You already know that Shih Tzus were favorite pets of Chinese royalty, as yours is probably king in your castle. You also know that your handsome dog requires constant grooming. Your familiarity with your dog's coat means you'll probably notice any skin disorders common to the breed fairly quickly.
A bacterial infection, pyoderma causes red, itchy pimplelike eruptions in a dog's skin. Hair loss and crusty lesions appear, along with acnelike pustules on the chin, face, trunk, feet and genitals. Your vet may recommend bathing with antibacterial shampoos, oral antibiotic administration and topical antibiotic ointment on lesions. Skin test may determine if allergies are causing or exacerbating the condition.
Signs of sebaceous adenitis include excessive dandruff, scaly skin, foul odor, skin thickening and hair loss ranging from mild to severe. The skin darkens, with secondary skin infections occurring. While sebaceous adenitis is incurable, treatment alleviates symptoms, allowing the dog to live comfortably if you continue combating the condition. Such treatment includes antibiotics for infections, regular bathing and lubrication of the skin. Sebaceous adenitis can be cyclical, so that just when you think it's under control it comes back in full force.
Although fleas strike all dogs, not all dogs react with flea allergies. Shih Tzus are especially susceptible to flea bites, so even one individual pest -- even its waste -- can cause your dog misery. Signs of flea bites allergy include hot spots, open sores and constant gnawing and scratching. Signs of fleas include tiny dark specks that turn a rust color if you smear them. Fortunately, flea allergies are among the most treatable allergies. A flea bath followed by regular topical applications of flea repellent usually does the trick. Depending on where you live, you may need to use flea repellents on your dog year-round.
Shih Tzus suffer from food allergies along with allergies to environmental elements such as pollen. Signs of allergy resemble those of other skin diseases, such as constant scratching, hair loss and lesions; your vet must conduct testing to determine the cause. While allergies aren't curable, you can control them with medications and dietary changes.
While you can't necessarily prevent skin disorders in your Shih Tzu, feeding your dog a high-quality diet may keep some skin issues from occurring or recurring. Ask your veterinarian about dog food or supplements that may aid in protecting your best friend's skin.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.