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Shih Tzu Constipation


When your little Shih Tzu is constipated, this can be concerning to owners. And for good reason! Constipation issues can range from mild to severe. It can last a few days…or it can be a chronic, ongoing problem.

When a dog has trouble pushing out bowel movements…or does not go at all, this can cause quite a bit of discomfort. In rare cases, it can point to a serious medical issue.

So, what symptoms and signs classify a dog to be constipated? What are the ‘rules’ of a normal bowel movement? Does the color, size, shape or consistency of a Shih Tzu’s stool matter?

This section will answer all of these questions and more. We are going to discuss:
  • What is normal? We will talk about Frequency, Color, Shape, and Consistency.
  • What it means if there are colored flakes in the poop
  • The top 5 reasons that a Shih Tzu puppy or dog will become constipated
  • The 8 steps you can take to prevent your Tzu from having constipation
  • Treatment options – Both at home and what the veterinarian can do to help your dog


When we talk about a dog being constipated, this means that 1 of the following 2 things will be taking place.

1- The dog is having trouble pushing out a movement…he or she may strain, show signs of stress…or even become very agitated as they pace back and forth…trying to poop, not pooping and trying again.

2- The dog may not have a bowel movement at all…the bowels may become so backed up and so compacted that nothing comes out…

Or 3- A Shih Tzu may have very small and very infrequent movements… What does come out looks like small little pebbles… or the dog may only go to the bathroom 2 times a week, despite eating normal meals every day.

What is Considered to be Normal Bowel Movements


How often should you expect your Shih Tzu to go to the bathroom? For normal, healthy puppies and dogs, 2 times a day is normal. Puppies that are still eating 3 meals per day may have 2 or even 3 movements. Adults that eat just one time per day may only have 1. However, if a dog has days with no bowel movements… say perhaps once every 2 days…or just 3 times a week or so, this means the dog is indeed constipated. 

If a dog goes to the bathroom each day, but is straining and pushing just for tiny, hard little pebbles to come out, this also means that the dog is backed up.


For those of you who follow your Shih Tzu with a canine waste-catcher bag, you will know the consistency of the poop! But, when a Tzu goes to the bathroom in the yard or on a pee pad that is wrapped up and thrown away, you might not know. If the stool is very watery and runny, this is a different problem (We’ll discuss that topic separately). However, if the stool looks to be hard and you are just not sure, cover your hand with a couple of plastic grocery bags and pick up that poo! If you suspect your Tzu has constipation, you will want to check this.

It should be soft, but not fall apart when you pick it up. A healthy stool can be compared to a piece of dough. You would be able to pick it up in one piece and it would be soft to the touch.

If you let a long piece hang in the air, a piece may eventually drop off. Therefore, if it is hard or crumbly or anything other than ‘dough-like’, this is reason to be concerned.


The color of the stool is not directly related to constipation, however while we are discussing Shih Tzu poopies, let’s touch on this element. Color can tell you a lot!

Normal- A soft medium brown without any flakes of another color

Not Normal:

Colored Flecks – If a dog is fed a manufacture food that has a very high content level of artificial coloring, that coloring can pass through the body and come out the other end. We, of course, recommend Home Cooking. If you do opt for a commercial brand, please choose a high quality food. You can look to our Feeding page for more details.
Those nasty coloring additives can cause havoc, it can affect the health of your Shih Tzu’s coat and can cause allergic reactions. However, the specks themselves are not a sign of medical issues.

Red- Bright red in a stool is most often blood. (fresh blood). This can be from an internal source…But when a Shih Tzu is constipated, often the blood will come from tissue being ripped as the dog strains and pushes the stool out. 

Black – As mentioned above, a Shih Tzu’s stool should be brown… a dark black (often slick and shiny type stool) is a sign that there is internal bleeding. This is a very serious issue and must be brought to the attention of the veterinarian.

Beige – If a Tzu’s stool is a light beige color, this is not considered normal. This can be a sign of liver issues and must be brought to the attention of the veterinarian. 

With dogs that are not constipated, the normal shape of the poo is 1 of 2. 1- It might resemble a small log. 2- A small spiral of stool may be pushed out, curling down upon itself as it falls to the ground. When done, it might resemble a small corkscrew mound.

But, when a Shih Tzu has constipation, the stool will come out in smaller pieces. They may resemble a scattering of pebbles.

Causes of Constipation with a Shih Tzu

Now that we understand more about what constipation is and what is normal and not normal, let’s take a look at what can cause this to happen in the first place.

#1 The most common reason is dehydration. Approximately 75% of a bowel movement is water. Therefore, if a dog is not drinking enough water, this will affect the stool and cause constipation.

#2 Ingestion of a foreign substance is the 2nd most common reason. While some dogs do swallow items like coins or hair pins (which can cause a fatal blockage if not removed), most often the culprit is the ingestion of grass from the yard. Some people think that grass will ‘move things along’ and this is not always true. It can make some dogs vomit. And for other dogs, it can block things up and lead to constipation.

#3 Side effects from medication is the third most common reason – and the most common medicines that can cause constipation in canines are a antihistamines.

#4 Habit. Some are surprise to hear this, but it is not uncommon for a dog to hold back his or her bathroom needs and when this is done too often… or for too long of a time, it can cause the dog to be constipated. 

#5 For senior dogs (age 8 and older), a diet of only dry food can cause constipation.

Prevention and Treatment

Now that we know what causes this issue, let’s look at what you can do to help your little Shih Tzu.

1- Make sure that your Shih Tzu is drinking enough water. It is not good enough just to leave out a bowl of water and assume that your puppy or dog will drink as needed. Here are some tips to follow (for all Tzu, not just constipated ones!)

A. Do not allow the water to become warm and stale. Dogs are much more apt to drink enough when they have nice, cold water.

B. Do not give your Tzu tap water. Please use a filter on your kitchen sink’s faucet. You would be shocked to know how many contaminants and even poisons are legally allowed to be in tap water! Obtaining a filter for the tap is relatively inexpensive and can go a long way in keeping your Shih Tzu healthy.

C. Only use stainless steel or ceramic bowls. Brightly colored plastic bowls are horrible! The dyes can slowly leak out…and this can cause a gradual staining on the coat, most often noticeable around the mouth and facial hairs. 

D. Have 2 or 3 bowls for food and water so that it is easy for you to swap them out in order to always offer a clean one. Bacteria and other nasty things can quickly accumulate in unwashed bowls.

E. Encourage your Shih Tzu to drink after exercising and/or on hotter than normal days. This alone can stop constipation from developing.

2- Routinely go over all of the flooring in your house to pick up any small items that may have dropped. This type of ‘puppy proofing’ should be done for Shih Tzu of all ages…not just young ones! Small items swallowed can cause constipation; others can cause a VERY serious and sometimes fatal blockage. 

3- Watch your Shih Tzu well, so that he or she does not ingest grass. Do not believe that it is normal for a dog to eat grass. It is common, but it is not healthy. It can most certainly cause constipation. 

Additionally, it can cause other problems ranging from upset stomach to allergic reaction to poisoning. Some owners say, “What can I do to stop my dog from eating grass?” There are 2 answers. The 1st is easy: Don’t let him :) If you keep your Tzu on leash, do not allow him or her to eat away at the lawn like a miniature grazing cow :) Give the ‘no’ command and lead your dog away or distract with a toy and give reward for stopping. 

And also, when a dog’s body is craving certain nutrients that dog may then try to consume them. If your Tzu nibbles at greens, feed him or her some healthy ones! Sweet baby peas and steamed green beans are super healthy and can easily be added to meals.

4- If your Shih Tzu is constipated and is also taking an antihistamine; check with the vet to discuss lowering the dose if possible.

5- Make your Shih Tzu feel that going to the bathroom indoors, when home alone, is okay. If you need to be gone for the day, you can’t expect your dog to hold his or her needs for longer than is normally expected. When a dog feels that going to the bathroom is ‘wrong’, he may hold in the urge…and this can lead to constipation. Everything is held in…it gets backed up...and then the dog has trouble pushing it out later.

The best setup is to create an enclosed area for your Shih Tzu when home alone. This can be done by blocking off a small room (like a bathroom – as long as it has heat in the winter and AC in the summer) or by using dog gates to section off an area. Indoor dog play pens are also a good alternative. 

In this area, there should be room for: Eating, drinking, playing, sleeping…and going number two. Place down pee pads as far away from the other areas as possible. Will your Tzu always hit the mark? No. But that is okay. Have the option there, so that he does not hold it in and become constipated.

6- If your Shih Tzu is eating only dry food, and this goes especially for senior Tzu age 8 and up, add some water to the food. There are a few ways to do this. 1- Mix wet & dry food together. 2- Make a gradual change to wet food. 3- Home cook for your Tzu (this is our top recommendation – it offers your Tzu a wholesome diet with zero fillers, additive or preservatives). 4- Soak dry kibble in water (15 to 20 mins.) before feeding. 

7- If the above does not work and your Shih Tzu is still constipated, offer milk. Normally if a dog drank milk each day, he or she could develop diarrhea. But, when a dog has constipation, the milk can work to relieve it. ¼ to ½ cup per day is a good goal…You can add it to the food or you can serve it separately for your Tzu to lap up. Don’t give too much!

If the above steps do not resolve the constipation, it will be time to bring your Shih Tzu to the veterinarian. A mild laxative may be prescribed. PLEASE NOTE: Do not give your dog a laxative meant for humans! This can be fatal!   

Your veterinarian should prescribe a laxative that contains lactulose; it is safe and effective when proper dosing instructions are followed.

If you are concerned that your Shih Tzu has some sort of obstruction that is not allowing fir a bowel movement, this is an emergency situation that warrants an immediate visit to the vet or closest animal hospital.
See Also:

Shih Tzu Diarrhea - Reasons for runny stools and home remedies to resolve this. Red flags that a vet visit is warranted. 
Shih Tzu Upset Stomach - For general upset stomach issues, including those that cause decreased appetite. 
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