Congestive heart failure is a serious condition that does affect older small breeds such as our beloved Shih Tzu. Congestive heart failure is defined as the heart’s inability to function normally, which leads to excessive retention of water and salt causing fluid build-up in the lungs. The major underlying cause is degeneration of the heart valves. Dogs and the Shih Tzu with this condition often develop a heart murmur, however, it is important to know and remember that not all dogs who have heart murmurs will develop congestive heart failure.
The three main signs to look out for congestive heart failure in your Shih Tzu or older Shih Tzu are:
1. Exercise intolerance;
2. Labored breathing;
3. And coughing.
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Always provide your Shih Tzu with a yearly vet check-up and allow your vet to follow-up on any abnormal findings.
Treatment for congestive heart failure includes:
• Diet low in sodium
• Dilator drugs
• Digoxin (Digitalis)
A Shih Tzu or dog that has been diagnosed with heart failure usually has a life expectancy of between six months and several years. Treated Shih Tzu and dogs will live longer than those left untreated.
You need to also remember that a degeneration of heart valves is a common aging change in small breed dogs like our beloved Shih Tzu. Also remember that even if your Shih Tzu puppy is diagnosed with a heart murmur, this does not mean he or she will ever develop heart failure.
Many times new owners think a heart problem is the result of in-breeding or line breeding or breeding Shih Tzu that are smaller in the size than the standard show dog AKC calls for as 9 to 16 pounds.
Would be Shih Tzu owners need to realize that the size of any living creature does not dictate the health of that creature, and that most of the statements made in this regard are purely by those who do not have the smaller sizes and are fearful their sales will be damaged by breeders who do have the smaller size Shih Tzu.
It is all about money for most of those who talk the most and loudest against smaller size Shih Tzu. Few of those people are actually worried that you the consumer is going to get burned or that the Shih Tzu breed will be ruined forever by these smaller Shih Tzu gene pools. They are worried it takes dollars from their pockets.
I think if these people are sincerely worried about the Shih Tzu breed being ruined, they need to start donating most of their income derived from their puppy sales and/or Show Dog winnings to research of genetic problems in the Shih Tzu in general. It is my opinion this would benefit the breed much more than “bad-mouthing” people who raise and adore the smaller size Shih Tzu in the hopes that consumers will not purchase them and have to resort to purchasing only the size they promote.
As always please consult with a professional vet of your choice about any kind of health problem related to your pets. This article is not meant to diagnose, treat or cure any kind of a pet health problem. It is offered as information only.
Author: Connie Limon, Breeder of pet and show prospect Shih Tzu in a variety of colors. Visit us at
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Dogs & Congestive Heart Failure
Dogs & Congestive Heart Failure