The Shih Tzu is a little pup with a very long and distinguished heritage. In a nutshell, if you are per parent to one of these adorable dogs he is truly a part of Ancient Chinese history!
These Lion Dogs - so called because that is what their breed name means in Chinese - were the lap dogs of Chinese royalty for centuries, living pampered, luxurious lives as favored members of court.
It was not until 1930 that the Western world ever got to ‘meet’ one of these bright eyed pups.
They came to Europe and the US via breed clubs in Peking, and have since been adopted by all kinds of people, and their ‘celebrity’ pet parents have been a diverse bunch too, as everyone from Miley Cyrus to Queen Elizabeth II has fallen for the great charms of the Shih Tzu.
Shih Tzus stand between 9 and 11 inches tall and usually weigh between 9 and 16 pounds. They are lively and affectionate pups - especially around children - but they are rarely fans of spending too much time exercising in the great outdoors.
Instead, they prefer to be allowed to do the same thing as their ancestors did - live as lovely little lap dogs who charm with personalities as much as they do with their good looks.
Because they are smaller dogs they might seem rather delicate, but the Shih Tzu is actually hardier than they look.
Nevertheless they are prone, as a breed to certain health problems and those health problems can become expensive to treat, unless their pet parents have has the foresight to plan for these expenses.
Common Shih Tzu Health Problems
Because they are an ancient breed, and their lineage has remained almost intact for centuries, the Shih Tzu is not a breed that is known to be affected by genetic ailments in the same way that some other 'newer' dog breeds are, and on the whole are generally sturdy, healthy pups, as we previously mentioned.
There are however some health conditions they may be more prone to developing that will usually call for vet treatment.
Keratitis is an eye ailment that can affect both dogs and their human pet parents. It is an inflammation of the cornea of the eye that can develop into an ulcer. That ulcer can be painful, can impair the pup's ability to see and should it become advanced can result in the need for surgery.
The costs of treating keratitis vary. If caught in the earliest stages, before an ulcer develops, a simple course of medicated eye drops and an improvement in eye hygiene may be all it takes to get a Shih Tzu pup back on track. If the keratitis is ulcerative, more treatment is called for.
This may include a biopsy of the cyst to ensure it is benign and, in very severe cases surgery to remove the cyst and part of the upper layer of the cornea, a procedure that can come along with a bill of several thousand dollars.
If there is one common thread when discussing common Shih Tzu health problems it is that a number of them affect their eyes. This is common in pups who have larger, prominent eyes and means that regular preventative eye health screenings are a must.
Proptosis occurs when the eyeball becomes dislodged from the socket and then the eyelid closes behind it. It can be as painful as it sounds, and prompt vet treatment is a must. Usually the condition is first noticed as an inflammation of the eye but can then become more obvious as the eye is pushed forward.
The good news is that surgery for proptosis is usually very effective. The potentially bad news is that eye surgeries for pups can be expensive, running into the several thousands and the ongoing aftercare may not be cheap either.
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)
Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA) occurs in Shih Tzus when the photoreceptors at the back of their eye begin to fail.
This will develop first as 'night blindness', and, as there is currently no known effective 'cure' for PRA will eventually lead to blindness. If however the condition is diagnosed early the affected pup can be prepared for a sightless life via training and behavior modification.
As is the case for many small dogs the Shih Tzu can be prone to all kinds of allergies. They often need to be fed carefully, as their smaller stomachs can be sensitive to certain ingredients and they may develop allergies to both outdoor pollutants like pollen and indoor pollutants like dust.
Allergy testing and then diet and environment changes are usually called for in most cases, but the emergency treatment of allergic reactions can result in a hefty vet bill.
The rather unique structure of a Shih Tzu's ears means that they are very prone to ear infections. Those fluffy, floppy ears cover up a long, warm ear canal that is often a breeding ground for several forms of bacteria, leading to painful ear infections.
The structure of the Shih Tzu’s ears makes them prone to ear infections. The floppy ears give way to a warm long canal, which can sometimes be the stomping ground for all kinds of bacteria.
These infections can usually be treated with a course of antibiotics and prevented via regular ear cleanings and checkups.
Shih Tzu Pet Health Insurance
All of the health conditions we have covered above may affect your precious Shih Tzu pup, but it is far from a certainty.
All dogs are susceptible to illness and injury though, which i why it is so important that they have access to a great vet - preferably one who familiar with them - from puppyhood.
A visit to the vet - especially in an emergency - is rarely cheap, and should your furkid need more extensive treatment the bills can mount up quickly, taking pet parents quite by surprise.
Humans avoid these kinds of large medical bills and nasty financial surprises thanks to their health insurance coverage.
Until relatively recently that was not an option for pets, but over the last decade or so more and more companies have begun offering pet health insurance, and an increasing number of pet parents are choosing to purchase it.
No doubt, as a pet parent, your first questions will be what does Shih Tzu pet health insurance cost and what does it cover? As these are perfectly natural and sensible questions it is an issue we'll take a look at next.
Shih Tzu Pet Insurance Costs
Like health insurance for humans, pet health insurance is usually charged via monthly premium, although a handful of companies do offer annual premiums that may score you a discount.
The price you will pay for Shih Tzu pet insurance will depend on a number of different things. These include your pet's age, breed, any existing health conditions they have been diagnosed with and your preferred level of coverage.
However, to give you a rough idea of what you may have to pay for health insurance for your pup we ran estimates for two marvelous Shih Tzu pups we know with one of the largest pet insurance companies to provide as examples.
Chinzo is a 1-year-old male Shih Tzu pup who is in good health and has been neutered. The costs below reflect monthly pricing for the most popular coverage package and cover several different deductible levels.
A deductible, by the way, is the amount you will have to cover in vet bills and associated expenses before the pet health insurance kicks in.
The next quote we requested was for Chinzo's friend from the dog park, Chun Li. She is a senior lady - although still very active - and at 7 years old as you might imagine her pet insurance quote is rather different and breaks down as follows:
These basic examples are offered to give you a very basic idea of what it might cost to insure your precious Shih Tzu pup. They were obtained from a single company and for specific pups.
Your quotes may be different and we'd also suggest shopping around and requesting at least two or three different quotes before making a final purchase decision.
Before you make that decision however there is one more thing you will need to pay attention to; the fine print.
What Does Shih Tzu Health Insurance Cover?
Price is certainly a major consideration when purchasing pet health insurance for your Shih Tzu but it is important that you know exactly what the coverage you will being paying for offers.
As you shop, you will find that you have several levels of coverage to choose from. Those that come with no deductible, or one that is very low are usually primarily designed to provide coverage in emergencies.
This can be a very comforting safeguard for a pet parent to know they have in place for their pup. Usually it will mean that they pay most of their standard vet visit fees themselves, but then the pet health insurance will pick up the bill in the case of emergency treatment resulting from a sudden illness or injury.
Knowing that the bill is one less thing to worry about when you have a very poorly pup can be a wonderful thing.
'Mid-level' pet health insurance policies often cover many of the basics of routine healthcare, including the general wellness visits that every pup should have at least once a year, essential vaccinations and some maintenance medications.
These plans can be exceptionally well-suited for an older Shih Tzu like Chun Li, as although she is in good health right now it is likely that her age will begin to catch up with her and she will become more prone to age-related illness.
Some plans also offer additional, less expected benefits. Some cover alternative wellness treatments like acupuncture, physical therapy and behavior correction.
These services may come along with an additional monthly charge - in Chinzo's case, for example, an extra $19.99 a month would offer him access to of acupuncture, chiropractic and behavior modification classes, all of which some pet parents have found to be very beneficial for their pup's general health and wellbeing.
There will be things that it is hard to find coverage for, however. Illnesses considered to be hereditary or genetic are often not covered and neither are many pre-existing conditions.
The Shih Tzu is not a pup prone to these however, and that is reflected in the fact that the sample health insurance quotes were lower than many we have run for other breeds in the past that have a history of inherited health issues.
You should also make sure you understand how your pet's health costs will be reimbursed.
The majority of pet health care companies provide after the fact reimbursement, which means that you pay the vet bill and then submit it to the insurance company for reimbursement.
There are some plans that will reimburse a vet directly, but it may not be for the full amount - 80-90% is standard - and you will be left to cover any remaining balance yourself.
Final Thoughts on Insuring Your Shih Tzu Pet
Every pet parent wants to do the best they can for their furkid, and for many that increasing includes purchasing pet health insurance to help ensure that they can get the things they need - and the vet treatment they need to remain happy and healthy for as long as possible.
In the end the best thing to do, if you are considering buying a health insurance plan for your Shih Tzu is to do your research.
Almost all of the major insurance companies provide quick quotes online or over the phone, and state clearly what is and is not covered.
It is up to you to then take that information and after factoring in the coverage level, your dog's current health and your own finances make an informed decision that is right for you and your pup.