Shih Tzu Hip Dysplasia: What You Need to Know

two shih tzus sitting on a couch

Shih Tzu

Shih Tzu pups are small, loveable companion pups that people have loved for centuries in Asia. These dogs have been popular for centuries, and part of their popularity is because they are such a fun size. More recently, many United States citizens have been head over heels for these pocket-sized pups.

These dogs stand between only eight and eleven inches and weigh nine to sixteen pounds. Their tiny bodies have adorable enormous eyes and long beautiful hair, and families have adored these dogs for years. Their small bodies limit the amount of daily exercise they need to twenty-five minutes of activity. Even though Shih Tzus are little dogs, people love them and Chinese royalty carried them around throughout history. Aside from hair care, these dogs are some of the most low-maintenance toy breeds.

Shih Tzu puppies are great for families with and without children. However, families with children need to make sure the children understand how to interact with dogs. Because of the small size, a Shih Tzu puppy can get hurt if people play with them too roughly. Because these dogs have such petite bodies, they need little exercise, and they do great in both big houses and small apartments. These dogs are friendly and affectionate, and they love to lie on their owner’s laps all day.

Properly socialized Shih Tzu dogs will be great companions for other pets in the house, including other dogs. These dogs don’t enjoy being alone because their nature is to be someone’s companion, so Shih Tzus are best in families that work from home or have multiple pets like another cat or dog. Shih Tzus are ideal pets for many families, but any potential owner should understand the responsibility of adopting a dog.

Dogs require food, exercise, and attention. Depending on the breed, they can have a lot of different health risks. Responsible owners need to be aware of these dogs’ health risks and need to be able to provide their pup with an environment to produce their best physical and mental health. Shih Tzus’ health concerns can vary in severity because of the many inherited diseases for which they are at risk.

white shih tzu sitting in field

Shih Tzu Health Risks

Shih Tzu dogs are smaller dogs, so they aren’t at risk of as many body-dependent conditions as other large breed dogs. For example, bloat heavily affects dogs with large stomachs, but because of the Shih Tzu dog’s size, it’s very unlikely they will experience bloat. However, these dogs carry their fair share of range in random health conditions they are at risk of developing. Many small dogs suffer from eye conditions. Some of these conditions can cause bruising and other eye injuries that can even lead to blindness. Some small dogs suffer from dental issues and joint problems.

Some examples of health risks Shih Tzu puppies have include dental disease, heart disease, patellar luxation, and ear infections. Because small dogs have such small mouths, their teeth are prone to tooth crowding, which then causes dental disease. Another type of health condition Shih Tzu puppies are at risk of developing is hip dysplasia. Canine hip dysplasia can be an unfortunate condition that takes a dog’s ability to walk away. However, dogs can receive treatment if a vet or owner observes dog hip dysplasia symptoms before severe damage occurs. With treatment, that dog will probably live a long, happy life, able to run and walk around just as before.

Hip Dysplasia in Shih Tzu Puppies

Shih Tzu puppies have genetic, breed-specific health concerns and are predisposed to inherit hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia is a health condition where the hip joint doesn’t align correctly. The hip joint works in all dogs as a ball-in-socket joint where the femur fits into the socket at the knee, but when a dog suffers from hip dysplasia symptoms, its joints don’t slide smoothly and cause pain. Hip dysplasia occurs more often in large breed dogs like the Bernese Mountain dog or the German Shepherd, but Shih Tzu puppies are also predisposed to this condition, unlike many other toy-size dogs.

shih tzu running on the beach

Hip Dysplasia Symptoms

Sometimes, dog hip dysplasia will present itself through physical and noticeable symptoms such as limping or running strangely. For example, a common sign a dog is suffering from hip dysplasia is when they show a strange ‘bunny-like’ hop and then return to their normal run right after. Some dogs will lift their legs, unable to put pressure on their joints. If your Shih Tzu puppy whimpers when they climb onto a couch or bed, this can also be their way of telling you they have hip dysplasia. Some dogs will cry out when their leg or hip gets touched as well. Watch for consistent symptoms of pain when your dog is walking, running, or climbing the stairs to understand if your dog might suffer from hip dysplasia. Hip dysplasia symptoms can be hard for some owners to witness because of how much it affects a dog’s quality of life. Watching your dog limp is hard enough, but often a limp turns into a loss of function and it’s a tough experience for many owners and pets alike. This time gets even harder when dogs with hip dysplasia become paralyzed. Thankfully, you can treat many cases of hip dysplasia successfully before any loss of quality of life.

If your Shih Tzu puppy shows a decreased range of motion or decreased activity levels, they are highly likely to suffer from hip dysplasia. Other hip dysplasia symptoms include losing thigh muscle mass and gaining shoulder muscle mass. Pain is often involved when hip dysplasia symptoms appear on a dog’s body. Dogs lighten the weight their back legs carry by leaning to carry more weight on their shoulders. Sometimes dogs with this health condition are very shaky when they walk and appear weaker overall.

The pain a Shih Tzu with hip dysplasia is feeling comes from the dislocation of the hip joint. Dog limping is a response to this pain and the lack of pressure on the affected joint. Some dogs with this health condition experience it as young as six months old. More often, though, is that dogs have had this condition for years and owners and vets only notice once the dog ages. When dogs get older, it’s easier to tell how arthritis affects their movements and see if any hip dysplasia symptoms are present. Older dogs get more diagnoses partly because it can take years of gradual bone degeneration for any hip dysplasia symptoms to even occur in dogs. Sometimes, Shih Tzu puppies go without a dog hip dysplasia diagnosis until they are ten years of age.

shih tzu sleeping on a pillow


It can be challenging for vets to diagnose Shih Tzu dogs with this condition without evidence from owners. Owners who think their dog has this condition need to keep a detailed list of any symptoms they believe their dog has, so their vet knows to test for this condition. Dog hip dysplasia rarely shows itself until later in life, but cautious owners can always ask for hip dysplasia tests at regular vet-check ups.

When a vet tests for hip dysplasia, they will move your dog’s hind leg around to test the looseness of their joint and the range of motion your pet has. Vets will typically follow a routine to find out as much medical history as they can about your dog.

The knowledge of any prior injuries or health conditions can help your vet decide what kind of condition your Shih Tzu has, as well as what the proper method of treatment should be. Vets also benefit from your dog’s genetic history if you have it, but often this isn’t possible or necessary. Many vets will complete bloodwork and order a radiograph or an X-ray. These photos can more definitively show the vet what your dog’s health condition is and the best treatment method.

Calming Dog Ad

shih tzu sitting in front of yellow background

Hip Dysplasia Treatment Options

There are a few different treatment techniques for dog hip dysplasia. Sometimes, hip dysplasia can result from an unhealthy diet. Dogs prone to hip dysplasia that are also overweight will only multiply their risk of developing the disease. This means that overweight dogs with hip dysplasia might save themselves a lot of trouble and pain by losing some weight and becoming more active.

Sometimes treatment for this health condition can mean becoming less active if arthritis has progressed severely enough. Usually, vets will recommend that a dog with hip dysplasia doesn’t run on hard surfaces like concrete or tile. Hard surfaces will only aggravate an already swollen joint and cause dog limping. Usually, vets will recommend some type of physical therapy to help your dog’s affected joints and will prescribe pain medication to deal with the agitation the hip gets just by walking around the house. A physical therapy treatment can allow your dog to regain lost range of motion, and you might see your dog become more active as a result.

When minor cases of dog hip dysplasia receive a joint treatment with both pain medication and physical therapy, the results can have a dog behaving as if they never had joint problems to being with. Anti-inflammatory drugs and joint fluid modifiers can help Shih Tzu puppies lose excessive swelling in their hip joints. Removing excessive swelling can ease some hip dysplasia symptoms like leaning forward, or it can increase their range of motion. These treatments can significantly aid dogs that have such swollen joints. It hurts them to stand up or move at all. When the hip gets so swollen, dogs have trouble standing. It can be very hard for owners to see their dog struggle in pain so much. This condition isn’t life-threatening, but dog hip dysplasia is a very serious condition. Therefore, it’s so important to get a dog treated for hip dysplasia as soon as any symptoms appear.

For more severe cases of this condition, vets will recommend alternative surgeries. There are three common surgeries vets perform for dog hip dysplasia. Double or triple pelvic osteotomy, femoral head osteotomy, or total hip replacement surgery may be the only way to treat your Shih Tzu’s injuries, depending on their severity. Some dogs have such degenerated bones they need an entire hip replacement. This surgery is not super common, but it can significantly improve a dog’s situation with hip dysplasia symptoms and maybe even give a dog who can’t walk the ability to walk again. This surgery typically involves replacing the original joint with a combination of metal and plastic materials. It is usually very effective in bringing back your dog’s initial range of motion and ridding them of their hip pain. However, some dog hip dysplasia conditions permanently damage a dog’s joints and range of motion. When a dog is old enough with severe enough hip dysplasia symptoms, they may still have restricted movements or leftover arthritis in their bodies. Potential Shih Tzu owners should know that not all dog hip dysplasia symptoms are always curable, but there is a lot that owners and vets can do to treat them.

portrait of shih tzu in front of black background

Preventative Measures

There are a few ways to prevent dog hip dysplasia. Sometimes, conditions like this can result from an underactive or overactive dog. Too little or too much use of the hip joint can cause equal damage. A dog that doesn’t move enough risks stiffening its joints, making them lose range of motion. Dogs that exercise too much wear and tear on their joints past the point of a simple rest recovery. Overweight dogs can also put excessive stress on their hip joint, causing this condition as well. Owners can best prevent dog hip dysplasia by providing appropriate levels of exercise and adequate amounts of food.

The only other way people can prevent dog hip dysplasia from occurring is by preventing any dogs with hip dysplasia from breeding. However, since many dogs are in shelters and don’t have an accurate medical history, it’s increasingly difficult to eradicate hip dysplasia through selective breeding.

Shih Tzu Life Expectancy

Any dog with hip dysplasia will not get a shorter lifespan. In fact, these dogs will often experience a significant change in their lifestyle rather than their life expectancy. Shih Tzu puppies live an average lifespan anywhere between 12 to 16 years.

Shih Tzu puppies with hip dysplasia can easily live their average lifespan and maintain a happy life. However, if other health conditions affect a Shih Tzu puppy, including hip dysplasia, then the other conditions can significantly alter lifespan depending on their severity. For example, obesity is a massive factor in dogs with hip dysplasia, and obese dogs live a shortened lifespan of up to two years.

As long as your Shih Tzu pup is in great shape and is well-trained, then you shouldn’t worry about their lifespan. Shih Tzus with hip dysplasia symptoms needs an owner who can provide them with the happiest life possible.

shih tzu sitting in flower field

Shih Tzu Hip Dysplasia Conclusion Fulfilling Life

Shih Tzu pups with hip dysplasia that receive treatment are likely to have minor changes to their life. The damage dog hip dysplasia causes take tons of time before it shows symptoms, but there is no way to restore this damage. When these dogs experience treatment, it is to ease their pain and regain their range of motion but, it cannot undo the years of arthritis set into the hip bone. Sadly, dogs that receive treatment later in life are more likely to have permanent damage to their back legs.

Some owners try to treat hip dysplasia with specific diets. For example, they try to provide their dogs with omega-3 fatty acids and other nutritional supplements to ease this condition’s symptoms. Although this may help, vet prescribed treatment is much more likely to aid your dog in their pain management and joint motions. Routine care is a key factor in ensuring your Shih Tzu stays as healthy as possible. Sometimes owners make sure they provide health care for their dogs by signing up for pet health insurance. Pet health insurance can be a great way to make sure the veterinarian regularly examines your dog. Always check in with your vet before providing your dog treatment for any health conditions.

If you are looking into adopting a Shih Tzu, and you feel you could handle the responsibility, you should adopt a puppy. These dogs are incredibly friendly and adorable little puppies, and their small size and loving temperament make them great for first-time dog owners. Because they don’t need a ton of room or exercise, they’re great for people who live in crowded cities too! However, research plenty of info to aid that dog with any risks or issues their breed is prone to getting.

Since hip dysplasia only affects your dog’s hip joints, they can live a long, active life with proper medication. Owners of Shih Tzu puppies should keep that in mind that these pups are companion dogs and remember that all your dog wants is love and attention from their families. While it is essential to provide for any medical needs, Shih Tzus need owners with them often. Consider getting a less needy dog if you are out a lot or work at an office. If you think you can provide enough time, attention, and affection, you might find your next best friend in a small Shih Tzu puppy.

Was this article helpful?