Females who have not been spayed and males who have not been neutered are prone to certain types of tumors and health problems that their "fixed" or spayed/neutered counterparts are not. The following list covers what we feel are the biggest threats.
Females: Mammary (breast) tumors.
Pyometra (uterine infection) Ovarian/uterine/vaginal tumors
Males: Testicular tumors
Prostate tumors/disease Aggression and other behavioral effects of hormones.
Females: Mammary Tumors: A female dog spayed before she has her first heat cycle has only a slight chance of developing mammary tumors. If she has had one heat cycle and is then spayed, her risk is somewhat higher. If she has had 2 or more heat cycles before spaying, her risk is the same as if she has never been spayed. In dogs, 50% of mammary tumors are cancerous, and 50% are benign.
Pyometra is an infection in a dog's uterus and is a life threatening situation. The animal will need emergency surgery to have her uterus removed.
Uterine/ovarian/vaginal tumors: These are not very common however have been found in unspayed dogs.
Males: Testicular tumors: these are not very common but occur in older dogs that have one or more undescended testicles (called cryptorchid) and can develop into a serious problem in those instances.
Prostate enlargement is probably the number one problem in older unneutered dogs. Most of the time this enlargement can be eliminated by neutering. Cancer of the prostate is rare but does occur mainly in unneutered dogs.
Aggression: In male dogs that are neutered at a young age, there is much less aggression seen. If a dog becomes aggressive and is neutered after to try to control the aggression, the results are not always satisfactory. (Our Shih Tzu are not aggressive to humans but males can become territorial, i.e. sex-related behavior.)
The benefits of spaying and neutering: Aside from the single most important benefit of eliminating unwanted litters of puppies, there are some important health benefits you may not be aware of. Females are less likely to develop certain kids of tumors and life threatening infections. Males are also less likely to develop certain types of tumors and are less likely to have sex-related behavioral problems. For low cost spay/neuter information, please click here
This article is dedicated to our Shih Tzu and their new prospective owners. I feel it is very important for everyone who is researching the breed, and before any purchase/adoption is made, to choose a breeder and or owner for whom you are satisfied with in terms of the guarantees made, reputation they have and have gained over the years, and what is extended to you as a service. I believe there is much more you and your dog can benefit from by preparing in advance with a good understanding of responsible ownership and a thorough knowledge of the breed. There is a difference between a good responsible breeder and a puppy raiser. Even certain club affilitations and memberships do not give you the complete picture of the breeder and how their dogs are maintained.
I also wish to add that many rescue organizations may try to do their best to help you secure a wonderful companion. I encourage you to do your research before any purchase or adoption is made to find the right Shih Tzu that fits your lifestyle and needs.
I know from an owner's point of view, how important it is to find someone who can put time aside or make time for you should you need any guidance or assistance. There are many websites I link you to as well as other responsible breeder-owners and organizations for good educational information. But when you bring a Shih Tzu home, it is important to be able to speak with your breeder or someone knowledgeable.
Here are a few words of caution before you make a commitment to purchase/adopt a Shih Tzu from a breeder, owner or rescue organization:
The first and foremost word of caution is to AVOID HYPE, NOVELTY ADS and GIMMICKS! I urge you to take the time to filter through the information that's been provided to you. Please don't acquire a Shih Tzu simply on impulse--you may feel sorry for the dog or really "MUST have" that dog. Please remember that the 'cutest' puppies mature into adults and the adult(s) is what you will be living with for a very long time. Get to know your breeder, the puppy's relatives, siblings before you make a decision about your purchase.
Tiny Teacup/Imperial/Stained Glass Shih Tzu/Rare/Exotic, --If you see these terms or descriptions used, please proceed with caution! These Shih Tzu usually do not conform to the AKC breed standard's size and weight specifications, i.e. ideally no less than 8 inches or more than 11 inches in height from withers, between 9-16 lbs. These descriptions such as Tiny Teacup, etc. are simply not recognized by the AKC. Is this advertising undersized Shih Tzu as a novelty? Yes. Is there a separate AKC registry or AKC class within the AKC's official breed standard for this type of dog? No. Can these dogs have more problems due to the lack of closely screening health/temperament as priorities over their small size? Yes they can and we've seen cases where they are nothing more than poorly bred. The same is true of the "exotic or rare" Shih Tzu. I urge you to take the time to learn more about the variety that is accepted within our AKC breed standard.
Designer Dogs -Crossbred or mixed breeds that are now being called "designer" dogs, are nothing more than what we termed mongrels in years past. Breeders who practice this may make all kinds of false claims that can be confirmed as false by veterinarians across this country. One poorly bred purebred bred to the same from another breed may combine the worst traits of each in their offspring. Please be wary and know that the TRUE DESIGNER DOGS are the well bred purebreds that responsible breeders have screened for generation upon generation for good health, soundness and the very unique qualities that serve us well and are highly prized. Breeders of crossbreds know this and have tried to benefit from purebred breeders. Selling you a dog on a gimmick basis for a higher price is not going to give you the benefits they claim would be the reason for the higher prices. The American Shih Tzu Club's website (see below) contains many helpful informational articles.
Lifetime guarantees--what in actual terms does this mean? Please ask the person(s) to explain. This can mean everything from nothing at all to a discount on your next purchase should something become a life threatening situation with your Shih Tzu. The lifespan of a Shih Tzu on average is anywhere from 12-14, 15, even 16 years of age. 10 to 18 years of age is not completely uncommon. Lifetime guarantees should be carefully spelled out as to what they mean to any buyer beforehand.
Responsible breeders vs. backyard and puppy mill breeders, puppy raisers--One of the many significant signs of a responsible/reputable breeder is the existence of a 'Take back policy'and an interest to improve the breed--is the breeder willing to take back a Shih Tzu for any reason? Do they have a good plan to reach and maintain a high quality in their own Shih Tzu in terms of health, temperament and the AKC Official Breed Standard? A responsible breeder will try to accommodate you as best they can by helping you to rehome the Shih Tzu. Responsible breeders are not breeding for a quick sale and easy dollar but are taking responsibility for their decisions on breedings and breeding results. Brief definitions: "backyard breeders" - breed without any apparent plan for betterment in mind and use those most convenient to them; "puppy mills" - high volume breeders, sometimes considered commercial breeders, that usually have multiple litters going year round, probably include many different breeds and mixed breeds as well. Usually a sign is when there are far too many dogs/puppies to receive proper care. More can be found in other articles but you will find helpful information specifically on the American Shih Tzu Club's website. Please feel free to visit www.shihtzu.org as well as the National Animal Interest Alliance www.naiaonline.org/
Health Screening with your own vet--Is your breeder carefully screening the breeding stock they use? Whether they do or don't, it is best that breeders be honest with you and in most cases have a good health guarantee that they offer and honor. Does your breeder advocate that you have your new Shih Tzu checked and health screened with your own veterinarian? A breeder may say they have had important health testing done and may even offer you a copy of the results, but if there is no way of directly connecting the results to the actual dog(s), then how can this information be verified? Responsible breeders test for genetic defects to make better decisions about their dogs before they breed them. While these results are important to find out about the overall health condition of each tested dog, they may not reveal a particular existing disease gene included in that dog's DNA. More tests for health defects/anamolies need to be available, this is why further funding is needed in canine health research. Amazing progress has been and is being made and much more is needed. Know what tests are available and what they mean. Please Please do research what's actually been discovered in canine health! Further, similar to their human counterparts, canines may have inherited genetic disease predispositions that may remain dormant. Co-factors may aid in the development of diseases. What I find important while we wait for more information, via genetic tests, to become available is honesty with buyers & fellow breeders, honored guarantees and continued support for canine health research. Please don't be afraid to ask breeders about the health of their dogs. Someone whose bred for many years probably will have had some unwanted condition(s) come up at one time or another. Geneticists have been and are currently working on much more discovery to isolate mutant disease genes and to supply testing for them. The ASTC is currently supporting, via the ASTC Charitable Trust Fund, research to discover genes responsible for life-threatening and life-altering diseases and defects. Responsible breeders would encourage you to take whatever dog/puppy you secured and have the testing done via your own vet. I encourage everyone to research information on canine health and new discovery by going to my "links" page and clicking the AKC/CHF and ASTC websites.
Breeder Honesty-Quick and easy answers are not necessarily giving you the information you might need. If a breeder is honest with you, they may find themselves searching for answers in the same fashion as you and veterinarians. Please seek the advice of many knowledgeable and educational sources on topics and questions you need answered. Usually someone who doesn't have the answer right away and thus directs you to other source(s), or simply admits they don't know, is someone who is trying to be honest. Many long term breeders do know much about health conditions and their Shih Tzu and can be a very valuable resource. In any case, it's important to seek information and in all probability from more than one source.
Please consider investing more on your purchase/adoption providing all is honestly and carefully represented because that may be a savings in the long run on any valuable Shih Tzu companion you may acquire. Investing more can mean costs relative to better/best care, training, purchase price, etc.
Know that a poorly bred and bargain priced dog may cost much more in care over the first few years of its life. The following article will help explain some of the harsh breeding realities and questions to ask before any breeding occurs:
KNOW THE FACTS BEFORE BREEDING Breeder Beware! (this article is found on the ASTC website: http://www.americanshihtzuclub.org/facts_before_breeding)
We think it is extremely important to learn the facts and possible consequences in advance if you are contemplating breeding your dog. In today's overcrowded world, we, the wardens of our domestic pets, must make the responsible decisions for them and for ourselves. The following points should be reviewed carefully.
QUALITY: AKC registration is NOT necessarily an indication of quality. Most dogs, even purebred, should not be bred. Many dogs, though wonderful pets, have defects of structure, personality or health that should not be perpetuated. Breeding animals should be proven free of these defects BEFORE starting on a reproductive career. Breeding should only be done with the goal of improvement - an honest attempt to create puppies better than their parents. Ignorance is no excuse - once you have created a life, you can't take it back, even if blind, crippled or a canine psychopath!
COST: Dog breeding is NOT a money-making proposition, if done correctly. Health care and shots, diagnosis of problems and proof of quality, extra food, facilities, stud fees, advertising, etc. are all costly and must be paid BEFORE the pups can be sold. An unexpected Cesarean or emergency intensive care for a sick pup will make a break-even litter a big liability. And this is IF you can sell the pups.
SALES: First-time breeders have no reputation and no referrals to help them find buyers. Previous promises of "I want a dog just like yours" evaporate. Consider the time and expense of caring for pups that you may not sell until they are four or five months old, eight months old or more! What WOULD you do if your pups did not sell? Send them to the pound? Dump them in the country? Sell them cheap to a dog broker who may resell them to labs or other unsavory buyers? Veteran breeders with good reputations often don't consider a breeding unless they have a waiting list for at least most of and/or cash deposits in advance for an average sized litter.
JOY OF BIRTH: If you're doing it for the children's education, remember the whelping may be at 3 am or at the vet's on the surgery table. Even if the kiddies are present, they may get a chance to see the firth of a monster or a mummy, or watch the bitch scream and bite you as you attempt to deliver a pup that is half out and too large. Some bitches are not natural mothers and either ignore or savage their whelps. Bitches can have severe delivery problems or even die in whelp - pups can be born dead or with gross deformities that require euthanasia. Of course there can be joy, but if you can't deal with the possibility of tragedy, don't start.
TIME: Veteran breeders of quality dogs state they spend well over 130 hours of labor in raising an average. That is over two hours per day, every day and this is a conservative estimate. The bitch CANNOT be left alone while whelping and only for short periods for the first few days after. Be prepared for days off work and sleepless nights. Even after delivery, mom needs care and feeding, puppies need daily checking, weighing and socialization. Later, grooming and training, and the whelping box needs LOTS of cleaning. More hours are spent doing paperwork, pedigrees and interviewing buyers. If you have any abnormal conditions, such as sick puppies or a bitch who can't or won't care for her babies, count on double that time. If you can't provide the time, you will either have dead pups or poor ones that are bad tempered, antisocial, dirty and/or sickly - hardly a buyer's delight, and the breeder is responsible for (and therefore accountable for) the condition of their dogs/puppies.
HUMANE RESPONSIBILITIES TO SERIOUSLY CONSIDER BEFOREHAND: It's midnight - do you know where your puppies are? There are THREE AND A HALF MILLION unwanted dogs put to death in pounds in this country each year, with millions more dying homeless and unwanted through starvation, disease, automobiles, abuse, etc. Nearly a quarter of the victims of this unspeakable tragedy are purebred dogs "with papers." The breeder who creates a life is responsible for that life. Will you carefully screen potential buyers? Or will you just take the money and not worry of the puppy is chained in a junkyard all of its life or runs in the street to be killed? Will you turn down a sale to irresponsible owners? Or will you say "yes" and not think about the puppy you held and loved now having a litter of mongrels every time she comes in heat, which fills the pounds with more statistics - your grand-pups? Would you be prepared to take a grown puppy if the owners can no longer care for it? Or can you live with the thought that the baby you helped bring into the world will be destroyed at the pound?