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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.

If you are not currently dealing with this issue, please take note of the important elements regarding this topic so that if your Tzu ever does become ill in this way, you will be able to immediately offer the proper care based on the symptoms that your puppy or dog is experiencing.

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 Tzu to the veterinarian.

The key points that we will discuss here are:
  • How the color and type of vomit can help you determine what is wrong
  • Acute (random occurrences) VS chronic vomiting (when this happens frequently)
  • Signs and symptoms to look for that may accompany vomiting and stomach problems
  • Treatment to help your Shih Tzu feel better
  • Red flags that it is time to bring your Tzu to a veterinarian or animal hospital
  • Emergency issues (This usually involves acute vomiting due to poisoning)

If a Shih Tzu is Throwing up Yellow Vomit  

Out of all of the possible vomiting and stomach sensitivity problems that a Shih Tzu can develop, this is the most common. A dog will throw up a substance that 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.

This is points to a dog vomiting stomach bile, which is a much different issue that throwing up regurgitated food. If you look to the photograph here, you will see exactly what stomach bile usually looks like. Yellow is the most common color, however with some dogs, it will be have a green tint.

It is a common for dog owners to confuse stomach bile with stomach acid, but there is a distinct difference. 

Both are liquid substances that the body manufactures as an aid in digesting food. Both contain water, salt, liquid fats and mucus. However, acid is manufactured in the stomach and bile is manufactured in the liver. (If a dog vomits a clear liquid, it points to stomach acid). 
This bile works to neutralize the stomach acid before it travels from the stomach to the small intestines. It also works to neutralize any microbes that may be present in digested food.

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. 

In rare cases (roughly 2%) this is caused by an inflammation of the small intestine or by gastritis, however most of the time it is due from the stomach and intestines being overly void. The stomach is so empty that a reflux occurs that causes the bile to be vomited out.
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 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 and intestines acting as a cushion. 

Note that you will not be adding extra food; you'll simply be adding an extra feeding time. For example, if your Tzu normally eats 2, 1/2 cup meals, you can break this down into 3, 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 Shih Tzu vomits bile, here is a quick guide on changes that you can make to his or her meal plan that can help. If you normally feed your Tzu:
  • 1 time per day, switch to 2 times per day
  • 2 times per day, switch to 3 times per day
  • 3 times per day, add 2 healthy snacks, with one between the first 2 meals and the other between th3e 2nd and 3rd meal or later in the evening as a "dessert".
Making changes like this can be a bit tricky in regard to not actually offering more food (which means more calories and can lead to unwanted weight gain). 

A couple helpful tips is 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. 

Additionally, if you are adding snacks to keep this sort of vomiting at bay, it is suggested to offer them as rewards. This is a great opportunity to reinforce training, whether you ask your Shih Tzu to sit and offer a treat as reward or you work on your dog's heeling skills.

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. When a Shih Tzu vomits before the food has started being digested, this is often due to 1 of 3 reasons:
  • Eating too quickly
  • Eating too much at one time
  • Food Intolerance
1- Eating Too Quickly or Too Much

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 ingredients.

a) You will first want to look at how much your Tzu is ingesting at meal time. The quality of the food will play a big role here. Lower quality foods often means that a puppy or dog needs to larger amounts to receive proper nutrition. 

If a Shih Tzu normally ate 1 cup of kibble with high filler content, he would be satisfied with 1/2 cup or even 1/3 cup of a very high quality dog food. 

If you are looking for a great food with zero fillers, Wellness CORE Natural Dry Grain-Free for Small Breeds is a great choice. This has no corn, no soy, and no grains. It has zero artificial additives and no chemical preservatives. It is sized perfectly for toy breeds like the Shih Tzu and is made in the USA. 
b) The next element to look at is the rate at which the food is being eaten, since this can be what is causing a Shih Tzu to vomit.

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 in 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- Intolerance

When a dog is allergic to a food ingredient, this is often manifest 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 additives, by-products, or generic meat sources that are added to some inferior foods.

Other top food 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, there are two options.

a) Home cooking. Typically, a very bland diet of chicken and rice is given to dogs after vomiting episodes to help calm the tummy. And home cooking can later be expanded to include more ingredients such as veggies and fruit to round things out. 
b) Offer a high quality food that has no irritating ingredients. 

For a dog food that has no corn, no soy, no wheat, no grains, no generic meats, no by-products, no artificial additives, no chemical preservatives, and to avoid chicken (if you believe that 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 a good 20 minutes to pass between a meal and a walk. 

Timing walks in this way is often helpful in regard to house training as well, since - for puppies- it is just about at the 20 minute mark after eating that he or she will need to have a bowel movement. For housebreaking purposes, do remember that the puppy should be brought to the designated bathroom area first, allow to "do their thing" and THEN head out for the walk. 

In addition, do be sure that you are not over-exercising your dog or exercising your Tzu in a way that stresses the body (such as too much in the summer heat). 

While this breed does need daily exercise to maintain good health, if your Shih Tzu vomits during walks, he or she may be walking too quickly. If this happens on hot summer days, the heat may be causing a problem; be sure to time walks to be in the morning and later in the evening when the temperature is cooler.  

Signs and Symptoms that Vomiting is a Serious Concern

The above types of vomiting can often be treated at home with some minor adjustments to feeding and/or exercise schedules and if needed, the type of bowl that your Shih Tzu eats from. 

However, if you have made the recommended changes and your Shih Tzu is still throwing up, it will be time to have an experienced, reputable veterinarian diagnose the problem.  

Vomiting, along with other symptoms, can point to a serious medical issue. Do not hesitate to bring your Shih Tzu to the veterinarian if the following occurs:
  • 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 Tzu suffers from projectile vomiting (This means that 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 throw ups and then liquid may come out, followed by dry heaving once the body does not have anything else to expel. 
If a Tzu has this and is at the point of dry heaving, it is time to see the veterinarian, as a toy breed such as this can quickly become dangerously dehydrated.
  • 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

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 can be an issue 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 it. If you cannot and your Tzu 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 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 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. 

As stated above, any projectile vomiting for any amount of time or throwing up that lasts 3 or more days is a sign that a Shih Tzu needs veterinary intervention.

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 (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 a non-food that could be toxic, immediately bring him/her to the closest veterinarian or animal hospital 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 Tzu ate something toxic, play it "better safe than sorry".  

Helping the Stomach Rest After a Vomiting Incident

With acute cases of vomiting that are not deemed an emergency, a Shih Tzu can rest and recuperate at home from upset stomach problems. Since throwing up can rapidly cause dehydration, it is recommended to encourage your Tzu to slowly drink filtered water, but then once he/she has their fill, limit water and limit food for several hours.

For the next 24 hours, offer a bland diet. Best is boiled, boneless white chicken breast with wither plain white boiled potato or plain soft cooked rice. There should be no spices or salt added to this. The meat should be cut into very fine pieces (shredded is best) and mixed well.

Ice chips can be given instead of water. In addition, small amounts of pediatric electrolyte solution can be mixed in with cool, filtered water.

If a Shih Tzu holds this down and has not vomited again within those 24 hours, you can then slowly introduce his/her normal food

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.
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