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Shih Tzu Vomiting Issues


It can be very worrying to see a tiny Shih Tzu throw up or have dry heaving. This section is going to discuss the reasons why this toy breed may have vomiting issues.

Depending on the type of vomiting that is occurring, you may be able to treat your Shih Tzu at home or it will be advisable to bring your puppy or dog to the veterinarian.

The key points that we will discuss here are:
  • Red flags that it is time to bring your dog to a veterinarian or animal hospital
  • Vomiting up yellow liquid or foam
  • Vomiting right after eating or immediately following exercise
  • Dry heaving
  • Vomiting due to poisoning
  • All other types of acute vomiting
  • Treatment to help your Shih Tzu feel better

Treating for Vomiting at Home vs Bringing Your Shih Tzu to the Vet

While many vomiting issues can be treated at home, some cannot. The following are red flag signs that you should bring your Shih Tzu to the vet ASAP:
  • The vomiting is chronic (throwing up for more than 3 days)
  • If you see red or black specks in the vomit (this points to either fresh or dried blood)
  • If your Shih Tzu suffers from projectile vomiting (the throw up will come out with great force - sometimes through the nose as well). With this, any food will be ejected out within the first few episodes and then liquid may come out, followed by dry heaving once the body does not have anything else to expel. 
  • If your puppy or dog has signs of weakness (this points to dehydration that can occur with too much vomiting)
  • If there are other symptoms such as fever, bloating of the stomach, and/or diarrhea

If a Shih Tzu is Throwing up Yellow Vomit  

What this is:

Out of all of the possible vomiting and stomach sensitivity problems that a Shih Tzu can develop, this is the most common. The substance will be a yellow liquid that varies in thickness but will not have any solid chunks of food and will sometimes have a white foam interlaced with it. In some cases, it will be a yellow-pale green color. 

This is points to a dog vomiting stomach bile.
Why this happens:

It is easy to assume that vomiting is caused by something that was eaten; however, when a Shih Tzu vomits bile, this is usually due to the stomach being too empty. The stomach is so empty that bile churns and a reflux occurs that causes the bile to be vomited out.

In rare cases (roughly 2%) this is caused by an inflammation of the small intestine or by gastritis.
What to do:

If this is happening to your Shih Tzu, you will want to look at your dog's eating schedule and make some changes. 

Adding an extra meal to the day or extra snacks often works to calm things down since toy breeds like the Shih Tzu have small intestinal tracts and food is absorbed rather quickly, leaving the dog with no food in the stomach to act as a cushion. 

Note that you will not be adding extra food; you'll simply be spreading food out. 

For example, if your Shih Tzu normally eats two 1/2 cup meals, you can break this down into three 1/3 cup meals, which will keep the stomach from being overly empty at any one given time and help to stop the vomiting problem. If your dog is already eating three meals, add in an extra dry snack. 

Since it is easy to offer too much at any one meal, thus making it difficult for a dog to be hungry a few hours later, it can help to mark your Shih Tzu's bowl to the "normal" feeding line and then mark a new line that you will use as a guide to offer a smaller portion. 

If your Shih Tzu goes without eating while you're away from home, you can encourage your dog to 'graze' by adding kibble to a treat-release toy. To make this tempting, mix the kibble with 100% all-natural smooth peanut butter or mix in a dash of fish oil. 

The PetSafe Busy Buddy Twist 'n Treat is a great choice for this; it's adjustable so that you can control the exact rate at which food is dispensed. 

If a Shih Tzu Vomits Chunks of Food Right After Eating

While this is given the term 'vomit', throwing up food immediately after eating is actually regurgitation; food is expelled out before it has started being digested. If this is the case, a Shih Tzu will vomit anywhere from 1 to 15 minutes after eating and what is vomited out will look rather undigested; you will be able to identify the food.

Reasons for this include:

1. Eating too quickly or too much at one time. 
If your Shih Tzu is gulping food down too quickly, you'll want to use a method to slow that down. For larger breeds, a slow-feeder bowl usually does the trick. But, you'll want to use a stainless steel bowl since plastic can cause a host of issues, and typically for toy breeds the only slow feeder bowls available are made of plastic. 

So, a great option is to use a portion pacer like the Omega Paw Small Portion Pacer, which is typically very effective. 
2. Food intolerance.

When a dog is allergic to a food ingredient, this often manifests with a rash and skin problems (including itchy skin). However, when a dog has a food intolerance, it can cause a dog to vomit after eating. 

If a Shih Tzu does have this type of intolerance, the most common culprits are synthetic preservatives, coloring dyes, flavoring (especially MSG), or by-products that are added to some inferior foods. Other ingredients that can cause issues include soy, corn, or grains. While less likely, but still possible, some proteins can cause issues, including chicken which is generally very well-tolerated by most dogs. 

For a food-related intolerance that is causing stomach upset, reassess what you are feeding your puppy or dog. 
You'll want to offer a high-quality food that has no irritating ingredients as mentioned above.

One of the best kibbles that fits this bill, and is sized ideally for this breed is Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free Dry for Small Breeds
If you believe that chicken may be the cause, Merrick Lil Plates Grain-Free Small Breed Beef Recipe is a fantastic choice.

If a Shih Tzu Vomits During Or Right After Exercise

If your puppy or dog tends to throw up while exercising (on walks, at play, etc.) or right after a jaunt of exercise, this is often due to the food not settling down before the body enters a state of a higher activity level. 

This is not usually a serious issue and often can be resolved by simply allowing 1 hour to pass between a meal and a walk; this is standard advice to avoid bloat, which can affect any dog breed, including toys. 

In addition, do be sure that you are not over-exercising your dog or exercising your Shih Tzu in a way that stresses the body (such as too much activity in the summer heat). Be sure to time walks to be in the morning and later in the evening when the temperature is cooler.  

Retching / Dry Heaving without Anything Coming Out

If a Shih Tzu is dry heaving or making motions that indicate that he or she is attempting to throw up but nothing is coming out, this can point to an obstruction.

Many dog owners ask if a dog is capable of developing a hairball, like cats can. And the answer is, Yes. If a Shih Tzu licks its coat quite a bit and if daily grooming is not done to brush out stray, loose hairs, it is possible for a hair ball to develop and consequently, obstruct the airway.  

Other types of blockage could happen if a Shih Tzu mouths a non-food item and this is quite common with dogs. Anything that is on the floor is a potential choking hazard… This includes hair ties, keys, coins, etc. Puppies love to mouth just about everything in order to understand what it is - food or not, and adult dogs may mouth objects due to boredom or simply curiosity.

The object may then become trapped in the throat and this can cause a Shih Tzu to make retching motions, gag and/or dry heave.

With a partial blockage, a dog will be able to breath, but will act as if he needs to vomit. If it is a hairball, it may or may not come out. Retching in this way for more than 4 or 5 hours should be brought to the attention of the veterinarian. The hair may be able to be removed or laxatives may be given to help it pass through the body.

With a blockage that is causing breathing problems, immediate aid must be given. In many states, 911 services do not respond to calls that regard animals; they may divert the call to animal control, however they are not prepared to help with this type of matter and most people will not be able to find help in this way.

Therefore, your quick actions will be needed. All Shih Tzu owners should know how to perform the canine Heimlich maneuver. You will first want to see if you can remove the object, by opening your Shih Tzu's mouth and pulling the tongue forward to see if you can spy anything. If you cannot and your dog is in distress and choking, you will want to hold your dog in your arms, with his back against your chest. 

Carefully place one fist against your dog's abdomen (about 1 inch under your Shih Tzu's armpits) and make 4 rapid thrusts inward and upward. ONLY do this if the situation calls for it, since injury can occur by thrusting too forcefully.

Violent Projectile Vomiting

Violent projectile vomiting is a red flag to bring your Shih Tzu to the vet or the closest animal hospital. There are several serious health issues that can cause this, ranging from parvo (usually accompanied with bloody diarrhea and weakness) to worms. 

Vomiting that Occurs with Poisoning

One reason for vomiting is poisoning. There is never an owner who expects this to happen, so we encourage owners to keep an open mind and look for signs of this, even if you do not think that it is possible.

Depending on the substance that was ingested, the vomiting may be intense (as seen with the ingestion of many types of poisonous plants), may have other symptoms (the eyes, nose and mouth will bleed if a dog ingests rat poison) or there may be dry heaving, with or without weakness, fainting, diarrhea and/or acting distressed (the dog acts panicked, paces, etc.)

If you know that your Shih Tzu ingested something that could be toxic, immediately call the vet. You may be given instructions to induce vomiting (sometimes, it can make things worse, so this must be determined by the vet). Making a dog throw up is typically done via hydrogen peroxide; your vet will give you exact dosing. 

Prepare to then bring your dog to the veterinarian, along with the element that was swallowed (remaining liquid from a bottle, etc. if applicable). In most cases, the toxins will NOT simply pass through the body.  

If you are not sure if your dog ate something toxic, play it "better safe than sorry".  

All Other Types of Acute Vomiting

It's not uncommon for a dog to suffer from an acute viral infection that causes acute vomiting. Only if you have ruled out other causes, and your Shih Tzu does not show any of the 'red flags' as mentioned previously, you can then treat for this at home. Treatment is covered next. 

How to Treat a Shih Tzu for Vomiting

With acute cases of vomiting that are not deemed an emergency, a Shih Tzu can rest and recuperate at home from upset stomach problems
1. Immediately withhold food for 12 to 24 hours. Since food will be vomited out at any rate, it's important to give the stomach a rest. Depending on what time your Shih Tzu first threw up (morning or night when your dog will be asleep soon), the length of time to withhold food will range from 12 to 24 hours. 

2. During this time, be sure that your Shih Tzu is staying hydrated. A lot of water is expelled during a vomiting episode; so, that water needs to be replaced. And, since your dog will not be eating for a little while, water is more important than ever. 

You can offer small ice chips; if these are made with a mixture of 50/50 water and pure apple juice, this will give your dog some much needed natural sugar. In moderate to severe cases, your vet may recommend a 50/50 mixture of water and children's Pedialyte to replace electrolytes (be sure to use plain Pedialyte and not one with any extra ingredients). 

3. A bland diet. Once the 12 to 24 hours have passed, it will be time to start your Shih Tzu on a very bland diet. This will consist of one protein and one starch. Typically, a good combination is minced white chicken meat and sweet potato. Alternatively, lean beef with pasta or rice can be given instead. Do not add any butter or seasonings. Serve small amounts frequently, but never forcing your dog to eat.

After 3 days, you should be able to transition your Shih Tzu back to his normal high-quality food. If your Shih Tzu threw up the bland food or goes back to throwing up once he's eating his kibble, this is your sign that a vet visit is a must. 

A Final Thought

You know how terrible it is to throw up, and for dogs, vomiting is just as bad. While a dog may act "just fine" after throwing up, this should not be overlooked. 

Chronic vomiting problems should be identified so that changes can be made and a Shih Tzu will not need to endure what can be a stressful, painful, and sometimes dangerous condition.
Other Articles of Interest:

Housebreaking a Shih Tzu - This doesn't need to be a stressful time; see how to do this for fast success. 
Shih Tzu Training Tips - No matter what sort of training you'll be doing, these top tips will help you be a great teacher and help your Shih Tzu to be a great student. 
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