A Guide to Shichon Dog Care: What You Must Know About Shichons

shichon dog looking straight

Key Points

  • The shichon dog in a mix of shih tzu and bichon frise parents.

  • Being a brachycephalic breed, shichons have increased risk for numerous welfare conditions.

  • This guide provides must-know information about the friendly and companionable shichon.

The Shichon breed dog is an energetic little dog, perfect for families living in tiny homes or apartments. The dog is one of many brachycephalic dogs.

Brachycephalic dogs are born with a short snout and flat face, bred to look cute with baby-like features. Bichon Shih Tzu mix dogs are unique because of their petite look as they stand a foot tall — barely. Shichon puppies have enormous eyes compared to their minor features, adding a comical look.

Because of their short and flat faces, they are susceptible to so many health conditions. The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association says “Although brachycephalic breeds are at increased risk for numerous morbidities, their inability to breathe normally is considered the greatest impediment to their welfare.”

Since your bichon shih tzu mix’s face is tiny and its snout is short, its airways and ear canals are as well. Shichon puppies’ small features make it difficult for shichons to breathe clearly and causes complications when mixed with other conditions. Your shichon also has a smaller nasal passage because of both its parents, the shih tzu and bichon frise.

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Small and Long-Lived

Shichon puppies are a mix between the shih tzu and bichon. It is important to note that shichon puppies don’t always have one parent that is a pure bichon or a shih tzu. Since the exact percentage of each parent differs for every shichon born, the size, weight, and coat color vary drastically. Your shichon puppy will probably grow to be between 9-12 inches within the first few years. These dogs are likely to weigh up to 15 pounds, depending on their genetics.

Your shichon has an average lifespan of 12-16 years. If raised in a healthy environment, shichons live long, happy lives. As USA Today reported in June 2023, small dogs live longer.

Shichon puppies are great for families that have dog allergies. They shed infrequently and minimally, making clean-up fairly easy. Your bichon shih tzu mix is likely considered hypoallergenic. However, hypoallergenic is not definite. A shichon considered hypoallergenic still sheds and causes allergic reactions in some people.

Health

The bichon shih tzu is a high-energy dog but only needs a medium level of exercise. They do well in small spaces because they do not need as much area to walk and play as larger dogs.

Shichon puppies genetically inherit Antral Pyloric Hypertrophy because of their Shih Tzu parent. Male dogs typically are the ones who have the condition. What is Antral Pyloric Hypertrophy and how does it affect Shichon puppies? With this condition, there is a narrowing of the structure required for passing partially digested food from the stomach into the small intestine (the pylorus, a stomach valve of sorts). There is something physically obstructing the path in Shichon puppies.

The symptoms are hard to watch but comprise intermittent vomiting and regurgitation, respiratory problems, rapid weight loss, the inability to eat, abnormal whining and licking the floor. The only way to diagnose this condition is through a veterinarian’s office. Your vet performs an endoscopy to see what is happening inside your Bichon Shih Tzu mix. Sadly, you only treat this condition through surgery; you do, however, manage it at home after surgery is complete.

This condition may exist from birth, but Shichon dogs typically develop it as they age and are exposed to conditions like cancer, stress, ulcer, and chronic gastritis. The best way to protect your Shichon puppy from this condition is to feed them a highly digestible but low-fat diet. Dietary changes help manage the condition and quality of life, but do not cure antral pyloric hypertrophy. Life expectancy decreases depending on the severity and cause of this condition. For instance, if the cause is cancer, it may be too aggressive to cure or treat while maintaining a high life expectancy.

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Acid Reflux (GERD)

Your shichon puppy may also suffer from acid reflux, also known as Gastroesophageal reflux (GERD). What is acid reflux (GERD)? Gastroesophageal reflux is a condition where dogs have an uncontrollable reverse flow of acid and fluid into the tube connecting the throat and the stomach. GERD typically occurs because the sphincter (a muscle opening at the base of the neck) relaxes and opens.

The most common symptoms of GERD are throwing up without reason, loss of appetite, rapid loss of weight, unexplained burping, and excessive licking of the floor, amongst other symptoms. Reduce GERD symptoms with a diet that is easily digestible, such as chicken and rice.

Provide your shichon probiotics and prebiotics as they offer and feed good bacteria that aid in digestion. It is essential to provide your Shichon puppy with free choice water at all times. Place water sources throughout your home.

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Eyes

Shichon dogs are at a high risk of contracting cataracts as they age. Cataracts cause reduced visual acuity or eventually even blindness if left untreated. Surgery is available to replace the cloudy lens with a clear implant.

Shichons that develop cataracts do so over time and become accustomed to their new life with limited sight. Even with decreased vision, your shichon is still able to exercise and play. Thankfully, dogs use their senses well, and although they may become visually impaired with cataracts, they still have their amazing nose and ears!

shichon dog white staring

Exposure Keratopathy Syndrome

Another eye condition your Bichon Shih Tzu mix is likely to develop is Exposure Keratopathy Syndrome. Damage to the cornea sometimes occurs in your shichon because their eyes are susceptible to harm as they protrude from their heads. The cause of this condition includes dry eyes.

If your Bichon Shih Tzu mix suffers from Exposure Keratopathy Syndrome, they are even more likely to develop infections. The development of infections is extremely dangerous, as infections spread quickly if not treated properly. If you see any signs your dog is suffering from damage to their eye, take them to veterinarian care as soon as possible. Not all shichons get this condition in their lifetime. It is important to be vigilant about your dog and their health.

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Ears

Shichon dogs have fluffy, floppy, and long ears. While all Shichon puppies are different, most have lots of hair in their ears. This cute feature of your shichon comes with health problems, though.

Shichon puppies with long and fluffy ears are prone to ear infections. These happen when bacteria build up in the ear. Ear infections are painful and life-threatening to your shichon puppy if not taken care of quickly.

Symptoms of an ear infection include: the buildup of earwax, crusting or scabbing in the ears, redness, dark discharge, head shaking and foul odor.

Treatments and Preventative Care

The best way to treat ear infections in shichons is through veterinary care. Once properly diagnosed and treated, you take the best course of action for curing an ear infection. Ear cleaning solution made specifically to clean your shichon’s ear works by removing ear wax or debris.

Prevent ear infections easily at home. Since shichon’s ears are long and fluffy, they harbor the best environments to grow and develop bacteria. Therefore, clean your dog’s ears weekly.

To clean your Bichon Shih Tzu mix’s ears thoroughly, always do so with a microfiber towel. Veterinarians will never recommend the use of a Q-Tip. You should not use cotton because the fibers are likely to fall apart, and the cotton gets stuck inside your shichon’s ears. Using a Q-Tip, you risk pushing more ear wax and debris deeper into the ear canal, damaging the eardrum. If done with too much pressure, you may harm your Bichon Shih Tzu mix instead of helping them.

It is important to clean and dry your Shichon dog’s ears. Any moisture or water left behind in your Shichon puppy’s ear risks causing a bacterial infection. It is necessary to always dry the Shichon puppy’s ears both inside and outside.

Another preventative measure to avert ear infections in long-haired Shichon puppies is to groom them frequently. As the hair on their ears grows too long, it causes dirt, debris, and foreign objects to get tangled into their coat. If you properly groom your Bichon Shih Tzu mix, it is unlikely they will develop an ear infection, as the bacteria and germs on their fur won’t make it inside their ears.

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Immune Disease

Shichon puppies are likely to develop various immune health problems. While this is the case, the risk is minimal and slim. One condition your Bichon Shih Tzu mix is likely to develop because of their genetics is Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia, but there are preventative measures and treatments to take.

Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs

Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia in the bichon shih tzu mix is an immune system disease where the body senses a foreign threat and instead attacks its red blood cells. It is currently unknown why shichon puppies are likely to develop this autoimmune condition. The likely answer is because of breeding since both Bichon and Shih Tzu dogs are also at risk for Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia.

Shichon pups may suffer from a multitude of symptoms if they have this immune system condition. The most common symptoms in shichons with this condition are anemia, pale gums, constant exhaustion, frequent vomiting, extreme weight loss, and respiratory problems. If any of these symptoms are present in your Bichon Shih Tzu mix, it is time to take them to a veterinarian. This condition worsens and causes further issues if not treated. Also, the symptoms alone are quite dangerous if not treated, especially in shichon puppies.

Respiratory problems are especially dangerous in shichons because these dogs already have a hard time breathing properly due to the shape of their short and squished faces. If your bichon shih tzu mix does not breathe properly and normally under average conditions, with compromised lungs it worsens and risks leading to death.

Treatment and Management

The only treatment for Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia in Dogs is veterinarian care. There are no non-medical treatments as this is severe and life-threatening. While it is not possible to treat your shichon alone, the prognosis for Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia in dogs with proper veterinary care is good. Manage this condition with the help of a veterinarian and a few necessary life changes for your bichon shih tzu mix.

Before you make any changes and decisions, a proper diagnosis needs to be made. Blood tests showing red blood cell counts determine Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia. This way, the veterinarian knows the exact type of condition and the cause.

Provide your shichon with lots of water and electrolytes in common areas that are easy to find. To help your shichon puppy, ease the other symptoms as much as possible. If your dog is suffering from exhaustion, buying an orthopedic bed to bring relief to the body helps your dog get appropriate sleep to build the energy to heal.

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Joint Health

There are two primary joint health problems to watch out for in shichon pups: trauma and hip dysplasia. The shichon risks harm to themselves when jumping from tall surfaces onto hard floors. Your shichon is a small dog with short legs and delicate spines. It is easy for your Bichon Shih Tzu mix to harm their joints. Trauma to the joints happens by jumping and landing with too much weight, jumping from tall areas, or falling from tall spaces and landing on their backs or joints. Harm to the joints increases the likelihood to develop of ACL (anterior cruciate ligament) tears and osteoarthritis.

Symptoms of trauma to the joints include fear of walking or jumping from high surfaces, whining and crying when moving, a lack of mobility, barking loudly while outside and not running as fast as they used to run. Joint pain is sometimes quite severe, causing your shichon to move slowly or simply not move at all. Since your dog depends on your intervention, it is up to you to look for the signs of this condition.

Treatments for joint trauma depend on the severity. Diagnosing occurs through a veterinarian with tests like X-rays and CT scans that work by imaging your Shichon dog’s joints and bones. Trauma causes fractures, broken bones, and tears that the scans determine.

puppy shichon dog looking up

Hip Dysplasia

Hip dysplasia is the most common condition in shichons. The condition of hip dysplasia is when the ball and socket do not fit or develop properly, and they rub and grind instead of sliding smoothly. The grinding results in deterioration over time and an eventual loss of function of the joint itself. It is important to look for signs such as limping, frequent whining in pain, or loss of thigh muscle. Sometimes, shichons suddenly lose weight drastically.

When puppies’ hips don’t develop properly, this leads to pain as the two parts grind and rub against each other with movement. If not caught soon, this condition develops into a nasty one that prevents your shichon from living a happy life with full mobility. While hip dysplasia is common in shichon puppies because it is a genetic predisposition, some factors increase the risk and worsen the condition, including stress, obesity, and exercise.

A surgical procedure for hip dysplasia, where the veterinary surgeon makes the two pieces fit, is the treatment for this condition. The exact treatment depends on the condition of both the ball and socket. The recovery phase is long, but the pain is no longer present when the surgery is completed.

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Not all dogs, however, are candidates for surgery when they have hip dysplasia. There are ways to maintain and give your dog a better life with this condition.

Giving massages, using hot water bottles for relief, and having an orthopedic foam bed for comfort are all helpful in managing joint pain. Orthopedic foam beds allow comfort and relief as your shichon rests.

Weight reduction also helps through diet and light exercise, like swimming, and you should supervise your dog at all times. Swimming is a low impact exercise that helps your shichon feel weightless while also providing necessary exercise for your dog to live a quality life.

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Skin and Coat

Shichon puppies have a unique coat that dog owners love because of their fluffiness. Shichons typically have long and curly fur that needs care and grooming frequently.

Dry skin is especially seen in shichon dogs as their skin is delicate and dries out quickly. The two major ways your bichon shih tzu mix may acquire dry skin is through skin allergies from the content or fleas.

It is possible to treat your shichon at home for skin allergies. Use shampoo that relieves itching or kills the fleas that are feeding and living on your shichon dog. Wash couches, towels, beds, and blankets with hot water to eliminate extra fleas.Coat Health

Shichon pups’ hair needs to be clipped away from their eyes, and the hair covering their eyes easily irritates them. If not, your shichon’s hair scratches the eye and, over time, becomes infected.

Your Bichon Shih Tzu mix does not tolerate heat well since their hair, when not groomed, becomes matted and causes overheating. You should groom your shichon regularly, whether at a professional groomer or at home.

To prevent problems with your Shichon puppy’s skin and coat, arrange frequent clips and grooms, especially during hot months. You should keep your shichon indoors as they were bred as house pets, not for being outdoors long term or being exposed to hot temperatures.

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Adoring and Friendly

All in all, Shichons are a delight to have as family pets in small spaces. While these dogs may have genetic conditions likely to develop, it is not always a certainty.

Affectionate and people-friendly, these dogs are a wonderful choice for families of all sizes, and with loving care thrive in either downtown apartments or suburban homes.

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