Do you know these eight most common Shih Tzu eye problems that you need to watch out for?
If not, don’t worry; we’ll go over them below!
If you notice ANY signs of them- or anything that may indicate your pup is having a hard time seeing- make sure you call your veterinarian.
Check them out and keep your pup’s vision healthy!
Most Common Shih Tzu Eye Problems
Shih Tzu dogs have very large, slightly protruding eyes. It’s part of what makes them so cute, but it’s also a health hazard. These large, exposed eyes are prone to irritation, inflammation, and eye infections.
The discharge they produce also makes for a very accommodating environment for bacteria to breed. They need special care to keep them healthy and clear. So, before we dive into the most common eye problems, let’s very quickly go over some general care tips for your Shih Tzu.
How to care for your Shih Tzu’s eyes
As mentioned above, Shih Tzus have very shallow eye sockets, which result in difficulty closing their eyes fully. Their smooshy flat faces also mean that they tend to get their food all over their face when they eat.
So, it’s important to make sure that you wipe your Shih Tzu’s eyes and face daily to wash away any small food particles or bits of dirt, dust, or pollen that could get into the eye and cause irritation. You’ll also want to wipe away any regular eye discharge daily.
Yes, daily. Even if your pup’s eyes look bright and clean, give them a wipe-down. First, you may not see the dust and dirt that lurks beneath those sweet puppy lashes on the eye’s surface. Second, it’s easier for your dog to get used to these daily cleanings when you stick to a routine.
Keeping your pup’s hair around their face trimmed short and neat can also go a long way toward stopping dirt and debris from getting trapped in their eyes.
Last, but perhaps most important, you should be vigilant in looking out for common eye infections. On that note, let’s get started and learn what those common issues are.
1- Red Eye
Red Eye is a general term used to describe the color change in the eye when the blood vessels enlarge and become visible in the whites.
While it can be a condition on its own, it’s often a symptom of one of the other eye issues on this list. Conjunctivitis, glaucoma, dry eye (aka Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca) and environmental irritants are among the most common causes of red eye in dogs.
Whatever the cause, it is a sign that there is something wrong with your Shih Tzu’s eyes and you should make a trip to the vet to figure out the cause so that it can be treated appropriately.
Side note: Red eye isn’t exclusive to Shih Tzu dogs. It’s also common in Pugs, Bulldogs, Boston Terriers, and Lhasa Apso dogs. Pretty much any pooch that either has a smooshy face or long facial hair can be susceptible to red eye.
2- Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)
Pink Eye, as the name suggests, presents as the white of the eye turning pink. You’ll likely also notice extra discharge from the eye and some swelling. It’s also highly likely that your Shih Tzu will show some discomfort with it.
As with humans, pink eye has a few different causes in dogs, including:
- Contact with infectious agents (bacteria, viruses, or even fungi)
- Contact with chemicals, allergens, and other irritants
- Cornea diseases
- Issues with the tear ducts
- Abnormally shaped or drooping eyelids
Treatment is usually a course of antibiotics and possibly some medication to reduce the swelling.
Just a heads up: If it’s caused by a bacteria or virus, it’s very likely contagious. So if you have multiple dogs, keep them separated until the medication does its job.
3- Cherry Eye
Cherry Eye is the term given to the occurrence of a prolapse of the third eyelid gland. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? Basically, this means that the gland in the eye that is responsible for producing much of the tear film has become dislodged from the eyelid.
Usually, it is held in place by a ligament, but if this breaks, the gland becomes mobile and visible as a pink lump at the inner eye corner.
It kind of looks like a swollen cherry stuck under the eyelid, hence the name Cherry Eye. When this happens, the gland doesn’t work properly anymore so the affected eye’s surface will dry out, making it more susceptible to infection.
Other than this, Cherry Eye is usually not painful or damaging to the eye by itself, but it should still be dealt with by your vet. Usually, treatment is putting the gland back surgically.
4- Ingrown Eyelashes (Trichiasis)
An ingrown eyelash will cause severe irritation to your Shih Tzu’s eye. It will scratch at the eyeball and eventually cause impaired vision as it damages the lens.
You can tell if your dog has an ingrown eyelash as you’ll be able to see the offending hair. Another sign is that your Shih Tzu will most likely be scratching at her face a lot.
This constant irritation on the eyeball can cause corneal ulcers or other wounds, and the eye will produce extra discharge to try and clear away the irritant and protect the lens.
The underlying cause of the trichiasis needs to be treated, often with antibiotics. In other words, you can’t just pluck it out. That may provide temporary relief, but it’ll most likely grow back right in the same position.
Honestly, it’s never a good idea to pluck your dog’s eyelashes or try to treat eye disorders on your own. There’s just way too much risk for permanent damage if your hand slips or your dog moves. Your vet has the proper tools and experience to get the job done with minimal risk.
5- Inverted Eyelid (Entropion)
When a Shih Tzu’s eyelids turn inwards, this is called entropion. This causes the eyelashes to irritate the eyeball by rubbing on it.
While it’s typically the result of a genetic disorder, it can also be caused by injury or infection that has altered your pup’s eyelid.
If caught before about 12 weeks of age, your vet MAY be able to correct it without surgery. Unfortunately, beyond 12 weeks, surgery is the only option.
6- Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
Progressive retinal atrophy is the degradation over time of the retina. This is a genetic disorder and is irreversible, resulting in blindness.
In Shih Tzu, this usually happens as they get older, so they see perfectly well for a while and then the retina cells start to die This can take up to 5 years, but may also start after your Shih Tzu is just 2 years old.
It begins with decreased vision in the dark so you may notice your dog bumping into things at night. Then they lose peripheral vision before gradually becoming blind.
A cataract is a cloudy film that grows across the eye lens. This will start small but then spread to cover the whole eye, resulting in blurred vision and blindness.
Often, cataracts are a genetic issue for Shih Tzu and will start to appear as it ages, usually after 8 years old. However, cataracts can also be the result of an eye injury. It’s treated by surgically removing the cataract from the eye lens and usually, the eye makes a full recovery.
Sometimes there’s some scarring in the eye lens and your Shih Tzu may be left with a slightly decreased vision, but if left untreated, it will result in blindness.
When the liquids produced in the eye don’t drain away properly, this is called glaucoma. It causes an increase in pressure within the eye, which is quite painful for your dog. If it’s not treated, it will cause swelling in the eye and even change the shape of the eyeball.
Eventually, it will result in blindness.
In dogs, it’s common that glaucoma is a disorder in itself, but it can also be the result of an infection or disease in the eye. Symptoms of glaucoma include dilated pupils, bulging eyes a loss of vision. Treatment depends on the cause of glaucoma and how severe it is. Medication may help, but if the vision is already gone, the best thing is often to remove the affected eye to stop the pain from it swelling up.
While many of these eye problems cannot be prevented, they can be prevented from becoming severe health issues. Keep a close eye on your Shih Tzu’s eyes, clean them regularly and make an appointment with your vet as soon as you see any sign of infection or irritation so that it can be treated quickly and won’t permanently damage your Shih Tzu’s eye or vision.