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Hair Loss

Shih Tzu Hair Problems


Hair loss, also known as alopecia, can be a troubling condition. 

The Shih Tzu's coat is hair as opposed to fur, which does reduce the amount of natural hair-fall, but also tends to make coat loss issues more common.

While there is not a heavy shed that severely thins the coat, this breed does lose some hair on a continual basis as the coat re-news itself. This section will discuss coat thinning issues that go beyond this; as we discuss severe and sometimes rapid hair loss. 
Already know the details and possible causes, and just want to know how to help? Jump to How to Resolve Hair Loss and Help a Shih Tzu Regrow the Coat

Signs of Hair Loss

The way in which a coat may thin and the amount of time that it takes for this to happen can vary with each dog. 

In some cases, coat loss can be rapid and at other times it will take place over a larger period of time. 

The coat may thin all over, or there may be patches of thinning hairs. For most Shih Tzu, hair loss can be body-wide; though, it is rarely seen on the face or head. 

Causes of Hair Loss

In many cases, there is an underlying health condition or reason that leads to coat loss with a Shih Tzu. It will be important to rule out these issues before taking steps to re-grow the coat. If not, success may be limited and/or temporary. 

The following are the most common reasons for hair loss with the Shih Tzu breed. 

Acantosis Nigricans

This is a health condition that is rare in the Shih Tzu breed; however can occur. This diagnosis covers coat loss from hormonal imbalances, hypersensitivities, or friction. Testing will be done by a veterinarian to determine the exact cause. Treatment may include steroids and/or vitamin E supplements. Additional treatments, seen below, may help as well. 

Allergic Dermatitis

When allergies are severe, this can affect both skin and coat. In some cases, excessively dry and/or irritated skin will affect the strength of the hair follicles, causing the coat to shed. In other cases, an allergy can cause hairs to become overly dry and brittle, causing them to break off. For some Shih Tzu, it will be a combination of these two things. 

The type of allergy can include environmental (weeds, pollen, etc.), food (mostly chemical additives that are added to some inferior dog foods), or contact allergies (cheap shampoos, carpeting or carpet cleaner, lawn treatments, etc.).

Other signs can vary quite a bit, and include dry skin, rash, itching, watery eyes, runny nose, coughing, and/or upset stomach. 

Fortunately, many allergies can be resolved once it is determined what is causing the reaction. A veterinarian should perform patch testing to find the triggers and then the owner must work to eliminate that element if possible. For food allergies, often moving over to one of the better dog food brands, and opting for a grain-free formula can offer relief. 

In moderate to severe cases, antihistamines and/or steroids may be prescribed to help combat symptoms. 
See Also:

Alopecia X

The term Alopecia means 'hair loss'. When diagnostic tests are inconclusive and the cause is not known, it is then deemed Alopecia X (X meaning 'unknown'). 

For many Shih Tzu with Alopecia X, there are no other symptoms such as itching or skin issues, though some may have areas of darkened skin. 

It is theorized that some cases are linked to an autoimmune disorder or hormonal imbalance. For some dogs, there can be a spontaneous recovery. This said, there are many cases of the coat thinning to the point of balding and remaining that way.  

There are some home remedies and treatment options that are worth trying, and we'll cover these ahead. 

Cushing's Disease

Cushing's disease is a condition in which a dog's body produces too much of a hormone called cortisol. In some cases, this malfunction is triggered by an adrenal tumor. 

While hair loss is a sign of this, there are usually other very obvious signs as well including swollen abdomen, lethargy, increased hunger, increased thirt, and/or heavy panting. 

There may the development of dark skin spots or white scaly patches. 

This is diagnosed by checking cortisone levels. 

If there is a tumor, it is usually surgically removed. There are several medications for Cushings, including mitotane, ketoconazole, trilostane, L-Deprenyl hydrochloride, and selegiline. 


This is a rare disorder in which the hair loss actually occurs alongside a negative reaction to sunlight or UV rays. The cause remains unknown; however there is still help available.
Not only will the coat thin, the skin will be affected as well. There may be scabs, sores, redness, and/or irritation. 

This condition can be confirmed with a small skin biopsy.

The resolution to helping your Shih Tzu recover begins by drastically minimizing their exposure to any sunlight by keeping the dog indoors except for elimination times. Prednisone may be given in short and small doses initially, followed by vitamin E. 

The recovery rate for dogs having this is currently 80 to 80%.


Both fleas themselves and a reaction to flea saliva can cause intense itching resulting in hair loss.

There are over 2000 types of fleas, many of which can jump several feet. For this reason, it is rather easy for a Shih Tzu to catch fleas just by being in close proximity to another dog that has them. 

Signs include small red bumps on the skin, itching, hot spots of irritated skin, and hair loss. You may see fleas and/or flea eggs if you part the hair on a Shih Tzu's coat.

Treatment will include topical flea treatments and it will be important to treat both other pets and the house; fleas can live for quite a while embedded in carpeting and furniture. 


This condition involves the thyroid slowing down and producing a smaller amount of hormones. 

Before hair loss occurs, the coat may become very dry and hair may break off easily. The under-active thyroid may also cause weight gain and weakness. 

This can be diagnosed by running thyroid tests. Treatment will be medication, often needed for the rest of the dog's life. Recovery is a progressive process; in most cases a Shih Tzu will make a complete recovery.


This may also be referred to as demodectic mange, follicular mange, puppy mange, or demodectic mites. And this additionally covers sarcoptic mange, which is also known as canine scabies.

With mange, there are always a certain number of mites living within a dog's hair follicles and on the skin. This becomes a problem when the number of mites greatly increases and is sometimes due to a faulty immune system. 

It is common for this to lead to secondary bacterial skin infections or yeast infections. 

Signs of mange include itching, sores, scabs, and hair loss. With secondary yeast infections, there may be a bad smell and/or skin flaking. 

Sarcoptic mange is caused by a different type of mite, and can be transmitted back and forth from a wide number of animals and even people. Symptoms are often the same, with the exception being that bumps and/or itching may first develop on areas without much hair, such as the groin, armpits, or belly. 

This is diagnosed via a skin scraping; however, it must be noted that this is only conclusive about 20% of the time. If the veterinarian suspects mange, he will recommend treatment and if there is improvement, this will confirm the suspected diagnosis. 

In regard to exact treatment, some prescribed dips can be rather toxic to a Shih Tzu, causing vomiting, upset stomach, tremors, and even central nervous system issues. 

For this reason, you may want to try a home remedy such as Ovante's Demodex Mange Shampoo for Dogs, which is safe to use on both puppies and adult dogs.

This shampoo is effective yet has no pesticides; this should be used 3 to 4 times per week. 


This involves neurodermatitis, a condition in which a dog will compulsively lick his coat to the point of damaging the follicles thus resulting in hair loss. A dog many concentrate on one area of the body such as a paw or in many areas.

There are a number of events and circumstances that can cause a Shih Tzu to become overly stressed or anxious including a sudden change in the household and severe cases of separation anxiety. 
Affected areas may respond to topical treatments. In regard to changes in the household, this can improve with time if a Shih Tzu needs to become accustomed to a new member or losing a member.

In cases of separation anxiety, there are steps you can take to help your Shih Tzu be okay when home alone; though dogs with severe issues may require certain medications. 

How to Resolve Hair Loss and Help a Shih Tzu Regrow the Coat

ONLY once all health issues have been ruled out, should you then take steps to help stop the loss and prompt the coat to re-grow. If there is an underlying condition, as mentioned above, that requires treatment, these steps will only be temporary.

This said, home remedies include:

1) Melatonin - This has been found to help, when used in conjunction with other methods (below). Please take note that while this can be purchased over the counter, it can make a dog feel sleepy. Check with your vet before giving this to your Shih Tzu.

This should be given at night, and typical dosage is 1/2 to 1 mg per day. 
2) Omega 3 salmon oil - Omega 3 helps improve coat health in a couple of different ways. First, this is a natural anti-inflammatory, which can help with allergies including both food and contact allergies, and flea reaction. 

It is also very beneficial to restore skin and coat health. When used in conjunction with coat treatments, it can boost coat regrowth. 

If you want to try giving Omega 3 to your Shih Tzu, we recommend a liquid fish oil that can be easily added to meals. An extra bonus is that most dogs love both the smell and the taste. 
3) Products to restore the coat - The line of Dermagic coat products, when used a certain way, can lead to dramatic improvement both in regrowing a Shih Tzu's coat and restoring hair health.

There is a rescue lotion that should be massaged into all thinning or balding areas 2 times per day for the first week, then 1 time a day for additional weeks. This is used in conjunction with the shampoo and conditioner, in which the Shih Tzu is bathed once per week. 
Recommended Omega 3 liquid fish oil and the line of coat-restoring products are below. If you do not see the images, try a re-fresh. On mobile, you may need to turn the screen horizontal to see all 4 items. 
See Also:

Dry Skin Problems - This is one of the most common skin issues seen with this breed. Read about symptoms, prevention and at-home treatments.
More Information

Details of Hair Issues, Helping the Coat to Grow, Detailed Baths and Grooming, Photos of Every Color Tzu in the World...Literally, the only Shih Tzu book you will ever need. Now in both print & eBook.
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