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Shih Tzu Eye Problems: 9 Issues Owners Must Know

If you’re a Shih Tzu owner it’s crucial to be aware of the potential eye problems your little fluff ball could experience.

While not all Shih Tzus develop eye issues, they are a breed known to suffer from them more than others, so it’s very important to at least learn the basics.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the most common eye problems Shih Tzus may experience, along with their causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

shih tzu eye problems

Why Do Shih Tzus Often Get Eye Problems?

Shih Tzus are more prone to eye problems due to their unique facial features and genetics.

Their large, prominent eyes and short noses make them more susceptible to injury and irritation. Additionally, the breed is predisposed to certain eye conditions due to genetic factors.

Here are some reasons why Shih Tzus are more prone to eye problems:

  • Brachycephalic breed: Shih Tzus are a brachycephalic breed, meaning they have a short, flat skull shape. This results in large, protruding eyes that are more exposed to potential injury and irritation.
  • Genetic predisposition: Shih Tzus are genetically predisposed to certain eye conditions, such as entropion, progressive retinal atrophy, and glaucoma. This means that they have a higher likelihood of developing these issues compared to other dog breeds.
  • Hair around the eyes: The long hair around their eyes can also contribute to eye problems, as it can easily get into their eyes and cause irritation or infection.

Interesting: Can Shih Tzus Have Blue Eyes?

9 Common Eye Problems In Shih Tzus

Let’s explain in detail each of the following eye problems that Shih Tzus can develop.

1. Dry Eye (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca)

Dry eye, also known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca (KCS), is a condition where the tear glands fail to produce enough tears to keep the eyes lubricated. This can result in discomfort, inflammation, and infection.

➡️ Causes and Symptoms

  • Common causes of KCS include immune-mediated diseases, congenital defects, and certain medications
  • Symptoms may include redness, discharge, squinting, and frequent blinking

➡️ Treatment

  • Artificial tear supplements
  • Immunosuppressive eye drops, such as cyclosporine or tacrolimus
  • In severe cases, surgical intervention may be required

For more information on KCS, visit the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) website.

2. Cherry Eye (Prolapse of the Gland of the Third Eyelid)

Cherry eye is a condition in which the gland of the third eyelid, also known as the nictitating membrane, becomes prolapsed, causing a red, swollen mass in the corner of the eye.

This issue can lead to discomfort and may affect tear production.

➡️ Causes and Symptoms

  • The exact cause of cherry eye is unknown, but it is believed to be related to a weakness in the connective tissue around the gland
  • Symptoms include a red, swollen mass in the corner of the eye, irritation, and discharge

➡️ Treatment

  • Topical anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling
  • Surgical repositioning or removal of the gland (although removal is less common due to potential complications)

For more information on cherry eye, visit VCA Hospitals.

3. Entropion

Entropion is a condition where the eyelid rolls inward, causing the eyelashes to rub against the cornea. This can lead to irritation, corneal ulcers, and even vision loss if left untreated.

➡️ Causes and Symptoms

  • Entropion is often genetic, but it can also be caused by injury, infection, or scarring
  • Symptoms include excessive tearing, squinting, redness, and discharge

➡️ Treatment

  • In mild cases, topical medications and lubricants can help manage symptoms
  • Surgery is the definitive treatment for entropion, which involves removing a small portion of the eyelid to correct the rolling inward

For more information on entropion, visit PetMD.

4. Cataracts

Cataracts are a clouding of the lens in the eye, which can lead to blurry vision and eventual blindness. They are common in older dogs and can be caused by genetics, injury, inflammation, or metabolic disorders like diabetes.

➡️ Causes and Symptoms

  • Genetics, aging, injury, inflammation, and metabolic disorders
  • Symptoms include cloudiness in the eye, difficulty navigating, and a decrease in activity

➡️ Treatment

  • Monitoring for mild cataracts with no significant vision loss
  • Surgical removal and replacement with an artificial lens for cataracts causing vision loss or discomfort

For more information on cataracts, visit the RSPCA.

5. Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

Progressive retinal atrophy is a group of genetic disorders that cause the retina to degenerate over time, leading to vision loss and eventual blindness. There is currently no cure for PRA, but early detection can help manage the condition.

➡️ Causes and Symptoms

  • PRA is caused by genetic mutations
  • Symptoms include night blindness, dilated pupils, and a gradual loss of vision

➡️ Treatment

  • There is no cure for PRA, but antioxidants and nutritional supplements may help slow progression
  • Maintaining a consistent environment and using nightlights can help dogs adapt to vision loss

For more information on PRA, visit VCA Hospitals.

6. Glaucoma

Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders that cause increased pressure within the eye, leading to damage to the optic nerve and eventual blindness. It can be painful and requires immediate veterinary attention.

➡️ Causes and Symptoms

  • Glaucoma can be primary (genetic) or secondary (caused by another eye condition, such as inflammation or injury)
  • Symptoms include redness, pain, cloudiness, and a sudden loss of vision

➡️ Treatment

  • Medications to decrease eye pressure and manage pain
  • Surgical intervention to alleviate pressure or remove the eye in severe cases

For more information on glaucoma, visit the AVMA website.

7. Corneal Ulcers

Corneal ulcers are wounds or sores on the cornea, which can be caused by injury, infection, or other eye conditions. They can be painful and may lead to vision loss if left untreated.

➡️ Causes and Symptoms

  • Causes include injury, infection, and underlying eye conditions like entropion
  • Symptoms include squinting, tearing, redness, and a visible wound on the cornea

➡️ Treatment

  • Topical antibiotics to prevent infection
  • Pain management and anti-inflammatory medications
  • Surgery may be required in severe cases to repair the cornea

For more information on corneal ulcers, visit PetMD.

8. Conjunctivitis

Conjunctivitis, also known as “pink eye,” is the inflammation of the conjunctiva, which is the thin membrane that covers the eye and lines the eyelids. It can be caused by allergies, infection, or irritation.

➡️ Causes and Symptoms

  • Causes include allergies, bacterial or viral infection, and irritants
  • Symptoms include redness, discharge, swelling, and itching

➡️ Treatment

  • Identifying and removing the cause, such as an allergen or irritant
  • Antibiotic or antiviral eye drops for infections
  • Anti-inflammatory medications to reduce swelling and discomfort

9. Epiphora (Excessive Tearing)

Epiphora is a condition where the eyes produce an excessive amount of tears, which can lead to tear staining and irritation. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including allergies, infections, and anatomical abnormalities.

➡️ Causes and Symptoms

  • Causes include allergies, infections, blocked tear ducts, and anatomical abnormalities
  • Symptoms include excessive tearing, tear staining, and irritation around the eyes

➡️ Treatment

  • Identifying and treating the underlying cause, such as allergies or infections
  • Flushing the tear ducts to remove blockages
  • In some cases, surgical intervention may be necessary to correct anatomical abnormalities

For more information on epiphora, visit VCA Hospitals.

Shih Tzu Eye Care Tips

To keep your Shih Tzu’s eyes healthy and minimize the risk of eye problems, consider implementing the following eye care tips:

  1. Regular grooming: Keep the hair around your Shih Tzu’s eyes clean and trimmed to prevent irritation and reduce the risk of infection. You can use a small pair of blunt-tipped scissors or have a professional groomer handle this task.
  2. Eye cleaning: Gently clean your Shih Tzu’s eyes daily with a soft, damp cloth or a cotton ball to remove any discharge or debris. You can also use over-the-counter eye cleaning solutions specifically formulated for dogs. Avoid using human products, as they may contain ingredients that can be harmful to your dog’s eyes.
  3. Tear stain prevention: To prevent tear staining, clean the area around your Shih Tzu’s eyes daily and keep it dry. There are also commercial tear stain removal products available, but consult your veterinarian before using them.
  4. Protection: When taking your Shih Tzu outdoors, be mindful of potential hazards that could injure their eyes, such as branches, bushes, or other objects. Consider using a protective collar or harness that can help shield their eyes from potential injuries.
  5. Regular veterinary check-ups: Schedule regular check-ups with your veterinarian to monitor your Shih Tzu’s eye health. Early detection and treatment of eye problems can help prevent more serious issues and protect your dog’s vision.
  6. Monitor for signs of eye problems: Keep a close eye on your Shih Tzu and look for any signs of eye issues, such as redness, discharge, squinting, or excessive tearing. If you notice any of these symptoms, consult your veterinarian as soon as possible.

By following these eye care tips, you can help keep your Shih Tzu’s eyes healthy and reduce the risk of developing eye problems.

Remember, always consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns about your dog’s eye health or if you notice any changes in their eyes or behavior.

Final thoughts

As a Shih Tzu owner, it’s important to be aware of the potential eye problems your dog may face.

Regular check-ups with your veterinarian, along with close monitoring of your dog’s eyes, can help catch issues early and ensure your Shih Tzu’s eyes remain healthy.

It’s important to remember that this guide is not a substitute for professional veterinary advice. If you suspect your Shih Tzu is experiencing an eye problem, consult your veterinarian immediately.

In summary

  1. Dry Eye (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca)
  2. Cherry Eye (Prolapse of the Gland of the Third Eyelid)
  3. Entropion
  4. Cataracts
  5. Progressive Retinal Atrophy
  6. Glaucoma
  7. Corneal Ulcers
  8. Conjunctivitis
  9. Epiphora (Excessive Tearing)

By staying informed and proactive, you can help ensure your Shih Tzu’s eyes stay healthy and comfortable.

Keep an eye out for any changes in their appearance or behavior, and always consult with a veterinarian if you have concerns.

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Before making any decisions that could affect the health and/or safety of your dog, you should always consult a trained veterinarian in your local area. Even though this content may have been written/reviewed by a trained veterinarian, our advice to you is to always consult your own local veterinarian in person. Please read our full dislcaimer if you have any questions.