Does Your Shih Tzu Have An Eye Infection? How To Tell and What To Do


It may look absolutely adorable when your pup rubs his face or gives you that silly, squinty stare, but the possible reason for these precious antics isn’t so cute; it could be an eye infection.

Tan and white Shih Tzu looking out window

Shih Tzu are prone to several eye issue because of how their eyes tend to stick out of their sockets.

What’s important for you to know is what signs to keep an eye out for (no pun intended) so that you can act quickly if and when a problem presents itself.

When your Shih Tzu has an eye infection, there are several things that can tip you off to his condition. Symptoms like discharge, redness, frequent blinking, squinting, pawing at the eye, and swelling are all signs that an infection could be present. Your pup might even keep his eye closed, making him look like a puppy pirate.

If you believe your dog has an eye infection, the best course of action is to bring him to a vet as soon as possible.

Left untreated, infections have the potential to lead to more serious complications, they can spread to the other eye, and they can even result in complete vision loss.

So, how do you tell if your Shih Tzu has an eye infection?

What Are the Signs of an Eye Infection in Shih Tzu?

The crazy thing about eye infections is that your pup may seem perfectly healthy aside from a little bit of redness in his eyes you suspect are due to allergies, or maybe he just suddenly wants to rub his eye often, but it appears to be fine.

Of course, there are other times when your Shih Tzu’s eye dilemma is much more obvious, such as swelling, discharge, or keeping his eye closed.

Basically, you need to always be aware of any changes in your dog’s behavior.

You know your pup better than anyone; for example, if all of a sudden he seems to be winking at you all of the time, it’s doubtful he’s saying hello or flirting with the dog next door.

If you notice any of these symptoms of an eye infection, contact your vet right away and have your dog examined:

  • Redness in or around the eye
  • Swelling
  • A bad smell coming from the eye
  • Discharge that is unusual, excessive, thick, or smelly
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Frequent blinking or winking
  • Your dog appears to be squinting
  • Your dog is keeping his eye closed, or perhaps he is unable to open his eye
  • Your dog keeps pawing or scratching at his eye
  • Your dog is bumping into things; doesn’t seem to see as well

What Eye Issues Can Shih Tzu Develop?

There are several different eye problems that can lead to infection, but infection can also be the cause of some conditions, which is why it is essential to have anything out of the ordinary addressed immediately.

Although any dog can experience problems with their eyes, Shih Tzu are prone to quite a few issues thanks to their distinctive, protruding eyes.

Here is a look at the different eye conditions that can plague Shih Tzu (as well as other dogs):

  • Pink-Eye (Conjunctivitis)

This condition usually results from a bacterial infection and can pass from one dog to another.

There is usually some discharge and swelling, and the white of the eye normally turns pink. It is fairly easy to treat with antibiotics.

  • Cherry-Eye

Did you know that your pup has a third eyelid?  This additional lid includes a gland that produces most of his tears.

When this gland becomes dislodged (usually because the tissue around it weakens) it pops out a bit at the corner of the eye, resembling a small cherry.

Although it doesn’t cause your dog any discomfort, it can reduce tear production and cause dry eye.

The only way to resolve it is with surgery, although sometimes medications can help if they are started immediately.

There is still some debate in the world of veterinary medicine if all cases of cherry-eye need to be treated as long as they are consistently monitored and not causing any issues.

  • Progressive Retinal Atrophy (PRA)

This genetic disorder is when your dog’s retina degenerates over time, eventually leading to loss of vision. Unfortunately, there is no way to fix or reverse the condition.

  • Ingrown Eyelashes

An ingrown eyelash may not sound like a big deal, but it can cause significant damage, including corneal ulcers, damage to the lens, and even impaired vision.

Simply plucking the lash won’t work, it usually needs to be treated with antibiotics.

  • Glaucoma

Glaucoma is when there’s an increase in pressure within the eye due to improper drainage of liquid.

It can be a stand-alone issue or it can be caused by an infection in the eye.

This condition can be very painful and lead to vision loss.

Sometimes medicine can help, but other times the affected eye is removed.

  • Cataracts

Although most often seen in older dogs, a cataract (a cloudy film over the eye) can also result from an injury to the eye.

Cataracts start small and then eventually cover the whole eye, resulting in blindness if not removed.

  • Inverted Eyelid (Entropion)

This is when the eyelid turns inward usually because of an injury or infection and causes the eyelashes to rub against the eye.

Surgery is often needed to correct the issue.

  • Corneal Ulcers

These ulcers occur when the cornea ruptures, causing fluid to leak out of the eye.

Since Shih Tzu have protruding eyes, they are more susceptible to ulcers since they can be caused by things like scratching the eye, rubbing it against furniture or on the rug, and even wind.

However, corneal ulcers can also result from ingrown eyelashes, injury, or viral and bacterial infections.

Medication can usually resolve the issue within 3 to 5 days.

  • Excessive Tearing (Epiphora)

This issue is common in Shih Tzu because of a combination of their protruding eyes and their flat faces.

Their tears can’t always properly drain back into their nose and throat, and instead, stream down their face.

Epiphora can be caused by an overproduction of tears or possibly a blocked tear duct.

  • Dry Eye

On the opposite end of the spectrum from Epiphora is when your pup doesn’t produce enough tears, causing a dry cornea.

This condition can usually be treated with drops or ointments, and in rare cases, surgery.

  • Proptosed Globes

Possibly one of the scariest eye issues to witness, this condition is when a dog’s eye comes out of the socket, usually from a head injury. Surgery is sometimes effective at replacing the eye, but vision is usually compromised.

What To Do If Your Dog Has an Eye Infection

First things first, never assume that any eye problem will just go away on its own.

Don’t try to treat your dog by yourself.

Make an appointment with your vet to learn the exact problem so that the appropriate treatment can be started right away; many eye issues can be easily handled if caught quickly.

If it is a more serious condition, speedier treatment can mean the difference between your pup losing his vision or retaining his sight.

Tips To Avoid Eye Infections

It's always better to avoid getting an eye infection if it can be helped.

Although some eye conditions are unavoidable, like inherited diseases and the natural aging process, there are ways to help keep your Shih Tzu eyes in tip top shape and maybe keep an infection from occurring.

  • Keep the hair around the dogs eye trimmed

Long hair around your Shih Tzus eyes can cause irritation which causes them to rub their eyes which can lead to scratches and eventually an infection.

Carefully trimming long hair around your Shih Tzus eyes will help prevent these longer hairs from getting into your dogs eyes that cause the irritation.

  • Clean your dogs face often

A dirty face can seep into your dogs eye area. Keeping his face clean can prevent bacteria from forming and leading to infections.

Use a wet face cloth, or disposable dog wipes specifically made for dogs, daily or more often if needed.

Cleaning your Shih Tzus eyes at least once a day will go far in keeping infections to a minimum.

  • Use protective eye wear

Does your dog love to put his head out the window while on a car ride?

There could be a lot of debris like dust, sand, and other foreign bodies blowing around in the wind, getting into your dogs eyes and could cause an infection.

Max, tan and white Shih Tzu wearing blue dog gogglesMax wearing his Doggles

A good pair dog goggles (you may know them as "doggles") will help protect his eyes while still enjoying one of his favorite pastimes.

  • Avoid Injuries

This may sound obvious, but injuries can happen anytime, especially with a Shih Tzu large, protruding eyes.

Playtime with another pet can lead to eye injuries, but that doesn't mean they can't play, just try to monitor it more closely and if it seems to be getting out of hand, separate them before it escalates into aggression.

Other injuries can be caused simply by playing ball with your dog if it accidently hits him in the eye.

Or a leash that rubs up against their eyes can cause injury if it scratches across his eye ball.  It's best to keep leashes, especially rope leashes, away from your dogs eyes when going on your walks.

If after taking all these precautions and you've washed your dogs face you still see signs of irritation, swelling and redness in your Shih Tzu eyes. 

You know what to what to do next... schedule that visit to the Vet for an examination of your dogs eyes and help squash any infection.

You might like these