Last Updated on May 5, 2023 by The Puppy Mag
It can be concerning when your shih tzu refuses to eat or stops consuming food altogether.
This is a common problem that can occur due to several reasons, some serious and other not so much. Nevertheless it’s a behavior that’s important to pay attention to.
In this article, I’ll explain everything you need to know about why your Shih Tzus isn’t eating, and most importantly, how to help them as soon as possible.
Top 6 Reasons Why Your Shih Tzu Might Refuse to Eat:
- Not liking the provided kibble or diet
- Overindulgence in treats or table scraps
- Inconsistent feeding routine
- Inadequate physical activity
- Suffering from stress or anxiety
- Presence of underlying health problems
Let’s explain these in full detail and highlight the best solutions to get your Shih Tzu munching away again!
6 Reasons Your Shih Tzu Isn’t Eating
Let’s examine six common reasons why your Shih Tzu might not be eating. Below is a list, with the most probable reason listed first.
1. Disagrees With The Current Kibble/Diet
One of the most common reasons why dogs refuse to eat is due to issues with their kibble. This is a broad topic that falls into two categories:
- The food is causing digestive problems or making the dog feel sick.
- The dog simply doesn’t like the food.
Dogs may have food intolerances to certain ingredients that can cause stomach issues, and this is quite prevalent. Shih Tzus are intelligent dogs that will quickly reject food that makes them feel unwell.
In addition, the wrong type of food may be the cause. The world of dog food is vast, with a wide range of quality levels. Cheaper brands often use low-quality ingredients and filler carbs, which can lead to stomach problems. Furthermore, each Shih Tzu is unique, and one kibble that works for another Shih Tzu may not work for yours.
In the next section, we will suggest a few good kibble options for Shih Tzus and explain why they are beneficial.
2. Consuming Too Many Treats or Tidbits
We all love to spoil our furry companions with treats and tidbits, but it’s crucial not to overdo it.
Unfortunately, feeding too many of the wrong types of treats or even human food can lead to more harm than good, despite the momentary pleasure of watching your Shih Tzu gobble down a tasty snack.
Overindulging in treats and tidbits can result in the following:
- Decreased appetite due to too many treats
- The perception that real food is bland and unappealing compared to table scraps and treats
These are two simple yet significant issues that can occur when dogs receive too many treats and human food.
3. Irregular Meal Times
If your Shih Tzu has an inconsistent feeding schedule and her meal times are frequently changing, it’s possible that she just isn’t hungry at that particular time.
Shih Tzus, like all dogs, are at their healthiest and happiest when they have a consistent daily schedule and routine to follow, especially when it comes to eating.
If her body becomes accustomed to eating at a specific time, and you start giving her food an hour earlier, this might be enough for her to refuse the food.
In addition, day-grazing should be avoided. If your Shih Tzu has food in her bowl all day long, you won’t know when she’s nibbling on it or not, and you won’t have a clear understanding of how much she is eating.
4. Insufficient Exercise
Shih Tzus may be small in size, but they still require a fair amount of exercise, and physical activity has an impact on their appetite.
Exercise contributes to digestion, regulates the metabolism, and maintains a healthy appetite.
Shih Tzus should receive approximately 60 minutes of exercise every day, ideally split into two sessions, one in the morning and another in the evening. Additionally, they will appreciate extra playtime throughout the day!
5. Anxiety or Stress
Shih Tzus can become stressed and anxious due to a variety of reasons, which can result in partial or complete food refusal.
Temporary nerves can be caused by stressful environments, moving to a new house, a change in scent, the presence of new people or neighbors, and more.
Although it may seem improbable that your Shih Tzu’s lack of appetite is due to anxiety, it is much more common than most owners realize. Stress and anxiety can affect dogs just as easily as they do humans.
6. Underlying Health Problems
Lastly, but certainly not least, several underlying health issues can result in a decreased appetite or complete food refusal.
If your Shih Tzu has not eaten for two days, you should consult your veterinarian for further advice and assistance. If your Shih Tzu is also refusing to drink, it is more severe, and you should contact your veterinarian within 24 hours if the problem persists.
In the beginning, fluid intake is significantly more critical than food intake. Dogs can go without food for a more extended period than water.
Getting Your Shih Tzu to Eat Her Food
Firstly, it’s important to note that if you observe any negative symptoms alongside food refusal, it could indicate an underlying health issue. In such cases, it’s best to contact your veterinarian immediately.
First off, it’s key to understand that if you see other negative signs along with your shih tzu not eating, it might point to a health problem. In such cases, it’s best to reach out to your veterinarian without delay.
Also, if you somehow feel that your shih tzu is sick, don’t waste time trying to solve the issue yourself and contact your veterinarian right away. Checking for health issues should always come before trying different tips and tricks.
1. Think About Changing Kibbles
If you suspect that your shih tzu’s kibble might be the issue, it could be time for a change.
When changing kibbles, make sure to do it gradually over a week. Reduce the amount of old kibble while increasing the new kibble, until you’ve fully transitioned to the new food.
Switching kibbles too quickly might upset her stomach, even if the new kibble turns out to be a good fit eventually.
What to look for in a good kibble:
● Fewer carbohydrates. Aim for higher protein, medium-high fat, and low carbs
● Protein is better from animal rather than plant sources
● Turkey, salmon, or duck is better than chicken, lamb, beef, or pork
● Grain-free is more ideal for sensitive tummies
● Choose a brand that sources their ingredients locally and responsibly
● Choose a brand that focuses on fresh and whole ingredients
● Avoid preservatives and artificial flavorings
● Steer clear of high amounts of dairy in the food (most dogs are lactose intolerant)
Here are a couple of great options that closely follow the above guidelines:
● Orijen Six Fish Premium Dog Food
● Taste of The Wild Pacific Stream
2. Opt for Low-Calorie Treats & Cut Out All Tidbits
Eliminating all tidbits is a good idea even after your shih tzu goes back to eating normally. Tidbits, although tasty, are not healthy for dogs. Human food isn’t created with a dog’s health in mind, so it’s best to avoid it completely.
Also, change your current treats to low-calorie bite-sized treats. They are not only small and cost-effective but also won’t spoil her appetite.
Our top choice is Zukes Mini Naturals, particularly the duck option as it avoids chicken.
3. Establish Mealtimes and Stick to Them
Another important step is to consistently maintain the same mealtimes every day.
Many of you might already be doing this, but if you aren’t, this should be an essential change.
Choose a morning time, ideally when everyone wakes up, and an evening time you know you’ll never miss.
Consistently follow these times, and your shih tzu will quickly learn to be hungry at these specific hours.
4. Make Sure Her Environment Is Peaceful and Safe
Helping her feel relaxed and secure in her surroundings will greatly reduce any general stress and anxiety she might experience.
While it’s helpful to keep her food bowl in the same spot, you may need to relocate it if there have been changes in the environment. New neighbors, construction work, or noisy kids can be very distracting.
Sometimes, simply moving the food bowl can be a welcome change and all that’s needed to get her eating again…
Whatever the change, ensure that when it’s time for her to eat, she’s in a quiet, calm area.
5. Boost Exercise Levels
If your shih tzu isn’t already exercising for a solid 60 minutes per day, consider increasing her activity levels.
Whether this means extending your walks or playing more with her indoors, additional physical activity should positively affect her overall health and appetite.
However, avoid making this change if your shih tzu is a puppy or a senior. Puppies and seniors need to be extra careful with their joints. It would be better to consult a veterinarian sooner rather than later when dealing with a puppy or senior shih tzu.
6. Reach Out to Your Veterinarian
This step isn’t last because it should be done last. Sometimes, it’s necessary to contact your veterinarian right away.
Situations when you should contact your veterinarian first:
When you think your shih tzu might be sick for some reason When your shih tzu refuses both food and water When your shih tzu shows additional symptoms that suggest a health issue When it’s already been 2 days since your shih tzu has eaten When your shih tzu is a very young puppy or senior (over 8)
In all honesty, there’s never a wrong time to call your veterinarian. If you’re unsure and concerned about your shih tzu’s health, always prioritize ruling out health issues
In conclusion, there are several common reasons why a Shih Tzu may refuse to eat, including issues with their diet, receiving too many treats, inconsistent feeding schedules, lack of exercise, stress or anxiety, and underlying health issues.
It’s important to consult with a veterinarian if your Shih Tzu is consistently refusing food or not eating as much as usual, as this could be a sign of an underlying medical condition.
- American Kennel Club (AKC): https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/nutrition/why-is-my-dog-not-eating/
- PetMD: https://www.petmd.com/dog/conditions/digestive/c_dg_anorexia
- VCA Animal Hospitals: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/my-dog-wont-eat