Shih Tzu Eye Problems

In the year and a half since we’ve adopted Twilight, he has had two separate incidents with his eyes! Shih Tzu are notorious for eye problems and diseases due to their short noses, long hair, and large eyes. A responsible Shih Tzu owner should be caring for the eyes on a daily basis and able to recognize symptoms of many different eye diseases.

Common Shih Tzu Eye Problems:

1. Corneal Ulcers

Corneal ulcers are caused by an injury to the eye, usually a scratch. This problem has brought Twilight and me to the vet twice! Your Shih Tzu may paw at his eyes, keep the affected eye closed, and/or have excess tears. With Twilight, we could generally see the corneal ulcer as a thin scratch line on his eye. You will have to go to the vet, who will prescribe antibiotics and eye drops to decrease the pain and heal your dog’s eye

2. Eyelash Issues

There are two major types of eyelash problems that Shih Tzu can develop: distichiasis (growth of an eyelash in an abnormal spot) and trichiasis (an ingrown eyelash).  You can usually see the eyelash affecting your dog. As many readers probably know, a plucked eyelash will only grow back. The vet will have to treat the eyelash to remove it.

3. Cataracts

Cataracts usually occurs in dogs that are 8 years and older. It “clouds” the lens and decreases your dog’s ability to see. Like in people, cataracts can lead to blindness and requires surgery.

4. Conjunctivitis (pink eye)

Like humans, dogs can also get pink eye! Symptoms include a pink or red eye, discharge and excess tears, keeping one eye closed, swelling around the eye, and pawing of the affected region. Pink eye can be caused by bacteria, viruses, or allergies and must be analyzed by a vet before treatment can be prescribed. A cautionary note: pink eye can be transmitted between humans and dogs, so be careful!

5. Tear Ducts

There are a few problems that can occur with tear ducts. Excessive tearing (epiphora) and possibly bad drainage lead to constant discharge of tears onto your dog’s hair. Your Shih Tzu’s facial hair may start to get a bad smell as the discharge collects on his/her hair and skin. This smell is caused by an overgrowth of the Shih Tzu’s normal bacteria. Many things, such as hair, swelling, or injury, can block tear ducts. If your vet suspects your dog to have blocked tear ducts, he or she will add a harmless dye called fluorescein to your dog’s eye. The dye will reveal any corneal ulcers and how the tears are flowing from the eye. Alternatively, the vet may use a Schirmer Tear Test: a strip that runs a dye as the dog’s tears travel along the paper. This test reveals whether your dog has excessive tear production.

Although this list gives you a start on what symptoms and diseases to look out for, you should always consult your vet if you suspect something is wrong with your Shih Tzu’s eyes. Always take care of Shih Tzu eye problems as soon as possible.


  1. sheila says

    my 13 + yo shih tzu has been having ongoing eye problems for about 2 years now. the vet did a test on her and says she is NOT producing near enough tears, and i give her Optitixcare as well as Restasis for people. it helped at first, but now i am scraping green green gunk out of her eyes several times a day. she has also been diagnosied w/ the type of mange that starts w/ d, not the contagious kind, and i have resorted to giving her ivomex for that, which, amaziningly she responded wonderfully the first few times, but now it seems to not be helping. she also has one awful ear that i just cannot seem to get well. she appears in no pain, although i know her vision is prob less than 10% at the present time. she has been my baby since she was 5 weeks old, and stayed right by my side thru 3 year long rounds of chemo myself. the vet is basically saying i am doing all i can do, and she seems to b eating/drinking/ and just tired a lot. i know she is in “extra innings” (my own vets quote) but is there anything else anyone can suggest? i feed her the best dogfood, she drinks and eats well, but is now refusing to go up or down any steps, and i am sure that is related to her vision. any help would be greatly appreciated. thanks so much. i am thankful she is not in pain, but the constant gunk (green and think) that is getting worse in her eyes is just so hard to manage. if i am not home, when i get home, both her eyes are completely gunked shut. i have used every antibiotic, steroid, lubes for eyes, for both ppl and dogs, and it just seems to be getting worse and worse. the vet is really at a loss right now. she just says to try and keep them lubricated and clean. once treated w/ the ivomec, the loss of hair has went completely away, but the vet is still blaming this more of an immune disorder than anything else and offering no more than what i am already doing. its just so sad to see her in such shape. any help would be greatly appreciated… thanks :) sheila

    • Tanja says

      Hi Sheila,

      I’m sorry that you’re Shih Tzu is experiencing so many problems. It’s nice seeing how your dog helped you through tough times – it’s hard when you want to return the favour. Unfortunately, I’m not a vet – so I can only offer personal advice. If you’re wondering if there’s anything else you can do, try a second opinion from another vet (the same way you would as a person). For eye cleaning, the best you can do is tears and washing her face. I found with Twilight that washing his face helped clean it, so he wasn’t itching at it anymore and creating even more goop. Keeping her hair short may help if you’re not already doing that. Although we let Twilight grow his hair out, I think he prefers when it’s short. He scratches at himself less and his facial hair doesn’t retain the goop. I wish I could offer you more help – but every Shih Tzu is different.

      I know it’s hard… but it seems like you’re doing everything you can for her. Just try to give her the best you can now. Although she can’t say it in human words, know that she unconditionally loves you.

      I hope I was a little helpful! And I invite all my readers to respond to Sheila as well.


    • Julia says

      Hi Sheila
      I am sorry your shih tzu is suffering. Has the vet tested her liver enzymes? With eye care sometimes less is more…too much eye washing can also irritate the eyes. Try to minimize the amount of products you are using. Try the warm compress in the morning and then lubricate the eyes with gen-teal drops. My shih tzu boy is 11 and I use the Gen teal ‘ointment’ at night, when he goes to the groomer or is going outside to play… it protect his eyes from irritants.
      You may need to check her diet, although you are feeding her high quality food, she made need more or less of something due to age. My shih tzus skin improved after I stopped feeding them chicken or food with chicken by products. My vet recommends sticking to one type of protein so even if the food comes in flavors…stick with one protein…like beef or lamb or venison. My dogs eat Addiction Beef ..its a dehydrated food, I add warm water and green beans…they love it!

      • Tanja says

        Thanks for your input Julia! I’m always looking for new tips and tricks for dog owners. Thanks for contributing to the Shih Tzu care community. =) I hope you continue reading! And I hope the advice was helpful to you as well Sheila.

      • Pam says

        Just reading this because my shih tzu that’s 6yrs old has been having eye problems for awhile and notice you wrote something about checking liver enzymes. Does liver enzymes have anything to do with eye problems because my shih tzu also has had an elevated liver enzymes around 400 for the last 2 yrs. Thanks in advance! :-)

        • Julia says

          Hi, I mentioned the liver enzyme test because Sheila mentioned a whole lot of problems which could be related. My 6 yr old shih tzu often has asymptomatic elevated enzymes (alkp over 1200!!!) we restricted her diet…no treats and a daily denamarin pill. Denamarin contains SAMe and milk thistle which are known to calm the liver and detox. Elevated enzymes usually relate to Cushing Disease, bilirubin problems etc or some type of ingested toxin. 2months after stopping rawhide chews and other treats her level dropped to 500… Hopefully next week it will be lower still…. My dogs now only get organic treats or just vegetables or salmon treats.

        • Tanja says

          Furthermore, eye infections can be signs of whole-system infections. Usually, these infections affect the liver first. Like humans, the liver is the first detoxification organ of their bodies! That’s why vets will check your dog’s liver enzymes if he or she comes in with an eye infection and a fever.

  2. Julia says

    PS , I don’t buy any food or treats made in China….if they can poison their own children, god knows what they put in dog food. I avoid anything with red food coloring as this causes the staining. I wipe around my dogs eyes with a warm wash cloth morning and night. When they go to get groomed I put Genteal ointment in to prevent bits of hair etc scratching or soap irritation then I rinse it out after with eye wash solution. The hair on their faces is kept relatively short too.

    • Pam says

      Thank you so much for all your input! :-) I hope your baby gets all better! Shih tzu’s can be alot of work but are so worth it! Mine is the heart of our family! <3

    • Tanja says

      I’m glad that I’m creating a community of advice. The health posts are the hardest to write, since I’m not a vet. Remember that if you suspect something’s wrong, go to the vet. But eye care is important in PREVENTATIVE medicine. You don’t have to go to the vet if the problems don’t develop in the first place.

      • julie roberts says

        For My Shih Tzu, I put organic, raw coconut oil on his eyelids and tear stains, every couple of days. It seems to prevent infection and build up of crusty stinky tear stains. It supposedly has antibiotic, antibacterial and anti east properties in it.

        I also have to feed Him GRAIN FREE dog food, which seems to reduce the production of yeast, preventing itching of skin and preventing ear infections. I use NutriSource grain free.

        • Tanja says

          Hello Julie – thanks for your contribution! I think that I’ll read into this more. I love the use of natural products for dogs.

    • Tanja says

      Thanks! I don’t know if the topic is taboo, but I think people should discuss health problems and preventative care with each other. I think dog owners go into the relationship under-prepared. We should get pre-dog courses the same way women get pre-natal courses! (But a dog is a tad bit easier than a baby, to be fair.)

  3. Rhonda says

    I have at 15+ yeAr old shitzu that has presented what I thought was an eye infection. A bit hazzy and bloodshot.
    It now is swollen and really red but it looks like the eye ball or cornea is swollen. He does have cateracts.
    I have been giving him drops but they aren’t helping. I am reserved to take him to the vet as he is really nervous . I just want his final days, weeks years to be comfortable

    • Tanja says

      I’m sorry for replying so late, which is why I try to do quick replies on Twitter (@ShihTzuGo). Eye infections may be a sign of underlying infections, especially in the liver. If he has a fever (I advise purchasing a thermometer to use like they do at the vet), definitely take him. Even though he might be frightened while at the vet, it’s the best way to keep him safe and as healthy as possible.

      Lastly, I know it’s hard once your dog starts getting on in years. Do your best in his final moments, but know that sometimes (as hard as this sentence is for me to even write or think) you have to let the vet “take your dog to a better place.” No matter what happens in this last part of his life, know that he led a fulfilled and happy one at your side. Both his and your lives are better for having been with each other.

    • Karen King says

      We had a 16 yr old Shih Tzu who also had eye problems. They started to develop when he was 15. One eye was in very bad shape, what looked like a scratch on his eye. Was always dripping . We took him to vet , the vet said he had too much pressure behind his eye and would only get worse and it did. We had to have the eye removed completely. His other eye was pretty good until one day I started seeing cataract in that eye. He could hardly see anymore. I felt so sorry for him. Went to the vet to see if there was anything she could give him. She gave him eye drops, for clearing and drops for pain. We had to go back in a week for vet to check his eyes. They were no better. You might a well say he was totally blind now. He bumps into everything at home and walks around in circles when he’s outside. His condition was getting worse. His quality of life was diminishing every day. No spark in him, always sleeping. We had to show him where his water was, he couldn’t find it. My husband and I decided to it was time to put him down. The saddest and heartbreaking day I will never forget.

  4. Ruthanne Davie says

    My 8 yr old Shih Tzu has always had allergies and eye problems these last few years. My vet told me he wasn’t producing enough tears so he was on drops and artificial tears. Then his left eye began to produce a thick nasty mucus that would sometimes make his eye lids get stuck together. I would have to use a warm towel to loosen up the mucus and clean his eyes which made him very unhappy. The vet suggested I continue with the same medication. Then I noticed his right eye started to have the same symptoms and the left was now protruding from the socket. I took him to a dog opthamologist who diagnosed him with glaucoma. He has no sight in his left and minimal sight in the right. He’s been on loads of eye drops for a week but the vet all but told me the eye will need to be removed. I’m so worried about the second eye going soon as well and the surgeries are expensive. I guess I’m just venting because he’s so young and I have no choice but to have the surgery. Friends recommend putting him down but I just can’t do that. :(

    • Tanja says

      I’m sorry for the late reply. It’s hard to deal with situations like you are going through. If you have pet insurance, you may be able to claim some of the surgeries expenses. I believe some charities also exist that may help with the cost burden (I’m not sure about this – you would have to look it up!) I understand how hard it is to deal with a dog’s illness, but if he can live a good life without the eyes, why should you have to put him down? Do what you feel is right for your dog and your family. I can’t tell you much more than that, as I’ve never had to put a dog down. :( I’m sorry, and always remember the love that your dog and you share.

  5. says

    our 12 year old “Sugar” is so precious. We have never loved any pet like her. With her eye problems I have found this site very helpful. Just knowing that it is common makes me feel better, however, also a little sad since there seems to be a lot of the same problems and treatments but none which are a cure.
    In addition to her eyes, she has warts all over her body too! They don’t seem to bother her with the exception of a couple which we are planning to have removed. They say they will come back but the vet says the ones she removes will not come back?

  6. Artimese Epps says

    My 9 year old Shih Tuz 2 year old yorkie friend was killed on April 1st. Prior to Louie being killed, I tried giving them both my time, but Louie got more because of his aggressiveness. Louie death have left me crying a lot and my Shih Tzu (Kaluche) sees this and now we have gotten closer. Now I see he is missing Louie, smelling Louie’s beds and being in the days. On yesterday I took Kaluche to be groom, upon picking him up the groomer said he had cateracts in his right eye. Prior to taking him to be groom I did notice that eye was watery, but thought it was from him crying for Louie. Looking at the eye now it’s half close and watery also under that eye look to be swollen. Kaluche allowed me to put a warm compress on it. Can’t take him to the vet until next week. What should I do in the mean time?

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