With their big eyes and long, luxurious coats, it’s no wonder that Shih Tzus are some of the most popular dogs in the UK.
But if you own a Shih Tzu, a new study may raise alarm bells for you.
Vets from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) have revealed the most common conditions in Shih Tzu dogs in the UK.
Their findings suggest that the breed is at high risk of several nasty conditions, including dental disease, anal sac impaction, and ear disorders.
‘While we found that the top disorders in the breed were similar to those commonly reported in dogs overall, Shih Tzu appear to be predisposed to a number of conditions including eye conditions,’ said Dr Fiona Dale, lead author of the paper.
Vets from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) have revealed the most common conditions in Shih Tzu dogs in the UK (stock image)
The Shih Tzu is the seventh most popular dog breed in the UK, accounting for three per cent of all British pooches.
Like pugs and English Bulldogs, the Shi Tzu is a flat-faced – or brachycephalic – breed, which has been bred to have a shorter face.
This facial structure is known to put other brachycephalic breeds at risk of serious eye and breathing issues.
However, until now, there has been limited research on the issues in Shih Tzus.
In their new study, the team analysed clinical data on 11,082 Shih Tzus, collected from vets across the UK in 2016.
Their analysis revealed that dental disease was the was common disorder in Shih Tzus, with 9.5 per cent of dogs diagnosed with the condition.
This condition was particularly common in older dogs, according to the researchers.
‘Dental (tooth and gum) disease is a painful problem, and can lead to other problems such as kidney and heart disease,’ the PDSA explains on its website.
There are several key signs that indicate your dog might have dental disease. This includes bad breath, difficulty eating, weight loss, and wobbly or broken teeth (stock image)
There are several key signs that indicate your dog might have dental disease.
This includes bad breath, difficulty eating, weight loss, and wobbly or broken teeth.
‘Contact your vet if you suspect your dog has dental disease. They will have a good look inside your dog’s mouth (which can be very difficult to do at home!)’ the PDSA added.
Aside from dental disease, anal sac impaction (7.4 per cent), ear disorders (5.5 per cent), otitis externa, or an inflamed ear canal (4.7 per cent), vomiting (4.4 per cent) and umbilical hernias (3.9 per cent), were also found to be common in the breed.
In terms of lifespan, the average age of death for the breed was 12.7 years – slightly longer than the average of 11.2 years reported for dogs overall in the UK.
To the researchers’ surprise, they found that despite being a flat-faced breed, Shih Tzu’s overall health was quite similar to that of non-flat-faced breeds.
This suggests that Shih Tzus are much less severely affected by their facial structure than Pugs, French Bulldogs and English Bulldogs.
‘Flat faces in dogs have been linked to several serious health problems, but this new study highlights that the health profile of each flat-faced breed can be quite unique,’ said Dr Dan O’Neill, co-author of the study.
‘The 12.7 year longevity of Shih Tzu suggests the overall health of the breed is much less severely compromised than other flat-faced breeds such as French Bulldogs, English Bulldogs and Pugs that live less than eight years on average.’
The researchers hope the findings will encourage Shih Tzu owners to be more alert to the conditions that could affect their dog.
Bill Lambert, Health, Welfare and Breeding Services Executive at The Kennel Club, which helped to fund the research, added: ‘This research enables better understanding of breed-specific health concerns.
‘These findings will feed into the Shih Tzu breed health and conservation plan, managed by The Kennel Club to identify and monitor any concerns, and continue to improve health.’