Shih Tzu Skin Problems, Issues, Allergies & Bumps + How to Treat

Shih Tzu skin problems

Like any short-nosed and brachycephalic breed of dog, Shih Tzus are very susceptible to skin problems. With their characteristic skin folds, it’s easy for skin allergies and infections to develop when moisture and gunk gets stuck trapped.

As a breed, Shih Tzus are prone to various health problems, with their skin being just one regular complaint. It’s not unusual for Shih Tzu skin allergies, rashes, and bumps to develop over their lifetime.

But, it’s not all bad news. You can help your Shih Tzu’s skin problems with a range of preventative measures and also look out for some signs of an allergy, such as bumps. Of course, if the skin issue doesn’t quickly clear, you should always consult with a vet.

They will typically prescribe an antibiotic and recommend special medicated dog shampoos to help remedy Shih Tzu skin bumps and rashes.

Shih Tzu skin problems & conditions

Below you can see a list of the most frequent Shih Tzu skin issues. I’ve also added notes on how you might be able to help remedy them from home (based on my online research), or when it’s best to seek professional advice and treatment.

1. Dermatitis

Dermatitis is one of the more common Shih Tzu skin issues and can arise for various reasons including a food allergy or something in the home.

It can appear to look like a patch of red and irritable skin, eventually scabbing up, or even leading to pus. Vets prescribe antibiotics or antifungal medication for more serious cases, with some milder dermatitis being treated at home.

For example, Shih Tzu owners can clean the skin with antifungal cleansers or shampoos with cool water, or cleansing wipes.

There are different types of dermatitis that can affect Shih Tzus, all detailed below.

Nasal fold and tail fold dermatitis

Your Shih Tzu’s tail is often the place where dermatitis will occur most, as moisture and dirt can become trapped under the tail, leading to inflammation. Signs to look for include redness of the skin under the tail, and a nasty smelling discharge.

To help prevent this type of skin issue, keep the area under your Shih Tzu’s tail as clean as possible with wiping. Use a clean and damp cloth, or a dog friendly wipe to help prevent infection.

Handy Hint: Read my guide explaining what type of wet wipes you should use on your dog, and how to clean their face, eyes, and ears properly.

With skin infections like this, vets tend to prescribe medication and will show you how to use an antifungal wipe on your Shih Tzu. The two things combined will help you to get rid of any bacteria or a yeast infection in that area.

I have never heard from a Shih Tzu owner who hasn’t had to go to the vets with this particular Shih Tzu skin rash. It’s a very common canine skin complaint.

Acute moist dermatitis – aka a “hot spot”

Also known as acute moist dermatitis or pyotraumatic dermatitis (see definition, hot spots are where your Shih Tzu has created a self-inflicted wound, through excessive itching or rubbing.

What might start off as a skin rash on your Shih Tzu, and possibly nothing that problematic, can soon become a hot spot if your Shih Tzu starts to give it attention. Hot spots will become angry, with thick scaly skin and occasional discharge on the fur.

Of all the possible Shih Tzu skin problems, it’s certainly one of the nastiest looking ones.

In terms of a home treatment, you can help this Shih Tzu skin issue by trimming back the hair around the wound. That will let more air get to the area, letting it dry out. You can also help speed things along by using an antibacterial solution, like chlorhexidine or betadine.

If the problem gets more serious and struggles to heal, vets tend to give the Shih Tzu an antibiotic. Some dogs will continue to chew at the wound, so might need to wear a cone (also known as an Elizabethan collar).

Handy Hint: If your dog does end up wearing a cone, please read these tips on how to make sure they heal quickly.

2. Shih Tzu dry skin due to a food allergy

Some Shih Tzus will develop skin irritations and dermatitis due to an allergic reaction to certain foods. Food allergies are a common cause of problematic Shih Tzu skin conditions.

Food allergies can manifest themselves anywhere on your Shih Tzu’s body, and you might not realize it until your Shih Tzu starts to paw at the affected area. For example, you might see your dog chewing a paw, or find some itchy bumps on their belly… it could even become an inner ear infection.

Allergic reactions to food can show in a different number of skin conditions with your Shih Tzu, and treatment will mean figuring out what food is causing it. This isn’t always that simple.

As part of the process, your vet might recommend that you switch your Shih Tzu to a hypoallergenic food, as well as the process of elimination in their diet.

3. Shih Tzu skin allergies from environmental conditions

Shih Tzus can also develop skin problems due to things in their environment. That could be their home, yard, garden, or anywhere they frequently visit.

Like many of the skin problems already referenced, you might see some red patches on your dog’s stomach, or again, they could start chewing at their own paws and skin.

This is particularly true when it’s a contact allergy. In other words, something touches them which produces an allergic reaction in the form of a bump or rash.

It can be something as simple as a plastic bowl they drink from, to grass touching them, or to something in the air such as smoke.

Vets will often prescribe antihistamine for environmental Shih Tzu skin allergies. It’s not unheard of for dogs to be given a human antihistamine such as Piriton, but there can be side effects as with any medicine.

Your vet will also explain how you can help to reduce the allergic skin reaction by cleaning your dog’s belly and paw down when they come into contact with an allergen.

If this doesn’t work, vets might then prescribe a stronger medication such as Apoquel and Cytopoint, which help to interrupt the allergen cycle in dogs.

Handy Hint: Read this guide to find out what dog food is best for a dog with an allergy.

4. Shih Tzu skin bumps due to fleas

It’s almost impossible for your Shih Tzu to not get fleas at some point; they tend to jump on when you’re out taking them for walks! You might also find that the first thing you notice will be your Shih Tzu scratching intensely, before you even see a flea.

The majority of the itching will take place on the skin around your Shih Tzu’s tail and neck. You might also see some skin bumps on your Shih Tzu. Other than those signs, you could see one on your furniture – time to get the flea treatment out!

Fleas are simple enough to treat, with oral and topical medicines available as well as anti-flea collars from companies such as Seresto. You should always make sure your Shih Tzu is up to date with worm and flea treatment, and always make the wear a collar – click the image below to buy one on Amazon.

If your dog is has really itchy skin due to fleas, your vet may need to put them on anti-itch medications such as steroids. Canine antibiotics are also an option if they have a bad skin infection from the fleas.

5. Shih Tzu skin issues from autoimmune diseases

Another possible reason for a skin issue could be due to an autoimmune disease. This is where the dog’s body will attack itself; this can be triggered by genetic traits, existing medication, or often for no obvious reason at all.

Your dog can develop skin lesions, such as ulceration of its nose, or its body can even attack its red blood cells or platelets, leading to life-threatening anemia.

Unfortunately, there aren’t really any remedies you can do at home to treat autoimmune diseases. Instead, your vet will need to diagnose the disease, often with a skin biopsy, followed by starting immunosuppressive medications.

These may include prednisone or cyclosporine, and some pets need to be on a combination of medications to be effective treated.

6. Shih Tzu skin rash from ringworm

Ringworm can also create a skin rash in Shih Tzus. The rash is the first sign of the fungal infection developing, which will then develop into hair loss, looking circular in pattern with scabs and scales.

Vets will treat ringworm with a topical antifungal medication, especially if the problem rash is in one spot on your Shih Tzu’s skin.

With more serious cases of ringworm, vets will recommend treatments such as oral medications and medicated shampoos.

What other Shih Tzu owners say

I am a member in various Shih Tzu Facebook groups, and they can be a great resource for tips and advice. I found a few questions on there that people has asked concerning skin infections and rashes, so have replicated those below with some of the best responses.

“I’ve been asked to share my Shih Tzu’s skin problems with you fellow Shih Tzu lovers, in the hope it may help some of you. I am not offering any medical advice, or sure-fire cures, just sharing my experiences in the hope it may help some of you. I’ve tried a few different things which help such as avoiding a raw food diet but poultry and wheat free. For medication I use small amounts of Piriton. I bathe them in either tea-tree oil shampoo or coal tar. Needless to say regular walking and stimulation helps with the scratching of skin.”

“Our Shih Tzu gets skin bumps and rashes due to food allergies. We’ve tried all sorts of lotions and potions and the things that have worked best are grain and poultry-free food, hydrocortisone spray for when there is an attack of the itchies, and a water pistol to discourage for foot licking.”

“My Shih Tzu has terrible skin problems. After a lot of trial and error, I put him on salmon and sweet potato dried food, and it worked wonders. My Shih Tzu’s skin is lovely now with no more scabs or redness.”

“We use coconut oil on our Shih Tzus, rubbing it into their skin and fur and also a spoonful into food once a week depending on the severity of the skin rash. We also had to put them on a salmon and rice-based food which has helped skin and stomach problems no end.”

“I’ve tried everything including steroids from the vets and honestly, the best thing that still works for our Shih Tzu is Piriton twice a day and Sudocrem. Sudocrem is an absolute life saver and when his skin flares up, he gets covered in it for every night for 3 to 4 evenings and his skin calms right down. I have also used an antibacterial shampoo.”


Shih Tzu skin conditions can be varied, and most will probably get one at some point in their lifetime. To help minimize the risk, try to feed your Shih Tzu good quality food, keep their skin clean and dry, and keep an eye on them with daily checks.

Make sure to regularly clean out their ears. Shih Tzu skin allergies can quickly start in darker and wetter areas like ears, so be careful not to get water in them, and if you do, dry it out.

It goes without saying really, but if your Shih Tzu’s skin doesn’t get better in a day or two, get professional advice form a vet. They will be able to diagnose and treat your dog effectively, reducing their discomfort from dry skin conditions, allergies, bumps, rashes, and infections.

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Marc Aaron

I write about the things we've learned about owning dogs, the adventures we have, and any advice and tips we've picked up along the way.

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