Strange Shih Tzu Behavior

msfingers2January 22, 2007

We have a beloved 2 yr. old Shih Tzu who's been a joy. We take him to a local dog park at least once if not twice daily to play with his friends, who are mostly bigger dogs, but he gets along with them and 'puts them in their place' when necessary.

About a month ago, he started a bout of throwing up and diarrhea. We took him to the vet who did a blood test, took x-rays and found nothing. He prescribed some medicine for both problems, along with an antibiotic, and put him on a diet of rice, which he tolerates well.

During that time, he would have nothing to do with us, and stayed pretty much to himself. When he got a little better, he returned to the dog park and seemed to be doing fine once he got there.

The last two times we thought he completely recovered, he had relapses with just diarrhea, and we don't know what causes this. His diet is the same as it's been, but we know there's a problem when he starts hanging out by himself and doesn't want to be around us.

Does anyone have any idea where this behavior comes from??

He does like to go for walks, but his usual joy at this is sometimes tempered by the behavior I described above.

Any help you can give us would be greatly appreciated.


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Hmmm. I suggest finding a different vet or asking about a more extensive blood work up. If your dog is not feeling well it is natural behavior to not want contact, just like some people. If you are having cramps due to the runs, the last thing you would want to do is be active. So that is normal, the recurring bouts of the runs is not an okay thing. Something is wrong and needs attention, dont let the vet just shrug this off. Note, you did not put a time frame down from the first time the dog was ill and the recurring bouts of the runs, it might take your dog awhile to recover depending on the type of problem your dog has.

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 7:17PM
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Thanks so much, Mazer, for your response. I'm sorry I didn't make myself clearer. He was first diagnosed and given medicine on 12/27. And I have to point out, this is not a constant thing. He hasn't thrown up hardly since the end of the year, and doesn't have diarrhea every day, it's sporatic. It's just more how he acts -- and try telling that to the vet. He's just distant, but what kills you is the way he looks at you, SO SAD it drives me nuts. But right now he ate his rice mix like nothing was wrong, but he could start the diarrrhea cycle again without notice.
I just wanted to know if anyone with a Shih Tzu or any dog, really has ever experienced this behavior.
Thanks again for any input. And I'm sorry if I'm sounding for sounding so crazy, I just want to help the little guy without too much more added stress (i.e. vet).

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 8:49PM
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My oldest shih tzu, Paisley, went through something similar about 2 years ago. Every now and again she would throw up and have uncontrollable diarrhea. It might happen one day and continue for 2 and not happen for a month sometimes it would last for a week and come back in a few days. I switched her to a higher quality of food and this seems to have eliminated the problem. We also used rice and gatorade with a syringe when she had sick bouts and it helped but the food change has eliminated her problem. What kind of food are you using?

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 9:01PM
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Thanks so much, Groomingal!! I thought I was going crazy!!
He's been on Bil Jac food since a pup. And you're so right about the fluids. I hadn't thought about Gatorade. The vet worried he wasn't getting enough fluids in Dec, so he gave him some subcutaneously and in the past couple of weeks if I notice he's not drinking, I get out the medicine dropper with water or, better yet, the turkey baster with water and let him slurp on it -- wow, you do just about anything to help these little guys, no?? He's such a pleasant soul, that it hurts to see him so down. What type of food are you using? It would be great if it helped. Thanks SO MUCH for the response!!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 9:39PM
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You're welcome! I have not used Bil Jac, I did look it up and noticed that corn is one of the first three ingredients. Corn is a filler and not an essential part of the diet, the food also contains brewers yeast. Does your little guy have red or brown stains under the eyes, mouth, or genital area? If so brewers yeast can be the cause. I found a website for you that has great information regarding dog food and how to choose quality food. Paisley is now on Science Diet W/D, it is not a great food but she needs it due to medical reasons. I have been trying to find a better quality that I can use to replace it, but no luck. Lucy is another shih tzu I have and she is on Nutro. Nutro has done really well with her. I made the mistake of buying the Nutro treats without reading the label and they have been eating for a few weeks, now both girls are starting to get staining and the treats contain brewers yeast. So no more treats.
Check out the website and see if it can help you. Royal Canin makes a blend for shih tzus and I have heard it is great but it is quite a bit more in price. You might want to check it out. Rule of thumb if corn or any mention of corn is in the first three ingredients it is not a quality food.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 10:03PM
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Even if the food isn't the problem, please for his long term health, switch the food to something that is not mostly fillers and artificial color. Think about this- dogs are color blind! There is no need to potentially poison a dog to make his food look more colorful. Some of the artificial colors used in dog foods are banned from human foods because of risk of cancer. Even if they don't cause cancer, you have to ask yourself, why should your dog eat something that does not have a taste, smell, or any nutritional value?

As a vet tech, I could tell a Bil Jac-fed dog just by the soft consistency and odd reddish color of its poop, even if the owner wasn't complaining of soft stools or other GI problems. Once you start asking, they say "oh yeah, he's always been a bit gassy" or "oh yeah, he's always had soft stool or poops 4-6 times a day and it seems like a lot for such a little dog" or something similar. That's because the fillers, or what Bil Jac calls main ingredients, are not easily digested by dogs (or at all).

Sorry, I have soapbox issues with nutrition. Now that I got that out of my system...

If after switching diet (gradually over the course of a week or 2) nothing improves within 4-6 weeks, then you're looking at another problem. I'd still not go back to Bil Jac- stick to a quality diet.

Could easily be GI parasites. Have to do a fecal exam and/or a fecal direct smear with FRESH stool (for coccidia, giardia) to find them, but GI parasites are easily treatable. Most heartworm preventatives include a dewormer that helps control many GI parasites, but not coccidia. Plus dog parks are parasite paradise, and the parasite load can overwhelm HWP. So if your dog isn't on HWP for the winter, he could have easily picked up a load of parasites at the park. To me, that's the most obvious differential and it's cheap and easy to find out and cheap and easy to both cure and prevent in the future. Personally I like to start with cheap and easy :)

If the parasite theory doesn't pan out, it could be any number of other things, but since a routine panel was normal you're looking at more extensive (expensive) testing. Cross that bridge if and when you get to it.

My Aleksander was like that as a pup. He had similar symptoms. First thing we did was stool exam and he had roundworms, so we dewormed him. Still had intermittent diarrhea. Did a fecal direct exam and he had coccidia, so we treated that. Still had diarrhea so we did a cbc, chem, UA and nothing showed up on that. Thought he had food allergies and switched him to every Hills prescription diet they had at the time. Still had diarrhea. Vet decided it was stress colitis. At that point I decided that a dog can have diarrhea on any food not just Hill's so I started feeding him Nature's Recipe chicken and rice.

Diarrhea cleared up.

Nature's Recipe had the exact same ingredients as Hills ID (for intestinal issues) except one major thing- the Hills dry foods were preserved with BHA and BHT. The Nature's Recipe food was preserved with vitamin E. I concluded that Aleksander was sensitive to BHA and BHT and avoided foods with those preservatives, and he never had a problem like that again.

I'm sure his parasite problem was not helping his diarrhea, but clearing the parasites didn't clear the diarrhea. So you just have to keep re-evaluating the response to treatment and take things step-wise. There's no need to break the bank for more bloodwork and do invasive testing such as intestinal biopsies if you haven't covered the basics yet.

Good luck to you and your little dog. Oh, and what's his name?

    Bookmark   January 22, 2007 at 10:53PM
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Things to avoid right off the bat in food are any meat by products and corn or corn gluten or corn anything. These foods are less than okay for anything living. Try Natural Balance, they have a RAW FOODS DIET, as well as many other products, they use human quality food - the rep I spoke with said they actually ask their sales people to sample the meat sticks (he hated the lamb but said the turkey was okay) I suggest you stick to the turkey and rice meat sticks. Make certain you change this diet a little bit at a time over the next two weeks to a month. Dramatic changes can cuase problems as well. Natural Balance uses so many quality ingredients I have raised a number of dogs on it, and suggest it when ever I can. Natural Balance also carries a good canned dog food - duck and rice and venison. They make crunchies, cookies etc...carried in most pet stores. Please dont buy what you find in the grocery store, it is not the best you can get. Remeber when you buy quality food the dog is healthier, eats less, and poops less, a plus all around. Good luck with your baby. Note, if all this does not seem to be working, please post again. There are so many people here who can help out.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 12:43AM
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Dear Meghane and Mazer,
You really are the GREATEST!!!! Thanks so much for your help. I had on clue about this topic before you educated me. We had a Lhasa for 18 years that I swear could eat wood and never suffer any ill-effects from it. Shows to go you how different each of these little guys are.
We're going out this afternoon to get Wilbur some new food and like you suggested, we'll introduce it gradually. There's a local pet shop and it looks like they carry Royal Canin. Also, the owner seems to be pretty savy, I just never paid attention to him about the food, because I didn't think it was a problem. What a DUH I was!!
I still think we need to taper his time at the dog park, too, but that's hubby's domain -- although I think he's thinking about cutting back on it.
Really, I can't thank you enough for your help!! You've made my week.
Now if only I could talk hubby into another Shih Tzu, cuz Wilbur would make a great big brother-- but that's a topic for another posting.
Again, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2007 at 3:27PM
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I am glad you are on the way to resolving this. I have another idea to toss in there.

My brothers dog loves to swim. In the summer he often takes her to the lake. She loves loves loves it. Then he began to notice that for the next two days or so his dog would have runny poops, not be herself, and seem shaky and sad. Not every time, but a lot of the times they went. We thought maybe she was drinking the lake water and it was making her sick.

The next time they went back he watched carefully. And she wasn't drinking or swallowing the lake water, but DID go and drink some ditch water! And of course, she was sick for the next two days.

He changed their swimming location and kept her away from ditch water and the dog has been fine since, except for one or two episodes when she drank puddle water and was ill again.

    Bookmark   January 25, 2007 at 1:11PM
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I also have a 2 year old shih tzu exhibiting the same sort of behaviour. After an initial onset of acute colitis around her second birthday (unknown cause) she has been cycling through bouts of diahrrea every 2-3 weeks, feeling very flat, some vomiting (clear with white froth). Each episode lasts about 24 -36 hours with no food of course. She will drink water toward the end of this cycle. We have had her on sulcrate plus after the first incident (excellent health for a month) then we tried a sulpha drug in case it was undiagnozed coccidia (again excellent heath for a month). She is going back to the vet for a full work up. Looking for some help in the diagnosis.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2007 at 11:50AM
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