Loulou's a sight for sore eyes
SOme of the traits bred into pedigree dogs can lead to health problems, as with this shih tzu, who had to undergo treatment for an ulcer
The Shih Tzu is one of the most ancient breeds in the world, with DNA analysis confirming that the breed's genetic lineage goes back for thousands of years. The breed's name in Chinese translates as "lion dog", and there's supposed to be a resemblance to the lions that are often depicted in traditional oriental art, or seen as statues on either side of entrances to buildings.
The Shih Tzu breed was almost completely wiped out during the Chinese Revolution. Seven males and seven females were saved, and today, it's believed that all Shih Tzus can be traced back to one of these dogs.
It's a popular breed; they're good-natured, friendly dogs, and they "scrub up well" for the world of pedigree showing.
Shih Tzus have a traditional long, silky, glossy coat that reaches the floor without regular trimming. This needs daily brushing to avoid tangles, and many people choose to have the coat regularly cut short to make life easier. The long hair gives the breed a uniquely distinctive appearance. You can see from Loulou's photo that the fringes around her face make her look particularly appealing.
When Loulou was a young dog, she suffered from recurrent bouts of infection in her eyes that needed courses of ointment. At that time, Helene took her to an eye specialist who carried out a detailed analysis of her problem. The conclusion was that her eyes were literally too big. Part of the appeal of the breed is their large Disney-like eyes, but in Loulou's case this was too extreme.
Her eyeballs were too exposed to the dust and grime of daily life, and their surface was prone to drying out. This meant that her eyes became irritated too easily, which was the cause of the repeated episodes of soreness.
Additionally, her long facial hair tended to flop against her eyes, aggravating the irritation.
When she was just two years old, Loulou underwent surgery to redesign the shape of her eyes.
Skin was "nipped and tucked" above and to one side of each eye, with the result that her eyes now sit back further into her skull.
The effect is barely noticeable to the casual observer, but the surgery successfully corrected her tendency to have sore eyes. She didn't suffer from any more bouts of infection for more than six years.
Last week, she was out on a walk when Helene noticed that her left eye was shut. She must have bumped against something as she ran around.
When I checked Loulou, I discovered that she must have collided with something that had scraped the surface of her eye, and she had a small ulcer which had become infected. She needed pain relief and antibiotics, given by putting drops into her eye, six times daily. Helene had a challenge to get those drops in: Loulou looks sweet but she has a strong personality and when she doesn't want something, she's good at resisting.
After a week of treatment, Loulou has made a full recovery. We're hoping that this was a one-off incident, and that Loulou's eyes will continue to be as healthy as they've been for the past six years.
One session of "nip and tuck" from a surgeon is more than enough for a little dog's lifetime.
Visit Pete's website at www.petethevet.com