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Eating Poop

Shih Tzu Coprophagia (Eating Feces) 


Coprophagia means the ingestion of feces, and it is not an uncommon behavior with Shih Tzu or with canines in general. It can be both puzzling and troubling, and leave owners wondering why their puppy or dog is doing this, and how in the world to make it stop.

There are several reasons why a Shih Tzu may be eating poop, either their own or that of another dog. In most cases, coprophagia is a red flag that something else needs to be addressed. And fortunately, there are several steps you can take to stop this from happening. 

This section will discuss:
  • What you need to know about coprophagia
  • The 5 exact steps to stop this for good
So, let’s dive into this topic so that if your Shih Tzu has this habit, it can be reversed as soon as possible. 

About Coprophagia

A big part of stopping something is understanding what it is and the reasons behind it. 

Coprophagia refers to the act of ingesting feces. This may be a dog’s own or that of another animal, such as other dogs or cats. 

A Shih Tzu may do this under his owner’s watch, or only when at home alone. 

Most dogs that eat their own poop are being fed enough, so it may seem that this cannot be due to hunger. 

This sort of behavior can be seen with dogs of all ages, from young pups to seniors. In most cases, this will be a chronic, on-going problem until the owner makes appropriate changes. 

You may be wondering if a Shih Tzu can get sick from eating feces. In some cases, the answer is yes. 
If a dog is being treated for worms, if the worms that are being shed from the body are ingested, this can cause a re-infestation. 

If a Shih Tzu ate feces belonging to another dog, worms and certain diseases can be transmitted including campylobacteriosis, corona, cryptosporidiosis, giardiasis, parvo, and salmonellosis. 

If a Shih Tzu is eating cat poop, any worms present can be transmitted, as well as diseases including clostridia, campylobacteriosis, and salmonella.

And for all Shih Tzu, one of the leading causes of coprophagia points to issues with the diet, which in itself can lead to poor health. 

Reasons Why a Shih Tzu Will Eat Poop

1. A diet that is lacking certain nutrients or has a high filler/grain count. Unfortunately, both of these issues are seen with quite a few dog foods. 

In regard to nutrients - While all dog foods are regulated to contain certain vitamins and minerals, all are not created equally. Inferior kibbles often add synthetic vitamins as opposed to adding in wholesome foods that contain natural vitamins. The body handles synthetic vitamins differently, so a Shih Tzu may not be absorbing what he needs, despite that fact that the ingredient list is showing these. 
In regard to fillers – Fillers are essential cheap ingredients that provide little to no nutritional value. 
They are added to foods to ‘plump’ them up, taking the place of ‘real’ food seen with better brands.

This includes but is not limited to corn, soy, brans, hulls, and cereal by-products.

A Shih Tzu will eat his food, and seem full. The problem is that the fillers pass right through the body, offering no nutrition. When you think that your dog ate a 1/2 cup of food, he really only received perhaps 1/4 cup of actual food that his body can use. 

The body, lacking what it needs, will cause a Shih Tzu to seek out other food sources; and many times, this will be feces. 

Since certain fillers pass through the body partially or completely undigested, the stools contain these food ingredients, which makes eating the poop all that more tempting. 

With this, or alternatively to this, though the Shih Tzu ate his whole meal, only some of the food was used for fuel. Soon afterward, the dog is hungry again... and if feces are there to eat, they may be ingested due to hunger. 
2. Stress. Paired with diet issues, but also seen on its own, high levels of stress can drive a Shih Tzu to ingest feces. This is a self-coping behavior seen with dogs, and is common with those left home alone or in chaotic households.
3. Boredom. Some dogs are okay with just ‘being’, but for the Shih Tzu, which is a high-energy, curious breed, there often needs to be some sort of stimulation or else the dog gets restless and bored. 

When left with nothing to do, a Shih Tzu may take to investigating his surroundings, sniffing around and mouthing things. And this may inevitably lead to mouthing and eating poop. 

4. Health issue/Age issue. Far less common, but a possibility for why a Shih Tzu may eat poop is an underlying health issue that is interfering with the dog’s ability to absorb nutrients. 

This includes but is not limited to:
  • Inflammatory bowel disease. Symptoms include diarrhea, vomiting, weight loss, gas, and/or abdominal pain. 
  • Intestinal tumors or cancer. Signs include diarrhea, vomiting of blood or feces, abdominal swelling, black or tarry stools, and/or hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) which causes confusion, trouble walking, and/or weakness. 
  • Intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Symptoms include larger or more frequent stools in comparison to food intake, vomiting, gas, weight loss, abdominal pain, and/or increased appetite. 
  • Parasitic infection. Includes worms and some fungal infections. Signs of worms are very varied depending on the type, but include vomiting, diarrhea, coughing, low energy, swollen abdomen, changes in appetite (increase or decrease), weight loss, poor coat texture, skin irritations, and worms that can be seen in the dog’s stools. 
  • Short bowel syndrome. Signs include watery diarrhea and weight loss. 
  • Lymphangiectasia (intestinal tract disease). Signs include weight loss, diarrhea, abdominal pain, swelling in the limbs, vomiting, and/or cough. 
  • * Age related (young or old) – Without any precise health issues, very young puppies or older, senior adult dogs may simply have troubles absorbing nutrients. While all conditions should be ruled out, often these Shih Tzu just need a bit of a nudge in the right direction, paired with the other methods to prevent eating feces. 

The 5 Steps to Stopping Coprophagia with Shih Tzu

Now that you understand the possible reasons why your Shih Tzu is eating poop, it’ll be easier to resolve this.
#1 Take action in regard to nutrient absorption issues.
For health issues - If your Shih Tzu is showing any of the signs as listed above for conditions that may interfere with how the body is absorbing nutrients, this warrants a veterinarian visit as soon as possible.  

If all health issues have been ruled out and there’s no food changes to be made, thus making this a matter of a Shih Tzu needing an extra boost to absorb the nutrients he is eating, a prozyme supplement can help with this. 

Prozyme is plant-based, and contains 4 digestive enzymes that help a dog’s digestive system absorb carbs, fatty acids, and protein.  

Two of them, alpha-amylase and protease, work by breaking down proteins and starches into smaller molecules that are easier to absorb. Cellulase works by breaking down plant fibers (vegetables), and lipase works by breaking down fatty acids (omegas). 
In this way, if you are giving your Shih Tzu a top-quality food, your dog will be getting the most out of it. 

Other benefits you may see once you starting giving this to your Shih Tzu include better coat texture, improvement with dry skin issues, less flatulence, healthier weight (for pups struggling to gain, and adults having trouble maintaining), and increased energy levels. 

A very good one to try is Trophy Prozyme All-Natural Enzyme Powder. It improves nutritional benefits up to 70% and is made (not just distributed) in the USA. This is a powder that is added to a meal (once per day), be sure to mix it in well. Results can be seen as soon as 1 week, with optimal results in 2 months.

Since this is very safe, and all natural, you can continue to give this indefinitely; but growing pups may not need this once they’ve matured. 
# 2 Reassess meals and snacks. 

Unless you are 100% confident in what your Shih Tzu is eating for meals and for snacks, it’ll be time to take a closer look and see if changes should be made.
For meals –Since Shih Tzu do not eat all that much, every bite counts. You’ll want to avoid kibble that has high grain content or any sort of fillers.

Just some of the 1 (very bad) through 3 (just ‘okay’) starred brands as graded by Dog Food Advisor include: 

Alpo, Back to Basics (grain free dry), Ben's Best, Beneful, Blue Buffalo Basics, Caliber, Country Acres, Defender, Everpet, Evolution Diet, Good Sense, Heartland Reserve, Gravy Train, Hi-Point, Hill's (some of the Ideal Balance and some of the Science Diet formulas),... yes, the list is still going...and, this is just a partial list...

Iams, Jake's Choice, Kal Kan, Kibbles 'n Bits, Natural Balance (original), Ol' Roy, Old Glory, Old Yeller, Pedigree, Purina, Racheal Ray (Nutrish dry and some others), Royal Canin (Lifestyle Health and some others), Simply Right, Sonny's Pride, and Trader Joe's (dry).
What to do: Feed your Shih Tzu puppy or dog a high-quality food to help prevent coprophagia that is due to food with inferior nutritional value.

Our top 3 choices are:
#1. Wellness CORE Grain-Free for Small Breeds.If there's a kibble that beats this one, we've yet to find it. Wellness Core is a superior choice that has everything you want and nothing you don't. 

It's 100% all-natural, which means zero artificial preservatives, coloring, or flavoring. It is also 100% completely grain-free, so there is no wheat or corn, and there's also no soy. This is centered around a rich protein base of turkey and chicken. Other ingredients include spinach, flaxseed, potato, peas, apple, broccoli, carrots, blueberries, and salmon oil. 

These healthy ingredients offer a great balanced diet, and there's optimal levels of omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamins and minerals. And, as a plus, there's glucosamine and chondroitin, which are ideal supplements for this breed, for good joint health.

The kibble is designed for dogs as small as 2 pounds. 

If your Shih Tzu is eating poop due to a diet lacking in proper nutrition, this food will resolve the issue. 
#2. Wellness Complete Health for Toy Breeds. Wellness comes through again as our 2nd pick, this company is devoted to providing excellent dog food formulas. This is also 100% all-natural, with no artificial additives whatsoever. The base of this is turkey and oatmeal, which is easy on the stomach for most dogs. 

The difference between this and the aforementioned Core, is that this has brown rice; canines need to receive their carbohydrates from somewhere, and a rice is a good choice for many dogs since it does not typically cause the issues seen with many other types of grains. 

It also has peas (a great source of fiber), spinach, sweet potato, apples, and blueberries. Via flaxseed and salmon oil, it has ideal levels of omega-3. It also has probiotics, which are great for digestive health. 
#3. If you are looking for a high-quality alternative to poultry, a great one is Merrick Lil Plates Grain-Free for Small Breeds. This is a zero-grain kibble, that comes in some great formulas; there is Texas Beef, Salmon, and Lamb options, and all are paired with sweet potato.
For snacks – With most Shih Tzu, snacks comprise 10 to 30% of their daily intake, so treats should be held to the same standards as main meals.
For moist training treats, you can't go wrong with Wellness Bites Natural Grain-Free Puppy Training Treats. This is a healthy lamb and salmon combo, and has no wheat, corn, soy, by-products, or artificial additives. 
For dry snacks, which are the type that should be given in between meals, Fruitables Pumpkin & Banana Crunchy Dog Treats are excellent. These 100% all-natural fruit-based treats are based off of pumpkin. Pumpkin is the #1 fruit that helps with digestion, a key to keep in mind when dealing with coprophagia. There's lots of flavor options including pumpkin paired with apple, blueberry, and cranberry. 
#3. Limit Access

This may seem like a ‘given’, but you may be surprised to what extent you can actually make changes in this regard.

1. If this is an issue regarding a Shih Tzu eating cat poop, keep the litter box out of reach. Since cats can climb and dogs cannot, on top of the washing machine or another similarly raised area works well. 
2. Keep the yard cleaned up by picking up poop as soon as it’s deposited. 

3. Do not allow your Shih Tzu to go outside alone. This is never a good idea for several reasons including not being able to reward good housebreaking habits and the risk of outdoor dangers. And of course, you can’t stop your Shih Tzu from eating feces from the yard if you are not there supervising him. 

4. When you are outside with your Shih Tzu, keep your dog on a harness (not a collar) and a short leash (6 foot or retractable). Watch your Shih Tzu. If your dog starts going towards any feces or starts nosing at poop, lead him away and bring him to another area that is poop-free. 
5. When you're inside with your Shih Tzu, keep him supervised. For dogs that are not yet house trained, and eating poop from indoor accidents, you’ll want to ramp up your housebreaking methods for quick success. 

6. When your Shih Tzu is home alone, this is a bit trickier. The other advice here (food changes, reducing boredom, supplements, etc.) will help. 
#4 Resolve Stress or Boredom Levels

Stress and boredom often go hand in hand. A bored dog at not at peace, and a stressed dog can feel better if kept distracted. Once your Shih Tzu is more relaxed and is kept busy throughout the day, this can greatly cut back on coprophagia. 

Here are some helpful tips:

1. Keep your Shih Tzu moving. This breed should be exercised twice per day, with brisk walks lasting at least 20 minutes each. It's good for the body, good for the heart, and great for the mind.

2. Incorporate playtime. While you no doubt have busy days, an important part of pet ownership is carving out time for interaction. Fit in at least a 20-minute game or fetch or other activity, ideally once per day. 

3. Start teaching commands, even just the basic ones of sit, come, fetch, and down. The training process and learning how to successfully obey commands can increase a dog’s self-esteem, and the time you take to work with your Shih Tzu is another activity to keep him occupied. 
4. Take a look at the overall vibe of the household to see if it’s too chaotic. Is there too much foot traffic? Too much noise? Or young children that an older Shih Tzu is having a hard time tolerating?
If so, giving your dog a quiet area to retreat to when desired can help. 

See the next tips for setting up an area. 

5. Give your Shih Tzu toys that will engage and entertain. Since these types of toys are so vital for when a dog is home alone, we cover more details about this right below. 

6. Take steps to sooth separation anxiety issues.
Ways to help reduce anxiety when home alone include:

1) Creating a den. It is canine instinct to seek a ‘den’ when stressed, it offers a feeling of safety and security. It also helps in keeping all of a dog’s necessities right near him, where they can’t roll away, get lost, or end up across the room where a Shih Tzu won’t notice them. 

One of the best methods for this is to have a canine playpen. 
We really like the IRIS 24'' 4-Panel Pet Playpen with Door; this is super-sturdy, has a door for easy in-and-out, you can add on extra panels to make it as large as you wish, and it comes in several colors to fit nicely in any room. 
2) Having the right items within the den. Toys that really engage a dog to encourage self-play are great for both stress and boredom. If a Shih Tzu is busy interacting with toys that actually hold his interest, he won’t be bored and messing around with his poop. 

Those that talk are super-engaging; Pet Qwerks Talking Babble Balls are neat little toys that let out 20 different phrases when they're nosed. One of them says funny things like 'Hot diggity-dog!' and another makes a host of animal noises. These can really make a dog feel as if the toy is playing with him, which is essential to combat boredom. 
A companion toy that mimics a living creature is a fantastic way to keep a dog happy and busy. The Smart Pet Love Snuggle Puppy Toy is a good-sized, durable (and washable) stuffed animal that emits a rhythmic heartbeat, and optionally, a comforting warmth. 
And, finally, for those with some room in the budget, a pet-cam that has 2-way audio, and the ability for you to send out a treat at the tap of your phone is an incredible method of ending feelings of isolation. A really great one is the Furbo Treat Tossing Dog Camera. Just don’t let your boss catch you playing with this all day. 
#5 Make Feces Less Tempting 

Once all other steps have been tried, you may also want to try a coprophagia deterrent. Do keep in mind that you’ll want any and all underlying triggers to be resolved first. 

Using a deterrent involves offering a supplement that is meant make a dog’s poop taste especially horrid.  

Home remedy, do not use:

Hot sauce. This is a home remedy purported to stop a dog from eating feces, it is meant to be poured over stools that have been deposited. But all it really does is cause a burning sensation that scares a dog of his own poop, and could be considered unethical. 

Not to mention that feces should be picked up right away, and if that is being done there is no poop there to douse with hot sauce. 

Home remedies, may work to some extent:
Both pineapple and pumpkin are said to perhaps help with coprophagia; however, there is only anecdotal proof. Both are safe for dogs to eat in reasonable amounts. 

Pumpkin does work to help a dog with digestive issues including diarrhea and constipation. But, it will not affect the taste of feces. 
Supplements, what may work:

This method is a coin toss; it works very well for some dogs, but not so much for others. If you’ve followed every tip on this page to a tee, and are still looking for something to work, it may be worth trying Naturvet Coprophagia Deterrent Soft Chew, which has about a 50% success rate. 

To Summarize

It’s a disturbing habit when a dog eats his own poop, but even more than that it is often a wake-up call that there is something that needs to be addressed.

Ruling out health issues, addressing a problem with nutrient absorption, switching to a superior food, limiting access, working to resolve stress and boredom levels, and using a deterrent are all methods that will work together to finally stop coprophagia issues that a Shih Tzu may be having. 
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Grooming a Shih Tzu - Overview of all grooming aspects, which leads to more details regarding baths, shampoos, brushing, and more. 
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