Do you know these eight most common Shih Tzu eye problems that you need to watch out for? Guest writer Adam Conrad, founder of ShihTzuExpert.com, is here to make sure you know them! 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. The large, exposed eyes are prone to many irritations and eye infections. The discharge they produce makes for a very accommodating environment for bacteria to breed. They need special care to keep them healthy and clear.
Shih Tzu have very shallow eye sockets that result in the eyes not being able to close fully. The flat face also means that Shih Tzu tend to get their food all over their face when they eat. Make sure that you wipe your Shih Tzu’s eyes and face daily to wipe away any small food particles or bits of dirt, dust or pollen that could get into the eye and cause irritation as well as the regular eye discharge.
This should be done even if the eyes don’t look dirty. The hair around the eyes should also be trimmed often to stop it irritating the eyes and to stop it trapping any other irritants, like dirt or pollen, near the eyes. You should be vigilant in looking out for common eye infections such as the following.
1- Red Eye
Red Eye is a term used to describe the colour change in the eye when the blood vessels enlarge and become visible in the whites. It can be caused by various eye issues such as conjunctivitis, glaucoma and irritations in the eye rather than it being an infection itself. 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.
2- Pink Eye (Conjunctivitis)
Pink Eye, as the name suggests, presents as the white of the eye turning pink. There will also be extra discharge from the eye, some swelling and your Shih Tzu will show some discomfort with it. It is usually caused by a bacterial infection that got into the eye through an allergen or object getting in there and can be spread between dogs. Treatment is usually a course of antibiotics and possibly some medication to reduce the swelling.
3- Cherry Eye
Cherry Eye is the term given to the occurrence of a prolapse of the third eyelid gland. 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 looks like a swollen cherry stuck under the eyelid, hence the name Cherry Eye. When this happens, the gland doesn’t work properly any more so the affected eye 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- Ingrowth Of 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 it a lot.
This constant irritation on the eyeball can cause corneal ulcers and the eye will produce extra discharge to try and clear away the irritant and protect the lens. The cause of the trichiasis needs to be treated, often with antibiotics. Plucking the ingrown eyelash out will see it just grow back again in the same position.
5- Inverted Eyelid (Entropion)
When a Shih Tzu’s eyelids turn inwards, this is called entropion. It causes the eyelashes to irritate the eyeball by rubbing on it. This can be caused by a defect in the eye or by an injury or infection that has altered the eyelid and usually requires surgery to correct.
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 in the 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 recover. 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 the 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 of 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.