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Life Span

Shih Tzu Life Span


When you have a pet, it is natural to think about and even worry about their life span. This is because all dogs have shorter life spans than we do. Therefore, sadly, most owners will outlive their canine family member . In general, dogs will live an average of 12.8 years. 

However, toy and small breed dogs live longer than medium or large breed dogs. Therefore the Shih Tzu life span has a range of 10 to 16 years. The average is 13 years old. 

And since this is an approximation, some Tzu can live longer...17, even 18 years. Much the same way that it often happens with humans, females Tzu will - in general – live a bit longer than males – approximately 1.4 years.

Leading Causes of Death in the Shih Tzu Breed

The top 3 causes of death seen in adult Shih Tzu are:
7 year old Shih Tzu
Katie, 7 years old
Photo courtesy of Laureane Turcotte and BJ MacGregor
  • Cancer - 15.1%
  • Urogenital - 13.9% (This includes kidney disease, urinary stones, pyometra (infection of the uterus), and prostate disease.
  • Infection - 7.5% (This includes various viral disease, such as parvovirus and distemper, bacterial infections, such as leptospirosis and tick related diseases, fungal infections such as blastomycosis and histoplasmosis and protozoal disease, such as leishmaniasis and babesiosis)

Helping Increase Shih Tzu Life Expectancy

There are some things that an owner can do to extend the Shih Tzu life span. One must remember that aging factors begin to affect the dog’s body from the day he or she is born. So, let’s take a look at some of the things that you can do:

Since the leading cause of death seen with the Shih Tzu breed is due to cancer, one can eliminate certain types simply by spaying or neutering their dog. When a female Shih Tzu is spayed, this removes the possibility of ovarian cancer. At the same time, it will reduce the odds of developing mammary cancer. For the male Shih Tzu life span, if an owner has the dog neutered, it will eradicate the possibility of developing testicular cancer.
5 year old Shih Tzu dog
Stitch, 5 years old
Photo courtesy of owner: Christine E
When a human smokes, they put themselves in danger in regard to many health risks. When a Shih Tzu inhales 2nd hand smoke, they are at risk as well. This includes lung and mouth cancer and heart issues. Therefore, if anyone in the household smokes, it is recommended to do so outdoors, away from your puppy or dog. The longer that the dog is exposed to smoke, the higher the risk of developing lung cancer and/or other serious medical issues....If you or anyone has been smoking in the same house as your Tzu, it is never too late to stop and keep them away from the poison.

Dogs that do not receive regular dental care can develop terrible infections and in severe cases, those infections can enter the bloodstream. For this reason, one should always perform regular at-home dental care. In addition, a Shih Tzu should be brought for professional ‘full dentals’ every year or every other year (based on your Tzu’s veterinarian’s opinion)
Just like us, your dog will be healthier with a good, balanced diet and proper exercise. Small dogs often have pent up energy, as they are often indoors for most of the time while the owners are at work, etc. For this reason, taking your Shih Tzu for daily walks and outside for additional cardio (such as playing fetch, Frisbee, etc) will not only keep him or her healthy, but also allow them to release energy and this makes for a better behaved dog.

The Stages Throughout a Shih Tzu Life Span

Day 1: The newborn is only ounces….he or she cannot hear and eyes are closed, so he or she cannot see. Also, they are born without any teeth.

Week 2: Hearing is developing and eyes are open with most puppies.

Week 3: The puppy is learning to walk. Just like babies, they need to learn, it does not come natural. They will wobble, stumble and fall….however as each day goes by they will find their balance, stretch those muscles and soon be walking just fine.

Weeks 5-7: A slow yet steady weaning process is done so that the newborn transitions from receiving nutrition from the dam to eating solid foods. During this process, food at a “mushy’ consistency is given to allow the pup to become accustomed to chewing.
Week 8: Traditionally the age that they go to their new home. Now weaned from the dam, they are eating solid food. They will sleep quite a bit and be bundles of energy when awake. Their puppy teeth are usually all showing by this age.

Months 3-8: This will seem like a long phase, as it is the teething stage. It is a slow process, as first the incisors fall out and then the molars. There are early bloomers and late comers… not all pups are the same. In general, this will all be done by the age of 8 months.

6 Months: Most females will enter heat for the 1st time by this young age. Some enter as young as 4 months, some as late as a year or 15 months.

1 Year: During the Shih Tzu life span, the 1 year old dog is now considered to be an adult, a young adult to be exact.

6 Years: If a female was breeding, now is the time to retire her from this.
3 month old Shih Tzu
Captain Jack Swan, 3 months old
Photo courtesy of owner: Madison Swan
8 Years: Most toy breeds are considered to be a senior by this age. Some veterinarians will deem them to be a senior at 7 years, some at 9…however this is the average age. Just around this time, 'healthy check' vet visits need to be scheduled twice per year as opposed to just once; this is to examine the dog for conditions that affect seniors.

10 Years: It is natural for the dog to be slowing down….not as playful. The 10 year old likes to rest more and is often content relaxing with their human family members. Walks should still be given, albeit at a slower pace. 

Far too often, owners of dogs that are in the double digits will feel that they can 'loosen up' a bit on some things such as at-home dental care and vigilant grooming, however it is still very important. Working to prevent tooth decay, keeping the nails trimmed & healthy and making sure both skin & coat are in good condition will all contribute toward a happy, healthier dog.
11+ Years: Many Shih Tzu live into their teens, though there is often some age related conditions at this point such as arthritis and joint degeneration. Supplements will help quite a bit with this; though some older dogs will need additional prescribed medications. It will be normal for there to be some hearing and vision loss. The teenage dog is set in his ways and should not be expected to deal with changes if at all possible. Be sure to keep up with twice per year geriatric vet appointments.
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