What Causes Arthritis in Shih Tzu’s?

Shih Tzus are adorable and charming companions, known for their luxurious coats and affectionate nature. However, like all breeds, these beloved dogs are susceptible to certain health issues, including arthritis.

Arthritis, a degenerative joint disease, can significantly impact a Shih Tzu’s quality of life.

In this article, we delve into what causes arthritis in Shih Tzu’s, as well as offer insights that will help you better care for your furry friend and potentially prevent this painful condition.

Genetic Predisposition

Genetics play a pivotal role in a Shih Tzu’s susceptibility to arthritis. Certain genetic factors can influence the development of joint issues, making it crucial to understand your dog’s lineage.

Reputable breeders conduct thorough health screenings to minimize the risk of passing down genetic predispositions for conditions like arthritis.

When considering adding a Shih Tzu to your family, ensure you choose a breeder who prioritizes the health and genetic diversity of their breeding stock.

Age and Wear and Tear

Just like humans, Shih Tzus experience wear and tear on their joints as they age. The cartilage that cushions the joints can deteriorate over time, leading to arthritis.

While age is an inevitable factor, maintaining a healthy lifestyle for your Shih Tzu can help delay the onset of arthritis.

Providing a balanced diet, regular exercise, and maintaining a healthy weight are essential for supporting joint health and reducing unnecessary strain.


Obesity is a significant risk factor for arthritis in Shih Tzus. Excess weight places undue stress on joints, accelerating cartilage degeneration and promoting inflammation.

It’s important to monitor your Shih Tzu’s weight and adjust their diet and exercise regimen accordingly.

Consult your veterinarian to determine the ideal weight range for your dog and to create a tailored plan to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.

Joint Injuries

Traumatic injuries, such as fractures, dislocations, or ligament tears, can lead to arthritis later in life. Shih Tzus are lively and playful by nature, and accidents can happen.

Properly managing and treating any joint injuries promptly is crucial to prevent long-term consequences. If your Shih Tzu experiences an injury, seek veterinary care immediately to minimize the risk of arthritis down the road.

Poor Nutrition

Diet plays an essential role in a Shih Tzu’s overall health, including their joint health. Nutritional deficiencies can weaken joints and exacerbate the risk of arthritis.

Ensure your dog’s diet includes essential nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and antioxidants, which support joint health.

Choose the right food and supplements to promote optimal joint function.

Five Signs That Show Your Shih Tzu May Have Arthritis

I’m not a veterinarian, but I can offer you some general signs that might indicate your Shih Tzu could potentially have arthritis.

As a former Shih Tzu owner for over 14 years, I can tell you that as my girl was getting up in years, she experienced both 1 and 3 below.

As always, if you suspect your dog has arthritis, it’s important to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

That being said, here are five signs to look out for:

1. Limping or Favoring a Leg

If your Shih Tzu starts to limp, show stiffness, or consistently avoids putting weight on a particular leg, it could be a sign of joint pain associated with arthritis.

2. Difficulty Moving

Arthritic dogs might have trouble getting up from lying down, climbing stairs, or jumping onto furniture. They may also seem hesitant to engage in activities they once enjoyed, like playing fetch or going for walks.

3. Stiffness and Reduced Mobility

You may notice that your Shih Tzu has difficulty moving around, especially after periods of rest. Arthritis can cause joints to become stiff, particularly in the morning or after napping.

4. Behavioral Changes

Dogs in pain may exhibit behavioral changes such as increased irritability, restlessness, or even aggression. They might become less sociable and avoid interactions they used to enjoy.

5. Licking or Chewing Joints

Arthritic dogs might lick, chew, or excessively groom their affected joints as a way to alleviate discomfort.

This behavior can lead to fur loss or irritation in those areas.

Remember, these signs can also indicate other health issues, so it’s essential to consult a veterinarian for a proper assessment.

Your vet can provide an accurate diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatment options to help manage your Shih Tzu’s condition and improve their quality of life.


Arthritis can be a challenging condition for Shih Tzus to endure, affecting their mobility and overall well-being.

While some factors, like genetics and age, are beyond our control, many steps can be taken to prevent or mitigate the risk of arthritis in these charming companions.

Through responsible breeding, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, managing weight, preventing injuries, and providing proper nutrition, you can significantly reduce the chances of your Shih Tzu developing arthritis.

By being proactive in your dog’s care, you’re ensuring a happier, healthier life for your beloved furry friend.

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