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How Long Does a Shih Tzu Live? Average Lifespan, Data & Care Guide

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By Nicole Cosgrove

Shih Tzu sitting on the patio

As a small dog breed, the Shih Tzu will likely live longer than most large dogs. But just because a Shih Tzu can live for over 20 years doesn’t mean that your specific Shih Tzu will live that long.

The average lifespan of a Shih Tzu is 13 years, but many factors affect this, and a Shih Tzu must go through multiple life stages to get there. This guide breaks down everything that you need to know to help you figure out how long this dog breed can live.

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What’s the Average Lifespan of a Shih Tzu?

While many factors go into the average lifespan of a Shih Tzu, you can typically expect these dogs to live around 13 years. However, the typical lifespan of a Shih Tzu ranges between 10 and 16 years.

This is longer than that of many other dog breeds and is mainly due to their size.

In fact, while it’s not uncommon for a Shih Tzu to live to 16 years old, there have been Shih Tzus that lived over 20 years!

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Why Do Some Shih Tzus Live Longer Than Others?

Many factors go into how long a Shih Tzu will live. Here are a few of the most notable ones.

1. Nutrition

Shih tzu dog getting food from owner at kitchen
Photo Credit: chaoss, Shutterstock

Diet plays a significant role for a Shih Tzu. Giving your dog high-quality dog food and dog treats and avoiding table scraps will go a long way toward keeping them healthy.

2. Environment and Conditions

Keeping a clean home and a safe living space for a Shih Tzu will help reduce the chances of an accident. They’re less likely to eat things that they shouldn’t in a clean home, and putting rugs and carpets down can help prevent them from slipping and hurting themselves.

3. Sex

Pom-Shi Dog
Photo credit: minimomo, Pixabay

While it’s impossible to know if your specific male or female Shih Tzu will live a long time, if you look at averages, female Shih Tzus typically live about a year longer than males.

4. Genes

You can’t make up for bad genes. If a Shih Tzu inherits a catastrophic or deadly health condition from their parents, it will significantly shorten their lifespan. When purchasing a Shih Tzu, always get a comprehensive medical background check of each parent.

5. Healthcare

veterinarian examining the heard of a shih tzu dog
Image Credit: Elayne Massaini, Shutterstock

Taking your Shih Tzu to the vet each year for a checkup, keeping them up to date on their vaccinations, and ensuring that they get all the other care that they need will go a long way in lengthening their average lifespan.

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The 5 Life Stages of a Shih Tzu

As you watch a Shih Tzu grow up, you’ll notice them go through a few different life stages. While they don’t dramatically change between each one, you will be able to spot a few differences. Highlighted here are the life stages and what you can expect.

1. Newborn

This is the earliest life stage of a Shih Tzu, and it’s right after they’re born. During this time, the Shih Tzu is completely dependent on their mother, and they’re still developing their eyesight, hearing, and ability to walk. Typically, this life stage lasts around 3 weeks.

2. Young Puppy

shih tzu with tongue out
Image Credit: Michael Mong, Shutterstock

Once a Shih Tzu gets a bit older, they enter the young puppy stage. They’re not fully coordinated yet, but they’re far more independent than newborns. This life stage typically lasts until about the 4-month mark.

3. Older Puppy

The older puppy stage starts when the Shih Tzu enters puberty. They’ll begin to push boundaries more and start to calm down compared to the young puppy stage.

4. Adult

Typically, around the 1-year mark, a Shih Tzu enters full adulthood. They reach their adult energy levels, and they won’t challenge the hierarchy of the family quite as much.

5. Senior

shih tzu
Image Credit: Lato Pictures, Shutterstock

As a senior, a Shih Tzu’s energy levels will start to drop, and they’re likely “stuck in their ways” at this point. A typical Shih Tzu will enter their senior years at 10 years old.

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How to Tell Your Shih Tzu’s Age

There are a few different ways that you can determine a Shih Tzu’s age. Experts will start with their teeth. If you examine the wear and tear on their teeth or lack thereof, you can get a close estimate of their age, whether old or young.

For senior dogs, you can check their coat for gray hair, and a look at their eyes might betray their age too. Older dogs’ eyes can start to cloud over, usually starting at the 6- to 8-year mark.

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Now that you know more about the average lifespan of a Shih Tzu, it’s up to you to decide if one is right for you and your family. If you do get one, you’ll need to put in the work to give them a long and happy life by doing what’s best for them day after day and year after year!

Featured Image Credit: Frauke Riether, Pixabay

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