Those who own Shih Tzus are lucky enough to have them around for a while. The average life-span of most is between 11 and 15 years. Therefore, it is very likely that your dog will need some extra care as he or she gets older. Over 7 is considered "senior" by many, and it certainly is fair to consider a dog over 10 years to be elderly.
Like any other dog, shih tzus suffer from the same ravages of old age as human beings do. They get tired more quickly, they heal from injuries slower than they may have in the past. The hair becomes more brittle and porous. The muscles and joints may ache in the mornings or in damp weather.
Everything you can do to make your shih tzu's final years more comfortable is appreciated. Just being sensitive to the needs of a your dog when he or she can't tell you what's wrong is your goal. Just considering how you'd feel if you were their age is a good place to start when trying to understand the changes in her or his behavior.
Many elder shih tzus appreciate a soft and warm bed when they get older. You may find they sleep a lot more and need to get up to go out in the middle of the night. This is normal. However, if they need to go more than every hour during the day, you'll want to have them checked out.
It's often a good idea to give your dog a slightly more regular veterinary schedule - perhaps twice a year rather than once. It depends upon how observant you feel you are. People who are very busy may want to have someone monitoring the dog for them. Having someone impartial observe your dog at regular intervals may alert you to other problems.
There are things that are part of the aging process and things that are indications of much more serious conditions. For example, sudden weight loss can alert you to tumors. If you notice changes that can't be attributed to old age, you should consider bringing your shih tzu in for a vet visit.
It is common for people to put their dogs, regardless of breed, on different dog food when they seem to begin slowing down. Indeed, just as most human beings hit several points in their lives where their metabolism drops off, so it is with dogs. They may require as many as 30% fewer calories to maintain their current weight. Furthermore, exercise is often impaired due to arthritis or simply being tired.
Other things you'll want to keep an eye on with your older shih tzu are rotten teeth and bleeding gums. These can prevent your dog from getting proper nutrition when they need it most. Her or his skin will likely get very thin and be subject to chills, since much of their muscle tissue atrophies over time. Regular, gentle exercise will help stave off some of the infirmity of old age for many shih tzus, but what they need most is some understanding and a soft, warm lap.