Shih Tzu Repetitive Behaviors: Why Are They Always Scratching, Licking, Sneezing Or Sniffing?

If your Shih-Tzu is constantly scratching or licking itself, sneezing, or sniffing, it could be a sign of allergies, poor grooming, general illness, or even a behavioral problem!

No matter what the cause of your dog’s symptoms, though, it’s something that you need to get to the bottom of!

Why is My Shih-Tzu Scratching So Much? 5 Possible Reasons

To find out the reason behind your Shih-Tzu’s scratching, you must first consider how long they have been scratching. Is this a new behavior? Or is this something that your dog has always done?

If your Shih-Tzu has just begun scratching, the cause is most likely to be a recent development. For example, have you recently used a new shampoo while bathing your dog?

  • The most recognized cause of sudden onset scratching in most dogs is fleas! If your dog has contracted fleas, you will notice small black flecks in their fur. You are also likely to see red bites on your skin.
    • Treat fleas with vet-approved flea treatment and use monthly preventatives to avoid future infestations.
  • Another common cause of sudden onset scratching is exposure to a new environmental irritant. For example, a new dog shampoo. If you suspect that this is the case, bath your dog with a gentle oatmeal-based shampoo to soothe the skin and avoid using the offending product again. 
  • Lastly, if your Shih-Tzu’s scratching is localized to one part of the body, that body part can tip you off to the cause of the problem.
    • For example, scratching ears is a sign of a possible ear infection. Licking at itchy paws is a sign of possible yeast infection. To find out the cause of your pup’s localized scratching, consult your vet.

A longstanding cause is to blame if your Shih-Tzu has been scratching for as long as you can remember. For example, your dog has chronically dry skin.

  • The most common cause of longstanding scratching behavior is allergies – either environmental or food-based. Consult your vet to get to the bottom of your dog’s allergies. He or she may recommend symptom relief as well as allergy testing or an elimination diet to determine what your dog’s allergy is to.
  • Skin conditions are another cause of longstanding itching in Shih-Tzus. Certain skin conditions like chronically dry skin, hot spots, and rashes are common to the breed. Talk to your vet to get to the bottom of the cause of your dog’s itching and make any diet or medication recommendations necessary to help your pup to feel more comfortable.

Why is My Shih-Tzu Licking Its Paws, The Air, Etc.?

If your Shih-Tzu only recently began licking or only licks in certain situations consider irritation or behavioral responses as a cause.

  • Bodily irritation is a common cause of licking in all dogs. This irritation can be because of an infection, a hotspot, a splinter, or even general pain. If your Shih Tzu is focused on licking one area, consult your vet who can check for physical signs of injury or infection.
  • If your Shih-Tzu seems to lick in certain situations, the cause of their licking is most likely behavioral. To get to the bottom of the problem, take note of when your dog is displaying this behavior. Dogs often lick in this way when
    • They are “tasting” something that they smell in the air – are you cooking?
    • They are nervous and unsure – is your dog in an uncomfortable situation? If this is the case, you may also notice your dog licking their lips frequently and displaying wide-open eyes.

If your Shih-Tzu has been licking for a long time, their behavior is more likely the result of a longstanding concern like allergies.

  • As with itching and scratching, dogs often respond to allergies by licking areas of their body that itch. This is particularly common with yeast infections on the feet or when environmental allergens touch the skin.
  • If your dog is always licking itself, you should also consider whether this is a “habit” that has been around for a while. Many dogs lick (most often their paws) repetitively when they are nervous, this may be seen as an outlet for nervous energy or as a means of self-soothing.
    • If you suspect that this is the cause of your dog’s licking, it’s a good idea to speak with your vet and consult a trainer who can help you to work your dog through the trigger causing their behavior.

Why is My Shih-Tzu Sneezing?

The recent occurrence of sneezing in Shih-Tzus is often the result of respiratory infection or poor grooming.

  • If your Shih-Tzu is sneezing because of a respiratory infection, you are likely to notice additional symptoms like discharge from the eyes or nose, coughing, an elevated temperature, lethargy, or reluctance to eat.
    • If you suspect that your Shih-Tzu is suffering from a respiratory infection, head to your vet right away to begin a course of treatment.
  • If you have been lax on grooming your pup for a while and their facial fur has grown out of control, your Shih Tzu may be sneezing simply because their fur is tickling their nose. This can be avoided by maintaining a regular grooming schedule!

If your Shih-Tzu has been sneezing for a long time, their behavior is more likely the result of one of a longstanding problem like allergies.

  • The most common cause of regular sneezing in dogs is allergies.
  • In very rare instances, a history of sneezing that comes on suddenly but lingers for months may be the result of something more sinister interfering with your dog’s respiratory tract. In this case, your vet will need to perform a thorough exam of your dog’s respiratory system.
  • If your dog does begin sneezing suddenly, don’t wait it out for months because, while rare, when there is a sinister cause of sneezing, it needs to be addressed quickly.

Why is My Shih-Tzu Always Sniffing Everything?

All dogs exhibit sniffing behavior, this is a natural way for them to take in information about the environment around them.

Dogs sniff things that we can smell – for example, the popcorn smell on your hands after the movies, and things that we can’t smell – for example, pheromones left on a lamppost by the neighbor’s dog! If your dog is sniffing one thing in particular, the chances are that they have “caught a scent.”

If your dog is snorting more than sniffing, however, it may be a cause for concern.

Dogs may snort for completely benign reasons – for example, something is irritating their airway. In brachycephalic dogs (dogs with flat muzzles), though, snorting may be a sign of respiratory distress.

If your Shih-Tzu is snorting and has pale gums, has fainted, or displays any difficulty breathing, it is a medical emergency! Get to the vet right away!

When in Doubt – See Your Vet!

Most of the time, scratching, licking, sneezing, or sniffing behaviors are normal occurrences for our dogs.

Sometimes, scratching, licking, sneezing, or sniffing behaviors are a symptom of something that requires veterinary intervention.

Very rarely, scratching, licking, sneezing, or sniffing behaviors are a sign of something malicious. But no matter what the cause of your dog’s behavior, if you notice a new change in your Shih Tzu pup or if you are concerned about their behavior in the slightest, head straight to the vet. It is always better to be safe rather than sorry!

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