The Straight Poop on Eating Poop!

  While there is not a complete consensus on whether poop-eating (copraphagy) is on the rise since the quality of dog foods has improved, or whether it is merely an inherited obsessive-compulsive problem, there is NO DOUBT that Shih Tzus LOVE TO EAT POOH!!  It seems to me that the truth lies somewhere in between, since use of protein-digesting food additives have mixed results in some breeds...Shih Tzus even seem to be MORE attracted to stool that contains the sour plant compounds that repel other dogs!

  Some 'Tzus go to great lengths to Hold Stool In during potty trips outside just so they can duck behind some furniture and take a Snack Break.  Yuck...so much for it being a great idea to come back to Earth as one of your own Dogs!

    Puppies do learn to clean up their nests as they observe their Mothers doing this...pups that are delayed in house training at the breeder's facility will show more poop-eating behavior than those who are substrate-trained to Go Outside from age 5-6 weeks (when pups naturally begin to develop the INSTINCT to keep clean around the den--there is very little Learning taking place during house training--only varying degrees of human consistency!).  This requires specific and consistent attention from the breeder, and of necessity requires that you NOT purchase a puppy or adult from a mass-breeder or broker-supplied source.

Boredom and Anxiety are known to increase the obsessive-compulsive features of this behavior...never leave your dog unattended outdoors when it is Potty Time...always Clean Up Right Away (you may need to put Puppy in the house first to eliminate competitive-poop-eating, but get that yard tidied up super-quick!).

  Newer dog food formulations contain a lot more protein than the older carb-based foods...when protein passes undigested out of the bowel, a dog's nose can pick up this "food" odor...ta da.  Dogs, in addition to being Competitive Feeders, are Opportunistic Feeders:  they eat everything they come across that Might Be Food.  Meat-based foods are by far the Best Thing to feed your pet, but just an awareness of this syndrome can help you get out ahead of this problems in a large number of cases.

     Sometimes a
pinch of meat tenderizer on each meal can help to more efficiently digest excess protein.  Some people find that the Bromelain enzyme in Pineapple helps a lot (use 1/4 adult tablet with each meal).   Others swear by Yucca root, but this can cause digestive discomfort in Shih Tzus, Lhasas and Pekingese dogs.  MSG may be toxic--do not use it!

Ask for in-depth puppy training details from a waiting Dog and Puppy Expert now:
Things Shih Tzus Should Not Eat

While we're on the subject of Eating, Shih Tzus unfortunately do have a number of sensitivities when it comes to foods.
Many 'Tzu owners report acid stomach and bile issues, especially in the early morning.  These symptoms can often be attributed to the presence of RED FOOD DYE...you'll have to become a good Label-Reader in order to eliminate this and other ingredients that cause stomach upset.

SOY can cause not only digestive problems, but is being increasingly associated with Skin Allergy in some breeding lines.  If your little one is itchy, try eliminating Soy, and see if the skin improves and any excess gas doesn't come back!  PEAS contain saponins:  compounds related to soap, and known to cause digestive upset and gas.  Avoid peas in all commercial dog foods.  MSG has been recommended for copraphagy, but has been associated with adverse reactions in people--do not use it.

Because both Lhasas and 'Tzus are prone to bladder and kidney diseases, it is best to steer clear of any food that contains SPINACH or CELERY...these vegetables are high in OXALATES...compounds that have sharp edges that can scratch the filtering and urine-storing organs, making them more susceptible to inflammation and infection.  These freeze-dried fiber and vitamin sources are increasingly being used in premium food brands, so again, you'll need to be a Label-Reading consumer to avoid them.  As of this writing, we recommend Solid Gold Wolf King, Innova Large Bites Adult, and the limited-ingredient formulas (only) from Natural Balance (each copyright properties of their owners; we have not been compensated for endorsement, and make no warranty about quality or formula changes on-going).

Out-and-out TOXIC TREATS like CHOCOLATE, RAISINS, ONIONS, GARLIC and GRAPES are known Toy Dog killers!  You should NEVER give any kind of HUMAN PAIN RELIEVER, or other MEDICINES, unless specifically instructed to do so by your dog's Veterinarian.

Plain old overeating will produce excess gas and acid in the digestive organs, a frequent cause of pain that is often mistaken for allergies, since pets will scratch and chew at their sides and belly!

Always contact your veterinary support staff if you are needing immediate information about what to avoid, and what to do in case of accidental ingestion of toxic foods or medicines.
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This article is dedicated to the memory of Percy, Philip and Victor...while their Outsides wore out far too soon, their Insides continue on in our hearts and lives.
                  Canine Lymphoma/Elevated Lymphocytes

                                          Many Shih Tzu owners get the news everyday that their pet's White                            Blood Cell level is elevated in response to an illness.

                                    White blood cells come in many types. The type that becomes quite elevated                                  in a case of Canine Lymphoma is the Lymphocyte. There are a few other things                             that must be ruled out in a case that is not completely "Typical" of Lymphoma.

A complete list of differential diagnoses for clinically significant elevations of Lymphocytes (greater than 4800 cells/microliter of blood in dogs) includes:

Excessive Excitation of the Epinephrine Response to Stress--far more common in cats than in dogs, and unrelated to their health condition in general;

Blastomycosis (a type of fungal infection)--only an issue in certain parts of the U.S.;

Infection with Ehrlichia (a tick-borne illness);

Infection with Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (a tick-borne illness);

Addison's Disease (an inability of the adrenal glands to produce a body steroid cortisol)--Lymphocyte elevations are seen in fewer than 20% of presenting cases;

The Lymphoid Class of Cancers--Dogs afflicted with Lymphoid cancers can have elevations as high as 54,000 lymphocytes per microliter of blood. The infective illnesses above generally lead to counts around 10,000 cells/microliter, as a comparison. When cancerous lymphocytes are examined microscopically, they are generally atypically shaped. Although the more common versions of this cancer do involve inflammation of individual nodes all over the body, the type that develops in the digestive organs first can grow for quite some time with no other outward signs (beside weight loss and some tiredness)...often, x-rays taken with the aid of a special glowing liquid (barium) is helpful in finding this form of cancer in the linings of the stomach and intestines, but not always.

Treatment depends on what condition your pet is in when the diagnosis is made, your access to medical expertise in this regard, your family resources, and your opinion of what measures your pet is able to endure.

While there are a number of holistic supplements that can be given to our pets who are battling cancers, there are no natural cures that will substitute for chemotherapy agents. Dogs treated with Prednisone alone have a very short life expectancy...often only a few weeks or months.

You should NEVER NEVER give anything that may be an "immune boosting" treatment to a dog that may have Lymphoma or Leukemia...these are cancerous conditions that originate in the immune system, and so the immune system must be suppressed and regulated in order to treat them.

Chemotherapy is more and more routinely administered to dogs with the lymphoid cancers, with mixed reports of side effects and remission...the type of cancer and the extent to which it has advanced do affect what success you may or may not have.

For dogs who do not respond well to drug therapy, or who are too badly affected by their disease (it has reached the lungs, for instance...something you would look for with xrays, or it has developed throughout the entire body...something you can evaluate with ultrasound), it is recommended that prednisone at least be given to alleiviate pain and inflammation.  Prednisone will provide some immune-suppression, but eventually the disease will break through.  Dogs that are not treated do not live very long after diagnosis.


Research is an important
way to help your furry companions...BUT please consult qualified medical professionals for every case of disease prevention and treatment!  These articles are NOT a replacement for your veterinarian's advice and services! 
Did You Know...

Earthworms are consumed by many, many kinds of animals, birds and fish...there are even some people groups in the world that gather and eat worms as well!

Your dog no doubt is sensitive to the odors of protein and iron, along with many other nutrients and trace minerals.  Dogs will quite readily eat worms that have dried on sidewalks after rain storms.

Although worms themselves contain many healthful compounds, they can carry intestinal parasites and other potentially harmful entities...make sure that your dog is routinely tested for digestive parasites, and has access to good medical care in case of illness (similar to the case of a dog that likes to eat Dead Birds or Mice).

Check with your veterinarian to find out if there are specific concerns about parasites or other infective agents carried by worms where you live.
Tiny Nostrils/Stenotic Nares

The medical term for nose cartilage that is too soft and/or nostrils that are too small to allow proper breathing is Stenotic Nares. Shih Tzus are unfortunately a frequently afflicted breed. This is a genetically inherited condition--pups that have shown evidence of the problem or have been surgically treated should NEVER be used for breeding.

Minor difficulties include shortness of breath and exercise intolerance.  More serious problems can include enlargement of the heart that struggles to circulate a small amount of oxygen throughout the body.  Surgery often extends quality of experience and total lifespan significantly.

Diagnosis should be tracked over time...pups that are teething can have swelling of the sinuses that can interfere with ease of breath to some degree in pups less than 1 year of age. The main symptom that indicates teething complications is a lot of tears that spill out of the eyelids, instead of draining through the nose and throat.  The nostril size often seems to change throughout the day when swollen sinuses are the primary problem.

Surgical treatment (in essence, plastic surgery) is performed to enlarge the nostril size. This surgery must be performed by an experienced surgeon who can properly trim the cartilage and reshape the nostrils AND monitor anesthetics in this breed.
Canine Addison's Disease

Shih Tzus can develop an illness called Addison's Disease...this is a problem that originates in the Adrenal Glands (there are two in the body, sitting on top of each kidney).

The symptoms of this illness can mimic many other problems and emergency conditions, and routine blood test results can also be difficult to interpret. 

Since this disease comes up in adults (more females than males), it can seem like heart disease or kidney failure, and treatment can be delayed.  Vomit, diarrhea, no appetite, and lethargy that escalate to sudden collapse are not uncommonly seen at home.  Untreated Addisonians are not able to physiologically cope with stress, and a medical crisis can occur after a episode of excitement. 

Any time a pet faints, immediate medical attention is needed.

The only way to distingush Addison's from other diseases is to run an all-day in-clinic test called an ACTH Stimulation Test.  Your vet will inject a hormone into your pet that is meant to stimulate steroid production from the adrenals...then blood samples are taken at intervals.  These blood samples are sent to the outside laboratory where they will be analysed for steroid content.

If the results confirm that the adrenal glands are NOT able to produce certain cortisol compounds, these are replaced with medication.  An older treatment involves giving a tablet medicine twice a day, or a more modern injection is available that is given every 25 days (either in the clinic or at home).

Since both sodium and potassium levels are affected by Addison's insufficiency AND by the replacement therapies, these electrolytes need to be monitored throughout your pet's life to make sure treatment is maintained at the proper dosage.

If Addison's goes undiagnosed, or is not treated properly, death will result.

Well-monitored paients can live a fairly normal lifestyle, with special attention given to controlling stress!
Did You Know...

A full-grown Newfoundland requires HALF the daily food calories per pound of body weight that a Yorkshire Terrier needs!
Corneal Abrasions and Ulcers

Dogs with a lot of hair, hairs that tend to poke up from the nose, or prominent eye globes are prone to scratches and other injuries to the skin of the eyes...this skin is called the Cornea.  Many minor corneal scratches (abrasions) go unnoticed at first:  the eye may tear or squint slightly in the beginning, but will quickly become infected and sore.  Dogs will squeeze the injured eye shut, rub the face and even avoid lying on the affected side of the face. 

If antibiotic intervention does not take place, a corneal abrasion will progress to an ulcerated condition...this is a deeper tearing and erroding of the cornea, accompanied by severe infection.  Medical assistance is urgently required to prevent a corneal ulcer from ripping down through all the corneal layers to the inner eyeball tissue.

A clear sign that a corneal ulcer has gone too far is the presence of a pink/red bulge from inside the eyeball.  Ophthalmologists call this bulged tissue a descemetocele (named for the membrane involved); it must be attended as a medical emergency if the eye and eyesight are to be saved.

Glaucoma/Uveitis/Bleeding Eyes

Glaucoma is a term that is used to generally describe a high-pressure condition in the eye; it does not in itself refer to a specific problem.  Glaucoma can result primarily from a defect in the system that drains the eye of its circulating fluids, or can result from another illness in the body that causes the inner eye tissue to bleed (such as cancer, cardiovascular disease/high blood pressure, immune disorders, infections). 

Medicines used to treat Glaucoma depend entirely on what the original cause of the inflammation is...pain relief is often considered as part of the therapies.

The term Uveitis (say it: "you-vee-ite-iss") describes an inflammation of the middle layer of the eye. This middle layer contains a large number of blood vessels that serve the other structures of vision.

This blood-rich layer can become inflamed (and actively bleed) due to a number of illnesses, both from within (ex: immune dysfunction, Lymphoma, Hypothyroid, Cushing's Disease) or from without (ex: Lyme Disease, Ehrlichia, Blastomycosis).  In other words, this may not be due to an illness of the eye itself in origin.

Occasionally, Uveitis is defined as Idiopathic...this means that no originating cause for the bleeding is found. Treatment is then confined to the eye and aims at preventing further complications, such as Glaucoma (excessive pressure in the eye).  Dogs generally express pain by avoiding sociable activities, avoiding exercise, eating poorly, or protectively guarding one side of the face.

Always consult a licensed veterinarian if your pet has symptoms.  If you need more information or advice about a non-emergency situation, please visit Just Answer:
Canine Brain Stroke?  Old Dog Vestibular Disease

Strokes are much more rare in pet dogs than they are in people and less often to blame for strange symptoms we see in our older friends.  MRI scans are needed to confirm the presence of bleeding blood vessels in the brain 100%.  These scans are performed under general anesthesia in veterinary medicine.

A number of more common things can cause a disturbance of the "vestibular" system in the brain, which is responsible for balance, among other things.  These conditions include:  ear infection, cancer, OR contamination of the brain with waste products usually handled by healthy kidneys and liver.

The chance of more severe problems increases with increased age of your dog.

Symptoms of vestibular disturbance include rapid eye movement from side-to-side, inability to stand or walk due to dizziness, nausea and/or vomit (with refusal or inability to eat), spastic head movements, and a tilt in the orientation of the head.  Affected dogs prefer to lie on one side of the body only, and may experience paralysis of certain muscles on the affected side of the face and body.

There is such a thing as Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome...(idiopathic=pathology or illness which doesn't make sense)...which does not have a cause that we can find.  This is pretty common in middle-aged and older dogs.  The most severe symptoms fade (or become adjusted to!) over the course of a few weeks, and the most prominent thing we see is the head-tilt...looks weird, but is not a serious problem long-term.  Many veterinarians refer to this condition simply as Old Dog Vestibular Syndrome.

Medicines can be given to relieve bothersome symptoms like vertigo and nausea...these are antihistamines like meclizine or diphenhydramine.  Some dogs are given steroid drugs if more serious inflammatory or tumor conditions are suspected.

If your regular veterinarian cannot help you find out what has happened, and your pet continues to have severe symptoms after a few weeks, you may be referred to a Veterinary Neurologist, a specialist who has been trained in the conditions that affect the nervous system in pets.
How to Help Your Vestibular Dog at Home:

1) Call your vet's office as soon as possible so that a certain diagnosis can be made, and medicines prescribed to reduce severity of symptoms.

2) Protect your pet from staircases, slippery floors and other hazardous areas of the house where falls can happen.

3) Small dogs can be lifted and carried from place to place...these patients prefer to be carried in a bit of a C-shape, with the "bad" side of the body held against you (this is the side that your dog lays Down on).

4) Large dogs can be assisted with a strong towel as a sling under the hips...go very slowly and stop for rests when needed.

5) A dark environment can make dizziness worse, so keep "night lights" on throughout the house during nighttime hours so that your pet does not get more dizzy if he/she wakes in the dark.

6) Feed bland liquid or softened foods by hand until your pet feels able to pick up and eat foods without assistance...keep water in a no-tip container near at hand.
Other Topics:
All About Eyes...Expanded Eye Info Page Here

Shih Tzus, Pekingese and Lhasas are all breeds (among others) that can develop a variety of conditions related to diseases of the eyes, eyelids, and tear ducts.

They can have excessive runny tear production (epiphora), or thick and ineffective tears. 

Epiphora describes a plentiful liquid tear flow that stains the hair around the eyes, but is easily brushed clean.  This should not be confused with overspill of tears during teething in young dogs, and is different from thick goey tears that accompany other illnesses.   If not attended to regularly, this tear staining can become dark, and even infected.  Keeping hair around the eyes clipped short, brushing several times through the day, and using a wash approved for use around the eyes can all be helpful.  Most people report that products intended to remove eye stains after-the-fact do not bleach the hairs back to their original color, so prevention is best.

There are a number of things that can lead to thickening of tears.  Mild problems, like dehydration due to dry heat in the house or respiratory illness, are short-lived and can be supported with some artificial tears eye drops or ointment.

Long-term problems include:

1) Canine Herpesvirus infection...although gastrointestinal symptoms and fever are more usual upon initial infection (this is a pretty common virus that unfortunately does not have a U.S. vaccine available as yet), ocular and sinus signs are not out of the question in terms of chronic experience.  Herpesvirus can be easily contracted from other dogs (show conditions, boarding, or breeding, for instance)...it can be fatal in young pups (as one of the leading causes of Fading Puppy Syndrome), but is mostly a nuisance to adult dogs.  Some l-lysine can help suppress outbreaks: 100 mg for each 10 pounds of weight daily with food.

2) Blocked or occluded tear ducts--either from dry tears or from conformational problems that keep normal tear drainage to the nose from happening smoothly.  A conformational, or structural, problem would be genetic in origin, so affected dogs should be withheld from breeding.  A Veterinary Ophthalmologist is consulted to confirm a suspected physical defect.  Warm water compresses 2-3 times daily can help dissolve salt plugs and re-open ducts temporarily.

3) Unfortunately, a gentically-carried automimmune illness commonly known as Dry Eye, or KCS (Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca), can run in small breeds.  Although it usually appears in adult dogs, it can be seen in pups.  Basically, the immune system begins to attack the tear glands ability to produce the very liquid part of tears, and the eye discharges are not thinned enough to wash into the sinuses below the eyes.  Early KCS starts out with dry, gunky discharge or crust, then advances to sticky, dull eyeballs that can itch or be painful as they lose protective moisture.  Infections are frequent, and even though they are responsive to antibiotic treatment, will recur when antibiotic therapy is discontinued.  KCS, over time, damages the corneas of the eyes because they are not naturally moisturized and cleaned, but are instead scratched by the eyelids...the degree to which this happens depends in part on how well you can apply treatments reglarly throughout each and every day.  Many advanced cases lead to accumulation of thick eye matter on the eyelids every morning...you can use warm water on a soft cloth like a compress to soften and then remove the discharge. Do not wipe or rub, just let the dried matter dissolve.

4) Tear glands can cease to function when exposed to sulfa drugs (brand names such as Bactrim, Bactrovet, Albon, SMZ-TMP, Tribrissen, Primor, etc., all Trademarks of their respective producers)...this damage is permenant and can mimic KCS.

Your veterinarian can quickly and easily test your dog's tear producing ability.  Although treatment is available for affected dogs, they can still pass on the genes for this condition.  Dogs with KCS should never be treated with sulfa drugs, unless in a life-threatening situation that requires it.

Dogs determined to have less-than-optimal tear production should not be used for breeding.

Dogs can also develop many other forms of conjunctivitis (inflammation of the tissue surrounding the eye) that can become infected...these infections can be viral or bacterial in origin, and may or may not be part of some other illness in the body.  All forms of chronic inflammation can lead to damage of the eyes if not properly addressed in a timely fashion.

Cherry Eye is the common term used for a Prolapsed Nictitans Gland--in other words, the tear duct that lies under the lower eyelid has popped out of its place.  The common name comes from the red appearance: like a small cherry or cranberry lying on the inside edge of the lower eyelid.

Although the appearance is alarming, this is not considered to be painful in and of itself.  Many dogs breeds with small faces or loose facial skin are prone to this condition (among them, pugs, cocker spaniels, lhasa apsos, shih tzu, pekingese, english bulldogs, beagles, or any mix containing pre-disposing genes).  It is not a medical emergency if the tissue is healthy.

Surgical replacement of the tear gland is recommended primarily for two reasons:

1) the tear gland and duct do not work properly when the gland is out of the lid, and this leads to increased susceptibility to and incidence of infection of the eye--a dry eye is not a healthy eye--eyesight can be lost as a result of this condition and its complications;

2) the tear gland itself is meant to stay moist and protected, it can be directly damaged (scratched, infected) when it is not in its normal location.

Non-surgical treatment includes regular use of lubricating drops/ointment on the affected eye(s), antibiotic treatment to the eye when infection is noted, watchfulness for signs of infection (colored discharge from the eye, rubbing, squinting) and prevention of injury to (or immediate treatment of injury to) the gland.  The effectiveness of non-surgical care depends on the ability to maintain a good routine of drops and examination of the eye and the ability of the gland to remain healthy in your individual dog.

Surgical costs can vary widely.  Your regular vet may or may not be familiar with this surgery, and so you may be referred to a Veterinary Ophthalmologist.

If you are unable to find a veterinary opinion in person for several days, you can soothe the eye with some special moisturizing eye drops called Celluvisc by Allergan (found in the eye care section of the regular pharmacy or food store) two or three times daily to prevent drying and irritation...other topical first aid ointments are NOT suited for this purpose.  A heavy, gooey discharge indicates that an infection has taken hold and the eye should be attended immediately.

If you need additional help with any of these topics,or need help locating a Board Certified Veterinary Ophthalmologist in your area, please let me know!
What Stage of Cancer?

In addition to the laboratory's opinion of a cancer's "grade" (this is a somewhat subjective opinion based on the appearance of the tumor/slice of tumor examined and its cell components), a Veterinary Oncologist would "stage" the disease to determine its degree, if any, of spread.

Stage 1: A tumor confined to its initial location...it has not spread.

Stage 2: Cancer cells have moved from a tumor to the nearby lymph node(s).

Stage 3: A wide-spread tumor or multiple tumors (with or without lymph node involvement).

Stage 4: Cancer cells have relocated to organ(s) far from the original tumor site.

This staging does help determine if treatment(s) are likely to be successful or not.
Eyelid Entropion

An "entropion" is a condition where the eyelid (usually the lower one) curls into the eye...this pushes the eyelashes against the cornea. The discomfort of the lashes rubbing against the eye causes increased tear production, squinting, blinking, refusal to open the eye, and can lead to infections and permanent damage to the cornea. This problems should not be confused with symptoms owing to hairs growing inside the eyelids or from hairs growing upward from facial folds.

This is a condition seen in many breeds, and dogs with the condition should be disqualified from breeding.

The surgery performed to correct this condition involves cutting a small slit of skin from under the eye so that when it is sutured, the eyelid lies flat against the eye globe. Severe cases can require repeat surgery.

An experienced surgeon can perform this so that the eye appears unchanged.

If you have concerns about having this surgery done by a general practicioner, you can ask your vet for a referral to a Veterinary Ophthalmologist.
Eyelid Ectropion

Eyelids that curl outward can cause problems if the inner eyelid surface is significantly exposed to air, dust and bacteria.

While many owners elect to have corrective surgery performed for the sake of appearances, repairing these eyelids is of greater medical significance to veterinary surgeons who are familiar with the problems encountered in the future.
Henry (Lhasa Apsos) was rescued (along with his half-sister who gave birth to their singleton pup a week later!) with BOTH tear glands prolapsed...his overall health prevented a surgical solution.
Shih Tzu Health and Behavior Center
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