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Why Your Shih Tzu’s Face Smells: 5 Reasons & What To Do

As a dog lover and an enthusiast of the adorable Shih Tzu breed, I understand that sometimes these little furballs can develop a certain smell coming from their faces.

If you’re a Shih Tzu owner dealing with this issue, you might be wondering what’s causing it and how to solve the problem.

Worry not! In this detailed article, I’ll discuss the reasons behind a Shih Tzu’s smelly face, provide some practical solutions, and explain when it’s time to visit a vet.

So, let’s get started on making your Shih Tzu’s face fresh and clean again!

why does my shih tzus face smells

Is it Common for Shih Tzus to Have a Smelly Face?

Yes, it’s quite common for Shih Tzus to have a smelly face.

This breed has unique facial features, such as a short snout, which can contribute to the problem.

However, there are several reasons why your Shih Tzu’s face might smell, and understanding them is the first step in finding a solution.

5 Reasons Why Your Shih Tzu’s Face Smells

Let’s take a closer look at each reason why your Shih Tzu’s face might smell:

1. Tear Staining

Tear staining is a common issue in Shih Tzus due to their facial structure and large, round eyes. When tears don’t drain properly, they can accumulate under the eyes and cause the fur to become discolored. This moist environment is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and yeast, which can produce a foul odor. Factors that contribute to tear staining include allergies, eye irritation, and blocked tear ducts.

So if your Shih Tzu seems to have smelly eyes, this is why!

2. Dental Problems

Shih Tzus are prone to dental issues such as periodontal disease, tooth decay, and gingivitis due to their small mouths and crowded teeth. These dental problems can cause bad breath, which may contribute to a smelly face. In addition, dental issues can lead to infections, tooth loss, and other health complications if not addressed.

3. Skin Fold Infections

The skin folds on a Shih Tzu’s face are adorable, but they can also trap moisture, dirt, and bacteria. When these substances accumulate in the skin folds, they can cause infections, such as pyoderma (bacterial skin infection) or dermatitis (skin inflammation). These infections often produce a strong, unpleasant odor and may also cause redness, swelling, and discomfort for your Shih Tzu.

4. Ear Infections

Ear infections are another common issue in Shih Tzus, as their floppy ears can trap moisture and bacteria. When an ear infection occurs, it can produce a foul-smelling discharge and cause your Shih Tzu’s face to smell. In addition, ear infections can be painful and may lead to more severe health issues if left untreated.

5. Food Debris

Since Shih Tzus have long facial hair, it’s not uncommon for food particles to get stuck in their fur during mealtime. As the food debris breaks down, bacteria can multiply, producing an unpleasant odor. This issue can be exacerbated if your Shih Tzu has a messy eating habit or their facial hair isn’t properly groomed.

Now that we know the potential causes of a smelly face in Shih Tzus let’s discuss some solutions.

Solutions to a Smelly Shih Tzu Face

In related to the main causes let’s run through the solutions available.

➡️ Tear Staining

  • Keep the area clean: Regularly wipe the area under your Shih Tzu’s eyes with a clean, damp cloth or a pet-safe grooming wipe. This can help remove any buildup of discharge and bacteria.
  • Trim the hair around the eyes: Carefully trim the hair around your Shih Tzu’s eyes to prevent it from getting wet and collecting bacteria.
  • Consult your vet: If tear staining is severe or persistent, consult your vet for advice. They may recommend treatments, such as eye drops or dietary supplements, to help reduce excessive tearing.

➡️ Dental Problems

  • Brush your Shih Tzu’s teeth: Regularly brushing your Shih Tzu’s teeth can help prevent dental issues and bad breath. Use a pet-safe toothpaste and a soft-bristled toothbrush designed for dogs.
  • Provide dental chews and toys: Dental chews and toys can help reduce plaque buildup and promote good dental health.
  • Schedule regular dental checkups: Regular dental checkups with your vet can help identify and address any dental problems before they become more serious.

➡️ Skin Fold Infections

  • Clean the skin folds: Regularly clean your Shih Tzu’s facial folds with a clean, damp cloth or a pet-safe grooming wipe. Be gentle and ensure you’re not causing any discomfort.
  • Keep the area dry: After cleaning the skin folds, gently pat them dry with a clean towel to prevent moisture buildup.
  • Apply a barrier cream: Your vet may recommend using a barrier cream or ointment to help protect your Shih Tzu’s skin folds from moisture and bacteria.

➡️ Ear Infections

  • Check your Shih Tzu’s ears regularly: Inspect your Shih Tzu’s ears for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or discharge.
  • Clean your Shih Tzu’s ears: Clean your Shih Tzu’s ears with a pet-safe ear cleaner, following the instructions on the product label. Be gentle and ensure you’re not causing any discomfort.
  • Consult your vet: If you suspect your Shih Tzu has an ear infection, visit your vet for a proper diagnosis and treatment.

➡️ Food Debris

  • Wipe your Shih Tzu’s face after meals: Use a clean, damp cloth or a pet-safe grooming wipe to remove any food particles from your Shih Tzu’s face after they eat.
  • Trim the facial hair: Keep the hair around your Shih Tzu’s mouth and chin trimmed to prevent food particles from getting stuck.

When to Visit a Vet

It’s essential to consult your vet if:

  • Your Shih Tzu’s smelly face persists despite trying the solutions mentioned above.
  • You notice signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or discharge in the eyes, ears, or skin folds.
  • Your Shih Tzu appears to be in pain or discomfort when you’re cleaning their face.
  • There are changes in your Shih Tzu’s behavior, such as loss of appetite or lethargy.

Your vet can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend appropriate treatments to address the issue and improve your Shih Tzu’s overall health and well-being.

What Experts Say

Dr. Marty Becker, a renowned veterinarian and author, has talked about the importance of addressing the issue of a smelly face in dogs.

In an article on Vetstreet, Dr. Becker explains that facial folds, dental problems, and other issues can lead to unpleasant odors around a dog’s face, and that proper care and grooming are essential in keeping your furry friend smelling fresh and clean.

Dr. Becker’s insights underscore the importance of understanding the reasons behind a Shih Tzu’s smelly face and taking appropriate action to address the problem. By following the advice provided by experts like Dr. Becker, you can help keep your Shih Tzu healthy and happy.

You can learn more about Dr. Marty Becker’s expertise and tips on pet care by visiting his Vetstreet author page or checking out his official website.

Additional Resources

For more information on Shih Tzu care and health, check out these reputable sources:

  1. American Kennel Club (AKC) – Shih Tzu Dog Breed Information
  2. PetMD – Shih Tzu Health Problems and Lifespan
  3. VCA Hospitals – Basic Shih Tzu Healthcare

Remember, a healthy and well-groomed Shih Tzu is a happy Shih Tzu.

Regular grooming and preventive care can help minimize the risk of a smelly face and ensure your furry friend stays comfortable and content. Stay vigilant, and don’t hesitate to consult your vet if you have any concerns about your Shih Tzu’s health.


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.