What Is the Shih Tzu Lifespan? A Long Life for a Little Dog

The shih tzu, a teddy bear come-to-life, could be by your side for quite a long time. The shih tzu lifespan ranges from 10-18 years.

In fact, the oldest shih tzu is believed to be a dog from Florida named Smokey who lived to 23 years of age. So, this little dog has a long life. You can expect your shih tzu to keep your lap warm for at least one decade — maybe even two.

We’ll look at how the shih tzu lifespan compares to the average lifespan for dogs and what contributes to its lifespan. We’ll share this breed’s most common health problems, and explain how owners can help protect their shih tzu’s health.

How Does the Shih Tzu Lifespan Compare to Other Dogs?

Shih Tzu life span: Shih Tzu lying on a couch

Shih tzu dogs live longer than most dog breeds. According to the U.K.’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA), the average lifespan of a purebred dog is 11.9 years. The shih tzu’s life expectancy of 10-18 years means that, while some shih tzus will only live to the average of 11.9 years, many will live much longer.

Why Is the Shih Tzu Lifespan so Long?

Shih Tzu life span: Shih Tzu looking at the camera

One of the main reasons for the long lifespan of a shih tzu is their small size. Small dogs typically live longer than large dogs. A study published in the American Naturalist found that large dogs have shorter lifespans and can age nearly twice as fast as small dogs.

Popular Science” found this correlation to be true throughout the animal kingdom where larger animals, like whales and elephants, live longer than smaller animals, but the smallest individuals within a species live the longest.

Toy breeds — a group of dogs that includes the shih tzu, Maltese, toy poodle, and many other diminutive dog breeds — are the smallest of the dog breeds, so these dogs tend to live the longest. But the shih tzu’s upper limit of 18 years (or 23 in the case of Smokey) is high even for a small dog.

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), the average small breed dog’s lifespan is 12-15 years. Only a handful of small breed dogs have average life expectancies longer than 15 years, and the shih tzu is one of them.This breed’s long history may affect its longevity.

How Does the Shih Tzu’s History Affect Its Lifespan?

Shih Tzu life span: close up shot of a Shih Tzu looking at the camera

The shih tzu breed has been around for more than one thousand years. For comparison sake, the golden retriever has only been around for about 150 years.

Originally bred in China, the shih tzu likely started as a mix of two Tibetan dog breeds — the Lhasa apso and the Pekingese, which lived in monasteries and palaces in Tibet and China. The word “shih tzu” translates to “little lion dog” in Mandarin, and the breed was beloved by ancient Chinese nobility.

While the Chinese nobility did selectively breed this dog for looks, the shih tzu’s ancient lineage means that the breed predates modern veterinary medicine. Without medical intervention, natural selection will have weeded out the least healthy of the shih tzu’s ancestors, leaving only healthier dogs to pass on their genes.

So, when it comes to longevity, time is on the shih tzu’s side. But, that doesn’t mean the breed is without health issues.



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