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Shih Tzu Diarrhea


When a Shih Tzu has diarrhea, this can be stressful for both owner and dog. It can also be dangerous when a toy breed dog has an issue such as this that is capable of causing sometimes rapid dehydration. With the Tzu, owners must take this ailment seriously and follow guidelines to ensure that treatment at home is working and if not, realize when it is time to seek professional help from a veterinarian.

Many questions are raised including:
  • What causes this?
  • How long will this last for?
  • Is there an at-home treatment for this?
This section will answer these questions and go into detail regarding every issue that you need to know about if your Shih Tzu puppy or dog is having loose bowels or diarrhea issues.

The Definition of Canine Diarrhea

Diarrhea is the terminology used when stool is loose and unformed. Therefore, a bowel movement need not be fully liquid for a Shih Tzu to have diarrhea. 

When a dog eats, it takes roughly 8 hours for the food to pass through the dog's small intestines. During those 8 hours, much of the food and up to 80 percent of the water in it is absorbed into the body. 

The remainder is become concentrated while in the colon and then during a normal bowel movement, it is excreted as a well formed stool.
A dog's bowel movement is considered normal if it is akin to play dough - If held, it would stay in one piece - perhaps eventually breaking off- yet it would be solid and slightly soft. Conversely, Hard pebbles are a sign of constipation.

Here is a list of signs that point to a Shih Tzu having diarrhea:

  • Stools are loose, runny and/or liquid
  • There is a large volume of stool
  • There is an increase if the number of bowel movements (a Shih Tzu may squirt out diarrhea every few minutes and this can be quite draining on the puppy or dog)

What Causes This?

There are actually many causes of diarrhea for the Shih Tzu, including:

Food intolerance- With an intolerance, the puppy or dog is not actually allergic to a food; he or her body simply has a difficult time digesting it. With an allergy, while stomach problems can be a symptom, there is often other signs as well such as dry skin/coat and stomach woes often manifest with vomiting and not diarrhea. 

As with allergies, owners may be surprised with the rather 'simple' foods that some dogs have trouble digesting. While rare, some Shih Tzu have trouble with fish, eggs, beef and even chicken (which is often used as part of a bland diet to calm stomach problems). Other food triggers can be spices (all that dogs really need is a bit of salt), soy and wheat.

Intestinal parasites- One of the most common problems is giardiasis. This is an intestinal infection that causes diarrhea in dogs. A Shih Tzu can contract this if he or she ingests the feces of another animal. A puppy or dog can also become sick from lapping puddles outside; if contaminated feces run into the water, the bacteria stays alive and can then be ingested, making a dog sick.
Some estimate that 50 % of all puppies will contract this at least once. For this reason, please keep a close eye on your Shih Tzu to stop him/her from eating any feces and never allow your Tzu to lap water from puddles (puddles from melting ice can also be very toxic as they often contain chemicals from ice melt products).

Other parasites that may cause diarrhea for the Shih Tzu puppy are roundworms, whipworms, hookworms or threadworms.

Ingestion of trigger - It is not uncommon for dogs to find their way into the trash where decayed food and/or garbage can be ingested. In addition, elements found outside - dead animals (mice, birds), grasses, plants and more can be eaten can cause diarrhea.

Deciphering the Reason for Your Shih Tzu's Diarrhea

The color and consistency can allow an owner to pinpoint the reason for their Tzu having a bout of diarrhea.


Black - This is a sign of upper GI bleeding and must be brought to the attention of the vet immediately.

Red (including bright red spotting)- This is bloody diarrhea and often points to bleeding in the lower GI tract; although for some dogs that have excessive diarrhea, the bleeding can come from tears and rips in the anus.

Yellow/ Green - This points to a rapid transit of the food, which points to the above mentioned food intolerance, parasites or ingestion of a trigger.

Gray - This can point to an issue of digestion problems


Watery- If the diarrhea is fully liquid, this points to a rapid transit of the food, which points to the above mentioned food intolerance, parasites or ingestion of a trigger.

Foamy - If your Shih Tzu has diarrhea that appears to have foam in it, this points to a bacterial infection

Greasy - If it appears to have a heavy grease to it, this can be a sign of issues with the pancreas.

To Treat at Home or Bring Your Shih Tzu to the Veterinarian

Sometimes acute diarrhea (a short bout) can be treated at home along with other types of upset stomach issues. However, let us first look at signs that call for immediate medical care:

1- If your Shih Tzu is suffering with diarrhea for more than 24 hours - This is very important since as a toy breed dog, the Tzu can become dangerously dehydrated after 24 hours. Blood sugar levels can drop to dangerous levels (hypoglycemia), especially for young puppies. 

2- There are any signs of bloody diarrhea - A dark black color or any red indicate this.

3- If there is vomiting in addition to the diarrhea - When a Shih Tzu is both throwing up and having diarrhea, this can be very dangerous and the puppy or dog should receive professional care at once.

4- If the Tzu appears overly weak - While most dogs with diarrhea will not be themselves during the bout, if a puppy or dog has trouble standing or shows signs of extreme weakness this is a sign of dehydration, low blood sugar or both which must be treated at the vet's.

5- Fever - The average normal temperature for a dog is 101 Fahrenheit (38 C) but the normal range is between 99 and 102.5 degrees Fahrenheit (37.2 and 39.2 C). The most accurate method to obtain a dog's internal body temperature is with a rectal thermometer; though it is understandable that when a Shih Tzu has diarrhea, this may not be the preferred method. 

The next best method is to use a canine ear thermometer; high quality ones work by measuring infrared heat waves from the dog's eardrum. 

Treatment at Home


If you have determined that there is not a reason to bring your Shih Tzu to the veterinarian (please read all of the above information) treatment at home should begin immediately upon seeing signs of diarrhea.

1- The stomach, GI tract and intestines will need to rest for 24 hours. If the diarrhea is moderate to severe, withhold food for 24 hours (however do give supplements as described below). If a Shih Tzu's diarrhea is slight, withholding food for the first 12 hours should be adequate.

During this time, allow your Shih Tzu to drink as much as he/she wishes. What to do if your Shih Tzu doesn't want to drink?

• Offer ice cubes as an alternative to drinking water from a bowl
• Dissolve a small low-salt chicken botulin cube into the water

During the time of fasting, offer a watered down supplemental electrolyte fluid such as Pedialyte. This should be a mixture of 1/2 water, 1/2 fluid.

2- Medication such as Pepto Bismol is safe to give to dogs IF a dog is NOT pregnant, if a dog is NOT allergic to silicates AND with your vet's approval.

Your Shih Tzu will only need very small doses. The recommended dose is 1 teaspoon for a 5 pound dog; therefore a typical Tzu puppy will only need about 1 to 1/5 teaspoons and an adult Shih Tzu would need just about 2 teaspoons. It is given every 2 to 3 hours for up to 24 hours. Your vet may approve a slightly larger dose, so do check with him/her regarding this. This home treatment should be followed by an office visit.

3- You may need to change sleeping/ living arrangements. In some cases, no matter how close you keep your dog to the door, there simply is not time to signal for the need to go outside and then be brought outdoors before the diarrhea is expelled. Therefore, know ahead of time that you will need to quickly come up with an alternative. Arranging indoor canine gates over linoleum, layered with pee pads will make clean up much easier. 

4- While your Shih Tzu is not feeling well, limit play time (let small children know that the dog needs to rest, etc.) and hold off on any walks until your Tzu is feeling better.

After the First 24 Hours

Keeping in mind that you will bring your Shih Tzu to the vet if the diarrhea does not improve after 24 hours, if treatment at home is working and the puppy or dog no longer has diarrhea, there should be a very gradual introduction to food.

For 2-4 days, a bland home cooked diet should be given. This can included: white breast chicken meat (boiled, no skin), white rice, cottage cheese, soft cooked pasta (plain, no butter, no sauce), and/or plain cooked oatmeal. Try a few different foods to see which ones your Shih Tzu prefers while he/she is recovering. Never force your Tzu to eat, it is best to offer very small amounts all throughout the day. Once your dog is back to normal, you can resume regular scheduled meals.

Chronic Diarrhea

It is very important to bring your Shih Tzu to the veterinarian if the diarrhea lasts for more than 24 hours, since this can point to the cause being parasitic in nature or another more serious illness or condition that will need to be treated (food intolerance, etc.)

Some conditions can cause intermittent diarrhea - The dog will have what seems like an acute case but then will suffer another attack 1 to 2 weeks later.

It is found to be a parasite, medication will rid the dog of the invaders. If it is found to be a food intolerance, changes can be made to the diet to eliminate the culprit - in some cases home cooking will be recommended in order to have control in regard to all of the ingredient that your Shih Tzu ingests.

If a Shih Tzu Has a Sore Bum After a Bout of Diarrhea

It is not uncommon for a puppy or dog to suffer from a red, inflamed anus after a bout of diarrhea and this can be so uncomfortable for a dog. Some will lick at the area in an attempt to soothe the skin, but this often only makes it worse (similar to licking chapped lips).

While you will find some advice such as wiping the area with a baby wipe or applying some petroleum jelly (both which may help to some degree), we have found the following to work best: Gently clean the area with antibacterial soap. Cut open some Vitamin E gel tabs - be careful as the solution inside will be an oily liquid. Apply this liquid to the sore, red skin. It is best to apply this at a time when you can keep your Shih Tzu occupied so that your dog does not try to lick the area. 

Improvement can usually be seen within 24 hours. If you do not see improvement, the skin may have become infected. At this point, it is recommended to gently clean the area well and apply bacitracin. If there is no improvement after 24 hours of applying this, it will be time to bring your Tzu to the vet where a stronger antibacterial gel may be prescribed, along with a cone to prevent the dog from licking the area.
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