Pet Insurance for Shih Tzus: A Dog whose Superpower is Loyalty

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Loyalty as Strong as a Lion: Why you need Pet Insurance for a Shih Tzu

Lion dog or Chrysanthemum dog, whatever you call a Shih Tzu, they've a strong desire to stay right by your side. 

Of course when a canine companion is your constant shadow, you miss them big time when they spend time at the vet's. Which means when they're sick, you want the best pawsible treatment to speed them back home. This alone is a strong argument for putting in place pet insurance for a Shih Tzu!

Long Term Conditions: Teeth, Eyes, and Allergies...

Shih Tzu health problems tend to be long-term ones such as allergies, poor teeth, or hormonal disorders. Often these conditions can only be controlled rather than cured, with a long term commitment to medication. Whilst the initial outlay may not seem much, as the months and years go by, it all mounts up. 

This is one reason it's important to grasp the types of problems Shih Tzu suffer from. Only from an informed position and knowing the likely costs involved, can you decide on the best type of health insurance policy for your dog. 

Why Pet Insurance for Shih Tzus is a Good Idea

But we don't mean to be down-hearted. Quite the opposite in fact. Modern veterinary medicine means there are excellent treatments available to improve the health and quality of life of Shih Tzu with long-term conditions. Just don't let the depth of your pocket be the deciding factor. Instead, choose wisely and take out pet insurance for your Shih Tzu

So let's get up close and pawsonal with an intimate look at Shih Tzu health problems.

Health Concerns and Treatment Costs for Shih Tzus

Condition

Signs

Treatment

Cost

Dental disease

Bad breath

Wobbly teeth

Antibiotics and pain relief

Dental x-rays, descale, and extractions

Consult + antibiotics £50+

Descale and extractions under anesthetic £350+

Dry eye

Red, sore, and inflamed eyes

Tacky discharge

Impaired vision

Topical eye drops and artificial tears

Special eyedrops costing £70 / tube

Artificial tears £30 /month

Allergic skin disease

Obsessive licking of the paws

Repeated ear infections

Low allergy foods

Immunotherapy vaccines

Regular medications

Steroids £30 /month

Special food £50 /month

Individual vaccine £500 to develop

Start of the art medication £2 / day

Cushing's disease

Hunger and thirst

Pot belly

Poor coat condition

Rafts of blood tests to pinpoint the problem

Daily medication for life

​Diagnostic tests £300+

Cost of Vetoryl £40-80 /month

Yeast infections

Greasy feeling skin

Itchiness

Antifungal washes, wipes, or medication

Special shampoo £20 - 30 bottle

Antifungal wipes £20 / pack 

Heart valve disease

A hacking cough

Lack of energy

Swollen belly

Long term medication

Imaging and investigation £200-1,000

Monthly medication £30 - 90

Portosystemic (liver) shunts

Seizures, mental confusion and poor weight gain in young dogs

Surgical correction

Specialist surgery £4,000 +

Anal tumors in male dogs 

Lumps that bleed, found near the anus

Surgical removal and castration

Surgery £400-1,000

Bladder stones

Blood in the urine

Difficulty passing water

Surgical removal 

Special diets

Surgery £1,200 + 

Prescription food £50 /month

Let’s look in more detail at some of the problems vets see every day with the Shih Tzus breed.

Many of Shih Tzu problems are controllable but require regular medication. Taking out pet insurance helps to insulate your from these long terms costs.

Dental disease

The Shih Tzu is notorious (in a good way) for showing his bottom row of teeth. This is because an ‘undershot’ jaw is common in the breed. This means the lower jaw is slightly longer than the upper, and so the bottom row of incisors peek about from underneath his lip.

Whilst this is a cute look, it’s also a sign that the teeth aren’t lined up properly, which can lead to dental health issues. In addition, the Shih Tzu mouth is often crowded with teeth at odd angles, which makes for nooks and crannies for tartar to build-up.

Your best bet is to clean your dog’s teeth from puppyhood [See our Toothpaste review and great Chew Review ] However, even then that crowded mouth makes professional dental attention more likely as the years pass. Plan ahead by taking out pet insurance for Shih Tzu that will meet these expenses.

This does mean being a savvy shopper because not all insurance companies reimburse the costs linked of a dental descale or extractions. Be sure to do your research and if in doubt ask the representative a direct question about what aspects of dental health are covered.

Dry Eye

Have you ever had hot itchy eyes from a long flight in an air-conditioned cabin? Well, imagine this, only ten times worse, all-day every day. This is a fraction of the discomfort suffered by dogs with “Dry eye.”

The cause is a failure of the tear glands to produce natural lubricants that keep the surface of the eye hydrated. This leads to itchy uncomfortable eyes and over time the cornea scars over and protects itself with thick tacky mucus. The latter can be so extreme the dog can’t see and is blind.

The underlying reason for dry eye is an immune-mediated disease. Here the body’s immune system turns on its own tissues and shuts down those tear-producing glands.

Effective treatments are available, in the form of eye drops which turn off this unwanted attack. However, this comes at a price – literally. A small tube of ointment that lasts 2 – 6 weeks (depending on how often it is applied) costs around £75. In addition, you need to regularly drop artificial tears into the eye, to protect and condition the cornea. Covering the cost can be eye-watering, in which case insurance cover could make things look a lot brighter.

Allergic skin disease

Shih Tzus are prone to food, pollen, and environmental allergies. Food allergies can show up as stomach upsets, itchy skin, or recurrent ear inflammation. The dog that suffers frustratingly regular ear infections, may well have a food allergy driving the problem.

Another manifestation of allergies is obsessive paw licking…indeed licking and chewing in general. This can be so bad the dog chews himself raw or stops their owner sleeping at night!

Allergic skin disease is frustrating because it’s a matter of control, rather than cure. Whilst there’s good news in that modern drugs are effective and safe, there’s also bad news that these drugs are expensive. And when your Shih Tzu needs medication for life, this mounts up to a considerable cost. Therefore, to protect yourself against long-term expense, seek out a pet insurance policy that gives lifetime cover for a condition is the pre-furr-ed option.

Cushing’s Disease

This is another condition that is controlled rather than cured, but on the plus side its most likely to affect older dogs (rather than youngsters as happens with skin allergies.)

The symptoms of Cushing’s disease include:

– Eating and drinking a lot

– Lack of energy

– A pot belly

– A thinning coat and skin

– Blackheads and spots

The above are all side effects caused by the body producing too much natural steroid. Accurately diagnosing Cushing’s disease requires a raft of blood tests to pinpoint whether the problem lies with the brain or the adrenal gland. From this the appropriate treatment is chosen, which is most often a drug called trilostane.

Accurately diagnosing Cushing’s disease requires a raft of blood tests to pinpoint whether the problem lies with the brain or the adrenal gland. The results then point towards an appropriate treatment, which is most often a drug called trilostane (Vetoryl). This needs to be taken for life and…you guessed it…it’s expensive. Another case of a pet insurance policy with lifetime cover being ideal.

Portosystemic Shunts

Mother Nature is very clever. In the womb, a puppy doesn’t need to detoxify their bloodstream, so a blood vessel bypasses or ‘shunts’ blood past the liver. When the puppy is born they now need their liver to filter blood and so that shunt shuts down. However, for some puppies, this doesn’t happen and the shunt remains open. The upshot is the liver doesn’t do its job of cleaning toxins out of the bloodstream and the puppy slowly poisons himself.

Symptoms of this include poor growth, mental confusion (especially after eating when levels of toxins are highest) and seizures. Left untreated this condition is life-limiting and to turn things around the pet parent has the choice between medical management or surgery.

Surgery to tie-off the shunt is the gold standard but it is expensive.  Medical therapy can improve quality of life by managing the symptoms, but it doesn’t close the shunt and so a shortened life is almost inevitable. The pet parent without insurance then faces some tough decisions.

Anal Tumours

Bringing up the rear in our romp through health conditions affecting Shih Tzus, are anal tumours in male dogs. The male hormone, testosterone, feeds glands near the dog’s rectum. Over the months and years of the dog’s life, this overstimulates those glands which can transform into cancerous growths.

These lumps don’t usually spread to other parts of the body, but they can grow quite big. In addition, they sometimes break open into sores, which get dirty when the dog toilets. Surgical removal of the lump is best, along with neutering to remove the source of all that male hormone.

One issue is that this condition tends to occur in middle-aged to older dogs. They need extra special care when it comes to an anaesthetic, which involves pre-op blood tests and intravenous fluids during the procedure. This makes having a pet insurance for your Shih Tzu a useful way of meeting a large one-off vet bill.

Pet Insurance for Shih Tzu

From the ongoing costs of treating allergies to the one-off expense of removing a tumour, pet insurance for your Shih Tzu is a great way of repaying your lion-dog’s loyalty.  It enables you to choose the best treatment to get your pet pal back on their paws, rather than have the depth of your pocket decide.

But remember, it can be difficult to find cover from scratch for an older dog. The sure-fire way to have cover in later life is to start insuring the dog as a puppy and then keep renewing the policy.  If you’re a little hazy on how pet insurance for Shih Tzu work, then check out our invaluable guide:  No Nonsense Guide to Finding the Best Pet Insurance for Dogs

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