Scratch Dog or Not – Are Shih Tzu’s Hypoallergenic?

If you are one of the numerous Americans who suffer from pet allergies but would love to have a dog in your life, the good news is; even though, encountering some dogs may make your eyes water and itch, there are certain breeds which cause little or no reaction bring on the hypoallergenic Shih Tzu, a small allergy friendly breed originally from Tibet.


Is It True, Are Shih Tzu Dogs Hypoallergenic?

While there is much controversy over this with many claiming there is no such thing as a non-allergic dog. There are, particular breeds that are considered hypoallergenic and the good news is, yes, the Shih Tzu is considered one of the best hypoallergenic breeds.

What does hypoallergenic actually mean?

The meaning of this word causes a lot of confusion among allergy sufferers. It does not mean as is the popular assumption, non-allergic. While people state loudly there is no such thing as a dog that will not cause an allergic reaction, they are correct. However, there are breeds that produce less dander and hair causing lesser or reduced symptoms and this is what hypoallergenic actually means. So, do Shih Tzu's shed? Yes, but only a little and there is a low risk of it affecting those with mild to moderate allergies.

3 Reasons Why the Shih Tzu Is a Choice Breed Among Allergy Sufferers

  • You might think with that large bouffant and elaborate coat the Shih Tzu would cause big problems for allergy sufferers, but because these beautiful little dogs have hair not fur, don't shed much and produce little dander they have become one of the most popular dogs for people who suffer from low to moderate allergies.
  • The Shih Tzu is a small dog so it stands to reason the smaller the pooch the less allergens they produce compared to larger breeds.
  • Also because of their small size they are easy to bathe regularly and groom another important factor in keeping those pesky particles that cause you to break out in hives at bay.

Shih Tzu and allergies - What should I do?

Even though allergic reactions to small hypoallergenic breeds like the Shih Tzu are not common they can and do occur so it is essential to spend some time with the breed before rushing out to purchase one and ending up having to rehome your new best friend within a couple of months.

Shih Tzu's are among the 20 most popular breeds in the USA so there is a good chance you will know someone who has this breed at home. If you do ask to walk their dog for them or babysit their pooch when they travel to enable you to spend time with the breed and see if you start sneezing. You could also try:

  • Fostering a dog on a temporary basis. Shih Tzu's are one of the most common purebred dogs found in shelters and there are lots of breed specific rescues across the 50 states who are looking for foster homes for unwanted Shih Tzu's until a permanent home can be found. This is a great way to get acclimatized to the breed and see if they are right for you.
  • You can also get in touch with the the American Shih Tzu Club who could put you in touch with local contacts who will be happy to help you spend some time with the breed perhaps at nearby events or volunteering with a charity.

5 Ways to Reduce the Risk of An Allergic Reaction from Your Pooch

  • Keep a Shih Tzu's coat short, although they look beautiful with long flowing locks these dogs can be kept cleaner with a short back and sides and a clean dog is much better for allergy sufferers.
  • Bathe your hypoallergenic Shih Tzu regularly as much as once a week if using a top-quality moisturizing shampoo. It is possible to purchase anti-dander shampoos and while they may not eliminate the dander completely they can certainly have a positive effect.
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    Try an electronic air-purifier which removes airborne particles again they might not get rid of all the allergens but can certainly reduce them to a level so as not to trigger an attack.
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    Limit your pooch's access to carpeted areas in the home as these are prime areas for allergen build-up and definitely keep Fido out of the bedroom.
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    Learn to love housework vacuuming every day and wiping down surfaces with a cloth soaked in diluted fabric conditioner will help reduce the allergens in your home.

All about the Shih Tzu - Origin of the Breed

One of the oldest breeds the Shih Tzu dog originated in Tibet over a thousand years ago these little "lion dogs" (In case you were wondering what does Shih Tzu mean?) were highly valued by the Tibetan monks mainly because legend has it that Buddha was said to have travelled to earth on a lion which they resemble.

They were given as gifts to the Chinese emperors becoming great favorites during the Ming and Manchu dynasties. They were only allowed to be owned by royalty and anyone found with a purebred Shih Tzu outside the palace could be sentenced to death.

​When the Empress Tsu Hsi came to power in the 1860s she was given a breeding pair of incredible Shih Tzu's by the Dalai Lama. She became a great fan of the breed and this pair became the foundation of her pure line which were then given as gifts to European Nobility.

​The hypoallergenic Shih Tzu was recognized by the American Kennel Club in 1969 and has seen a meteoric rise in popularity over the years. From their royal beginnings in ancient China they are now found all over the world and let's be honest with their expressive soulful eyes, lovable natures and supermodel looks their appeal is plain to see.

General Appearance

Slightly longer than they are tall, a small compact dog the Shih Tzu size is up to 11 inches at the withers and a full-grown Shih Tzu's weight is between 9-16 pounds. They have large dark eyes and a short face that can result in breathing problems in some lines. They also have a distinctive underbite which is part of the Shih Tzu dog breed standard.

They have a long silky double coat which comes in a wide range of colors either solids or multi-colored. They have a well furred tail which is carried over the back and have a proud sometimes arrogant carriage, understandable if your ancestors sat around in royal palaces on silk cushions being pampered all day.


The hypoallergenic Shih Tzu temperament is one of contrasts they have many great qualities and some Shih Tzu characteristics that are not so great. They are not the brightest of dogs and have a stubborn streak meaning they can be difficult to train and housebreak as dog urine can trigger an allergic reaction this is something to take into account when buying a Shih Tzu puppy.

They are affectionate and get on well with everyone, children, other dogs, cats and even small pets. Always happy the Shih Tzu personality is hard to resist he loves to play and is happiest among his family. Some people ask if the Shih Tzu barks a lot? They are not as noisy as some toy breeds although they will alert you if someone's at the door. They require only a little exercise, are outgoing, loving and make an excellent choice as a family pet.

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Every breed suffers from certain health issues and the Shih Tzu is no exception however they have a relatively long lifespan of up to 15 years. Although these problems are common to most small and toy breeds it is not a given that your Shih Tzu will suffer any of them so don't let this list put you off. Choosing a good breeder is half the battle. A few include:

  • Allergies
  • Eye Problems
  • Umbilical Hernia
  • Ear Infections
  • Patellar Luxation
  • Tracheal Collapse
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Juvenile Renal Dysplasia (JRD)
  • Liver Shunt
  • Stenotic Nares

Conversely although the long hair Shih Tzu can be suitable for people with low to moderate allergies they often suffer from allergies themselves. The 3 allergies common in the breed are food allergies, which can only be treated by patiently eliminating foods from their diet, contact allergies caused by reactions to chemicals, shampoos, bedding etc and inhalant allergies which are triggered by dust, pollen, smoke or mold.

If your Shih Tzu is constantly scratching, has red patches on the skin, watery eyes, nasal congestion, vomiting, weight loss, or hair loss the chances are they are allergic to something. Talk to your vet and discuss treatments, the simple way to prevent allergies in your four-legged friend takes time and patience but is simply removing the cause.


There are a number of specialized dog foods on the market for small and toy breeds. Smaller breeds need more calories per pound then their larger counterparts for example a 10lb dog may need 40 calories per pound while a large Mastiff type dog may only need 20 calories per pound. Small dogs also have tiny stomachs and these factors combined mean little dogs require a more calorie rich diet.

As mentioned food allergies are common in the Shih Tzu and you may find you need to feed a hypoallergenic dog food, these are more expensive than normal foods as they have higher nutritional values and do not contain fillers, artificial flavorings or additives. They also avoid the most common ingredients that trigger allergic reactions such as wheat, dairy, soy and corn.

It can take time and patience to find the right diet for your pooch but it is definitely worth it to ensure your best friend leads a long active and healthy life.


Finding A Good Shih Tzu Breeder

Once you've figured out how to spell Shih Tzu you can begin to look for Shih Tzu puppies for sale. So, how much are Shih Tzu puppies? Unfortunately, this little hypoallergenic dog's popularity has been exploited by puppy mills and unscrupulous breeders. Shih Tzu puppies found in pet stores, some internet sites and private farms are often from puppy mills so careful research should be done when considering buying one of these charming little dogs.

A responsible Shih Tzu breeder's first priority, is the welfare of the puppy. They will be knowledgeable about the breed and will be happy to work with allergy sufferers to match you with the right dog for you.

They will provide a sales contract, relevant health screening and, more often than not, will want to keep in touch and be informed of the puppy's progress. It is worth checking if they will take the pup back if your allergies become a problem or help find a new home.

Most responsible breeders will be members of a breed association and while this is no guarantee of a good breeder all associations have breeding guidelines for their members to adhere to. All Shih Tzu's are gorgeous but temperament is equally important and a good breeder will not only breed for looks but health and temperament too.

3 Red Flags to Look Out for When Searching a Shih Tzu Breeder

  • Avoid anyone who is trying to home a puppy Shih Tzu of less than 8 weeks as this is the absolute minimum age a pup should leave its mother.
  • Do not be tempted by adverts selling tiny teacup Shih Tzu's for vast amounts of money. These are produced by breeding the smallest dogs or even introducing different breeds. It is generally accepted that the smallest pups in the litter have the most health problems.
  • Do not buy a puppy from a breeder who has more than 3 breeds on site and multiple litters while they may be interested in a couple of breeds but any more and the likelihood is they are in it for the money which is never a good sign.

Adopting a Shih Tzu from a Rescue or Shelter

This can be a great option for those wanting to own one of these small hypoallergenic dogs and the fact so many are rescued from bad breeding situations means there are plenty of both puppies and adults available in rescues and shelters across the country.

There are benefits to adopting a Shih Tzu or Shih Tzu mix, as mentioned the baby Shih Tzu is notoriously difficult to housetrain. which can be a problem for allergy sufferers they are also a very loving breed and will bond with a new owner very quickly.

​Most rescues will let you spend time with the dog of your choice to ensure they don't trigger a reaction before taking them home, very useful if you decide to rescue a cross like the Shih Tzu Yorkie mix or a Shih Tzu terrier mix for example. You will avoid all the hassle that accompany a puppy, training, juvenile health problems, and remember all dogs hypoallergenic or not blow their puppy coats at some point which could set off those sneezes.

​You will have no problem finding a purebred Shih Tzu in rescue as unfortunately they are one of the most common breeds in shelters check out or Adopt-A-Pet for one near you, as well as gaining a new companion you will have the satisfaction of giving an unwanted or neglected Shih Tzu the love they crave.

How Much Will a Shih Tzu Set You Back?

The average cost of a Shih Tzu puppy is between $350-$700 with some show lines commanding over a $1000. For that price, you should receive a happy healthy individual with detailed instruction for care including diet.

You will have received a sales contract and hopefully some signed agreement that if you cannot be in the same room as your new pet without wheezing or itching that they will take the puppy back.

If you decide to adopt a Shih Tzu you can expect to pay $75-$200 adoption fee which varies depending on where you live, sex and age of the dog.

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It's a Wrap

So, there you have it all the info you need if you suffer from allergies and are considering bringing one of these charming little characters into your home. A Shih Tzu is an excellent companion dog and gets on well with everyone. Although their coats are high maintenance they can be kept short to make life easier.

They are an adaptable breed and do well in urban environments and apartments and although they don't require much exercise they enjoy a walk and are very playful. They have a stubborn streak and are not the most intelligent of dogs making training them time-consuming and an exercise of patience.

Most importantly we hope we have clarified that often posed question "Are Shih Tzu dogs hypoallergenic?" and while some may trigger reactions in the more sensitive sufferers the answer is a resounding yes!

John Devlin

Husband, father and avid dog lover. Currently the proud owner of George a pedigree Golden Retriever that barely leaves my side. However, cute this sounds a little break from the dog hairs every now and then would be nice!

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