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Upset Stomach

Shih Tzu Upset Stomach Problems


It's always worrisome when a Shih Tzu has upset tummy issues. This breed is small, so any disturbance to eating or drinking patterns can cause a rapid case of dehydration and weight loss. There are a number of reasons why a Shih Tzu would suddenly have an upset stomach; thankfully many of these can be resolved from home.

In this section, we are going to discuss:
  • Why a Shih Tzu may have an upset stomach
  • Common signs of this
  • At home treatment to ease symptoms and get your puppy or dog feeling back to normal
  • Signs and symptoms that point to a serious health issue that must be treated by the veterinarian

Common Signs

Since your dog can't tell you that he's not feeling well, it will not be until you see physical signs that something is wrong.

There may be:

• Vomiting
• Dry heaving
• Diarrhea
• Loud stomach gurgling
• Excessive gas
• Drooling

With mild, passing cases there is often one episode of vomiting and then a period of time in which the Shih Tzu will want to rest. He may be extra thirsty, however aside from that he'll be a bit wiped out from exertion.

With mild, acute cases of diarrhea, a Shih Tzu may have this for 24 hours and during that time he will not want to eat. These sorts of stomach problems can make a toy sized dog extremely tired.

Top Reasons Why a Shih Tzu May Have an Upset Stomach

Ingesting a food that disagrees with his stomach- This is the most common reason for stomach distress. It may happen if you have offered your puppy a new food, have switched to a new brand of commercial food too quickly or if your Shih Tzu happened to get into something that he shouldn't have.

Take note of what your Shih Tzu may have ate before his stomach started acting up . Let's look at the main reasons for this and what to do:

1) Was he outside and could have possibly chewed on some grass? This is notorious for making dogs sick. While there are various theories on why dogs eat grass (some say it is a canine instinct, done to induce vomiting and other believe a dog will eat it due to a lack of nutrients and upset stomach is a side effect). 

If this is the case, you'll want to provide some at-home care (more ahead) and symptoms should subside within 12 hours.

Take note that some flowers and weeds can be toxic, so if that is suspected and symptoms are severe, this is a reason for professional intervention.

2) Did your dog get into the trash? If so, there countless foods and elements that will cause stomach problems. Look through to try and determine if any toxic foods may have been there.

This includes onions, chocolate, caffeine products, fruit seeds, raw bread dough, avocado, grapes, raisins, Macadamia nuts, and sugar-free gum that contains Xylitol. If there is a chance that your Shih Tzu ingested one of these foods, it is advised to call the veterinarian immediately.
Inducing vomiting may or may not be advised and treatment will depend on the element that was ingested. ONLY when instructed by a professional veterinarian, this is done by giving a dog 1 teaspoon of Hydrogen Peroxide - via feeding syringe - every 10 minutes until effective.

If for some reason you cannot reach the vet, you would want to call the Pet Poison Hotline at 800-213-6680. This number serves North America and do be aware that there is a $39 charge.

3) Did you just switch to a new food? While it is a change to main meals that can often cause upset stomach with this breed, some Shih Tzu are also sensitive to a change in snacks and treats. A difference in levels of fat, a high amount of additives or coloring or just intolerance to a newly introduced ingredient may be enough to cause an upset tummy.

A gradual changeover is suggested over the course of 4 weeks. In the meantime, go back to what you were feeding your Shih Tzu earlier and do not give any more of the new food. There will be a period of adjustment in which the stomach needs to rest (more ahead). 

4) Did you Shih Tzu eat too fast? Some puppies and dog will eat so fast that the food is not properly chewed and with large chunks entering the stomach at a fast rate, this can cause upset within just minutes. When you add the element of gulping down air with the food, this can create the perfect recipe for an upset stomach usually combined with gas and bloating. In very rare cases, this could lead to actual bloat (a twisting and turning of the stomach that is highly fatal if not immediately treated) however this condition is not often seen with the Shih Tzu breed.

There are two quick fixes to this that are easy to implement. Obtaining a slow feeding bowl works very well to encourage a dog to eat slower. You will want to stay with stainless steel as your material and for this reason, opting for an SS portion pacer will do the trick as well.

The other element that you may want to consider if your Shih Tzu has a sensitive stomach is to spread out feeding times throughout the day. Moving up to 3 meals as opposed to 2, or offering 2 smaller meals but along with more healthy snacks can help.

Stomach Virus - Canines can develop passing stomach ailments just as humans can. However, with our dogs we must be careful since one of the most common virus are serious canine diseases including parvo and corona. Even with preventative treatments, there are circumstances in which a Shih Tzu can catch something. You'll want to monitor your puppy or dog for any signs that things are worsening and have him evaluated if this stomach does not calm down with the at-home remedies we will discuss ahead.

Serious medical conditions - In most cases, an upset stomach will be a passing concern and can be treated at home. However, with this said there are some rather serious health conditions in which upset stomach is a main symptom. This includes stomach ulcer and pancreatitis.

Treatment for a Shih Tzu's Upset Stomach at Home

With mild cases, treatment at home can help a Shih Tzu recuperate and recover. As you are offering these home remedies, you will want to keep a close eye on your puppy or dog. If he is not improving or the stomach problems are getting worse, this means that what you can offer from home is not enough and he needs medical treatment.

Here is what you can do:

1) Do not give food for 10 to 16 hours while preventing low sugar. Refrain from giving any food for 10 hours if he got sick in the morning and for 16 hours if your dog got sick at night. Some sources will tell you to not give food for 24 hours; however that is not correct with toy breed dogs and certainly not good for a Shih Tzu. With mild symptoms that do not require vet assistance, these short periods of time (10 to 16 hours depending on the time of day) are enough.

For example, if your Shih Tzu had diarrhea at 7 AM, you would want to hold off on giving any food during the day, allowing the stomach to rest and hopefully by 5 PM, he will be ready for a small, appropriate snack (more ahead).

If your Shih Tzu showed signs of stomach upset at 8 PM, he would not eat overnight as usual. You can try to see if he will eat soft foods at 12 noon the following day.

While you are withholding food, it is important to ensure that hypoglycemia does not develop. This is a rapid drop in blood sugar levels that can affect toy breed dogs that go without eating; regardless of having an upset stomach or not. A 1/2 teaspoon of honey should be given every 2 hours to prevent glucose levels from falling. This can be given off of a spoon or it can be gently rubbed into the Shih Tzu's gums. Note: Do not use Karo syrup, it can act as a laxative.

2) Replenish electrolytes. Offer a mixture of cold, fresh, filtered water and un-flavored Pedialyte which is a children's electrolyte replenishment drink. This can be found OTC at local pharmacies and also some supermarkets. A 50/50 mixture is best. This will help your Shih Tzu replace important electrolytes they may have lost from the effects of vomiting or loose stools.

Once a Shih Tzu has had 2 bowls of this water/ Pedialyte solution, if his stomach has calmed down and he is not getting sick any longer, you can switch back to plain water.

It can also help to slowly offer ice chips which some dogs tolerate better than drinking water from the bowl.
3) A Bland diet. When a dog's body is wiped out with the effects of upset stomach, you will want to offer very bland foods that are extremely easy on the digestive system. This allows both the stomach and intestines to have a rest while the dog still receives nutrition.

Do not use any seasoning other than a small dash of salt. A bit of sodium is needed to help replenish salts that are lost due to vomiting and/or diarrhea.

The best foods for an upset stomach are: sweet potatoes and white rice, whipped nicely into a mash that is easily chewed and swallowed. This is tolerated best when served warm. Give just a bit at a time, allowing the stomach to rest in-between bites. If you see that your Shih Tzu is doing well, you can add some white breast chicken meat without the skin.

During this time of offering relief to a queasy stomach, snacks can be plain white yogurt (regular, not non-fat. This is a good source of healthy pro-biotic bacteria that may benefit the digestive system.

Another good snack is plain, canned pumpkin - be sure to obtain actual pumpkin and not the pie mix. This helps to firm the stools. Do not give too much as it can cause constipation. A spoonful every couple of hours is best.

How long should you give your Shih Tzu a bland diet? Depending on how your Shih Tzu responds, this can be given for 1 to 3 days. If there is no improvement after 72 hours, this is your signal that it is time for the veterinarian to treat your puppy or dog for what is most likely an underlying condition.

If it is working, you will want to ease back into your dog's regular diet. This can be accomplished by continuing to feed the sweet potatoes, rice and chicken while blending in a bit of your dog's normal kibble or main food. A mixture of 75/25 can be given to start with, with gradual ratio changes over the course of 2 to 3 days.

4) Pepto Bismal - Many owners wonder if you can give Pepto Bismal to a Shih Tzu. This actually is a safe over-the-counter home remedy for an upset stomach; however you will want to be careful in regard to dosing. It can help with nausea, heartburn, indigestion and diarrhea.

There are some genetic brands of Pepto that may have additional ingredients that make them unsafe for canine consumption; therefore it is best to stick with the original brand name. Pepto's active ingredient is bismuth subsalicylate, which coats the stomach and gastrointestinal tract. It also works to reduce internal swelling and can destroy some types of bacteria.

Please note that this is a temporary fix and it is not safe to keep giving a Shih Tzu Pepto for moderate to severe stomach problems. This would only be an attempt to cover the symptoms and not resolve the underlying problem.

The best way to deliver this to a Shih Tzu is with a safe plastic feeding syringe. You would aim for the inside side of the mouth; do not shoot it straight down the throat. Once it sits in the inside corner of the cheek, gently close your puppy or dog's mouth, and this will trigger him to swallow the medicine.

How much Pepto Bismal you give your Shih Tzu will depend on his weight, not his age. The proper dosing is 1 teaspoon (15 milliliters) per 5 pounds (2.26 kg) of body weight. Therefore, just a small amount is needed. You will want to give your Shih Tzu a dose every 2 hours. After 4 doses (8 hours) if his stomach has not calmed down at all, it will be time to contact the vet's office. Be sure to let them know that you offered this OTC medicine, as it can interfere with x-rays and other scanning tests if those are to be given.

The possible side effects include dark stools, a darkened tongue and/or constipation.

Signs that the Stomach Problems Warrant a Vet Visit

Due to a vast array of possible causes, if your Shih Tzu has any of the following symptoms, you will want to have him/her treated at the vet ASAP:

• Excessive bloated stomach
• Inability to rest (pacing, acting panicked, agitated, unable to sit or lie still)
• Excessive drooling
• Has not been able to hold down water for more than 5 hours
• Blood in the vomit
• Blood in the stool
• Fever
• Vomiting for more than 8 hours
• Diarrhea for more than 24 hours
• Vomiting and diarrhea at the same time - This can cause rapid and fatal dehydration
• Dry gums - when your Shih Tzu is feeling sick, check the gums. They should be pink and moist. If you run your finger over the gums and they feel dry, this is a red flag sign of dehydration.

While you are feeding a bland diet and possibly giving your Shih Tzu Pepto to help with the upset stomach, this will most likely be stopping any vomiting or diarrhea problems. However, this does not mean that your dog has recovered. If he acts listless, the stomach is bloated or he is not back to his normal active and happy self after 24 hours, it is important to have your puppy or dog evaluated with a reputable veterinarian.

There is a vast array of possible triggers including internal parasites, hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, intestinal blockage, parvo virus and pancreatic problems that simply cannot be treated from home. 

When in doubt be sure to place a call into the office. In most cases, they will make sure that you are following the above guidelines and will have you check in the next day to report if there is improvement.  
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