness should be treated with baby powder or aloe, once your vet has checked out your Shih Tzu. Once removing the allergy causing element, it may take several months for a dog to completely recover. Since a Shih Tzu has such a wonderful coat of hair; if loss of coat has occurred it may take up to 6 months to see a significant recovery. 

Seasonal Allergies

Just like humans, canines can have seasonal allergies, this is most often to trees, weeds and pollen. It may occur in the spring, summer, fall or all 3 of these seasons depending on where you live. Signs are very similar to contact allergies including the watery eyes, nasal discharge, coughing, breathing issues and skin & coat reactions. 

The vet can run tests to try and determine the exact triggers. Most Shih Tzu do well with a combination of both prescribed antihistamines and environmental changes.  Here are some steps that you can take if allergies are a problem:
  • Take note of high pollen days and try to keep your Shih Tzu inside on those days
  • Use a vacuum with a certified HEPA filter to remove pollen and other tiny allergens from the flooring, furniture and curtains. These vacuums will clean the air as well as surfaces.
  • Any time you have had your Shih Tzu outside and are coming back into the house, use a quality canine wipe to clean off his paws.  Alternatively, you may carry him to the sink and rinse them off.
  • All humans should be removing their shoes upon entering and leave them by the door.
  • If you have A/C or a central air unit, run this with quality HEPA filters with a MERV rating of 8 or higher. You will notice that these are often labeled as 'for allergies' or will have the word 'best' as opposed to 'good' or 'better'.
  • Frequently wash your Shih Tzu's bedding and any washable stuffed toys.

Internal Shih Tzu Food Allergies

Internal allergies are a bit easier to diagnosis; however finding the exact cause sometimes takes quite a while. The main symptom will be:
  • Vomiting
  • Followed by the secondary symptom of diarrhea
If not treated, this can worsen to:
  • Dehydration
  • Severe weight loss
  • Loss of muscle tissue
  • Fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Unconsciousness

If your dog vomits, your first action must be to make sure your Shih Tzu did not ingest any poison. If that is not a possibility, this may be due to an intolerance of food. While a dog can be allergic to an actual food such as dairy products, wheat, eggs, corn or soy, far many more are actually allergic to chemical ingredients found in manufactured brands such as artificial coloring, artificial flavoring and preservatives. While these are found in varying amounts in just about all commercial kibble and treats, typically brightly colored food is the worst culprit.

If a Shih Tzu has an intolerance to a food or additives, choices are to switch to a hypoallergenic brand formulated for toy breeds or to home cook, which eliminates all of these possible allergic triggers and gives you complete control over what your puppy or dog is ingesting. 

When the trigger is removed it usually takes 2 weeks for symptoms to subside. If an allergic reaction has caused quite a bit of upset stomach issues, it's best to offer a very bland diet for several weeks to give the body a rest.  

Most Shih Tzu do very well with lamb and some sweet potato; be sure to not season this or add anything such as butter.  After the 2 week period, other ingredients can be added. One new item should be introduced every 2 weeks; it can take this long for an allergic reaction to manifest, especially if it involves skin and coat issues. This can include healthy foods that most dogs tolerate very well such as baby carrots, sweet peas, green beans, rice, blueberries, raspberries, a touch of banana and a dollop of whole white yogurt. As you add new foods, you will be able to determine if one of them is causing the problem. 
Any moderate to severe symptoms including skin sores, thinning coat, etc. should be looked at by the vet. Medications may need to be prescribed to help resolve these even if food changes are underway. If vomiting and other signs of intestinal distress continues, this is also a reason for a veterinarian visit.
I'm Allergic to My Shih Tzu - Despite popular myth, you can very well be allergic to your Shih Tzu. This single coated breed with hair can cause allergies due to dander, saliva and even urine on the coat. Learn what to do to decrease or resolve issues. 
Shih Tzu Stung by Bee and Allergic - Even if a dog never had a bad reaction in the past, an allergic reaction to bee, hornet, wasp or yellow jacket stings can occur. With multiple stings, toxic build-up is another concern. 
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