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Why is My Shih Tzu Not Eating?

Written by: Arlene D.
| Published on November 30, 2023

Shih Tzus are small, affectionate dogs known for their friendly nature and distinctive appearance. Like all breeds, they can experience periods of low appetite. This article explores common reasons why a Shih Tzu might not eat and guides when veterinary care is necessary.

Understanding the Shih Tzu’s Eating Habits

Typically, Shih Tzus enjoy their meals and have a healthy appetite. They require a balanced diet that suits their size and energy levels. Any significant or sudden change in their eating habits should be noted as it can be a sign of an underlying issue.

Common Reasons for Appetite Loss in Shih Tzus

Dietary Preferences and Changes

Shih Tzus can be picky eaters. A sudden change in their usual brand or type of food, or a particular ingredient they don’t like, might cause them to refuse their meals. Consistency in their diet is vital to maintaining their appetite.

Oral and Dental Health Concerns

Dental problems are common in smaller breeds like Shih Tzus. Issues such as tooth decay, gum disease, or dental abscesses can make eating painful and may lead to a decreased appetite.

Stress and Anxiety Effects

Changes in their environment or routine can cause stress and anxiety in Shih Tzus, leading to temporary loss of appetite. This includes moving homes, adding new people or pets, and changing household dynamics.

Underlying Health Issues

Various health issues, ranging from digestive disturbances to more severe conditions such as kidney disease or diabetes, can cause a Shih Tzu to lose its appetite. If the loss of appetite is accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy, it’s a cause for concern.

When to Seek Veterinary Care

Prolonged Refusal to Eat

If your Shih Tzu refuses to eat for more than 24 hours, it’s advisable to consult a veterinarian. This is especially important in small breeds that can be prone to hypoglycemia.

Accompanying Symptoms of Concern

Symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, unusual lethargy, or noticeable weight loss, along with a loss of appetite, should prompt immediate veterinary attention. These could be indicators of severe health issues.

Behavioral Changes

Any significant behavioral changes, such as increased aggression, withdrawal, or unusual sleeping patterns, especially when coupled with a lack of appetite, warrant a professional assessment.

Preventive Measures and Care

Regular Veterinary Check-Ups

Routine vet visits are crucial for detecting issues affecting your Shih Tzu’s appetite early. These check-ups can catch health problems before they become more serious.

Consistent Routine and Environment

Maintaining a consistent routine and a stable environment can help mitigate stress-induced loss of appetite. This includes regular feeding times, exercise, and a calm household.

Balanced Diet and Feeding Practices

Ensuring a balanced diet suitable for your Shih Tzu’s age, size, and activity level is vital. Feeding them high-quality dog food and a consistent feeding schedule are essential for their overall health.

Dental Health Monitoring

Due to their susceptibility to dental issues, regular dental check-ups and at-home dental care are essential. This includes brushing their teeth and providing safe chew toys to help maintain oral health.

A loss of appetite in Shih Tzus can stem from various reasons, ranging from simple pickiness to more severe health issues. Recognizing these reasons and understanding when to seek veterinary help is crucial for the well-being of your Shih Tzu. Regular preventive care, a stable environment, and close monitoring of your dog’s eating habits will help ensure their health and happiness.


Tips for Getting Your Shih Tzu to Eat

With their distinctive looks and charming personality, Shih Tzus can sometimes be picky eaters. Whether due to health issues, dietary preferences, or other factors, encouraging them to eat requires patience and clever strategies. This guide offers practical tips to help your Shih Tzu regain interest in their meals.

Attracting Your Shih Tzu with Appetizing Food Toppers

Enhancing Meals with Flavorful Additions

Food toppers can be a game-changer for a Shih Tzu who’s lost interest in eating. Sprinkling some cooked, unseasoned chicken, turkey, or a bit of grated cheese over their regular food can significantly increase its appeal. Always choose toppings that are safe and healthy for dogs.

Moderation is Key

While toppers can make meals more enticing, they should be used sparingly to avoid upsetting the nutritional balance of your Shih Tzu’s diet. They should complement, not replace, their regular meals.

Hydrating Dry Food for Enhanced Taste

Adding Moisture to Kibble

If your Shih Tzu eats dry food, adding warm water or low-sodium chicken broth can make it more appealing. The added moisture enhances the food’s smell and softens it, making it easier for your dog to eat, especially if they have dental issues.

Gradual Changes to Diet

Introduce moistened food gradually to find the right balance for your Shih Tzu’s preference. This approach can also help increase their water intake, which benefits their overall health.

Exploring Different Dog Food Brands

Finding a Formula Your Shih Tzu Loves

Sometimes, switching to a different dog food brand or formula can reignite your Shih Tzu’s interest in eating. Other brands offer various flavors and ingredients that might appeal to your pet.

Transitioning Foods Properly

When changing your Shih Tzu’s food, do so gradually to prevent digestive upset. Mix a small amount of the new food with the old, increasing the fresh food’s proportion over several days.

Creating a Stress-Free Mealtime Environment

Ensuring a Calm and Comfortable Eating Area

Make sure your Shih Tzu’s eating area is quiet and disturbances-free. A peaceful environment can significantly improve their willingness to eat, as Shih Tzus can be sensitive to stress and noise.

Consistency in the Feeding Schedule

Maintaining a regular feeding schedule can help regulate your Shih Tzu’s appetite. Feeding them at the exact times each day can create a routine they look forward to.

Managing Treats and Snacks

Balancing Treats with Regular Meals

Be mindful of the number and type of treats you give your Shih Tzu, especially between meals. Excessive treats can reduce their appetite for regular meals and should be given sparingly.

Consulting with a Veterinarian

Seeking Professional Advice for Ongoing Issues

If your Shih Tzu’s appetite doesn’t improve with these strategies, or if there are any signs of health issues, it’s crucial to consult a veterinarian. They can provide tailored advice and check for any underlying health problems affecting your dog’s appetite.


Encouraging a Shih Tzu to eat can sometimes be challenging, but with the right approach, it’s usually achievable. Effective strategies include experimenting with food toppers, hydrating their meals, switching food brands, and ensuring a peaceful eating environment. Patience and consistency are essential, and when in doubt, always consult with a veterinarian to ensure your Shih Tzu’s health and well-being.


Frequently Asked Questions About Why Shih Tzus Might Not Be Eating

1. Why Might My Shih Tzu Not Be Eating?

Shih Tzus may stop eating for various reasons, including stress, dietary changes, dental issues, or underlying health problems. It’s essential to monitor for other symptoms, such as lethargy, vomiting, or diarrhea, which could indicate a health issue. Consulting a veterinarian is recommended if the lack of appetite persists.

2. Is It Normal for Shih Tzus to Skip Meals Occasionally?

While Shih Tzus typically enjoy their meals, it’s not unusual for them to skip a meal occasionally, especially in hot weather or if they’ve been less active. However, if this becomes a regular occurrence, it could indicate an underlying issue that needs attention.

3. Can Emotional Stress Cause My Shih Tzu to Stop Eating?

Yes, emotional stress, such as changes in the household or routine, can lead to a temporary loss of appetite in Shih Tzus. Identifying and addressing the source of stress is essential for restoring their need.

4. How Can I Tell if My Shih Tzu’s Loss of Appetite is Due to Illness?

A loss of appetite in your Shih Tzu, accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy, or weight loss, could indicate an illness. These signs, especially when combined with a refusal to eat, warrant a visit to the veterinarian.

5. Could Dental Problems Be the Reason My Shih Tzu Isn’t Eating?

Dental issues, common in small breeds like Shih Tzus, can cause them to stop eating. Problems such as tooth decay, gum disease, or dental abscesses can make chewing painful, leading to a reduced appetite.

6. Is My Shih Tzu Not Eating Because of the Food Type?

It’s possible. Shih Tzus can be particular about their food, and a sudden change in brand, flavor, or formula can result in a refusal to eat. Gradually introducing new foods and observing your dog’s reaction is crucial.

7. Should I Be Concerned If My Shih Tzu Misses One Meal?

Missing one meal isn’t usually a cause for immediate concern. However, if your Shih Tzu skips multiple meals or shows other signs of illness, monitoring them closely and possibly consulting a veterinarian is essential.

8. Do Vaccinations Affect My Shih Tzu’s Appetite?

Vaccinations can sometimes cause a temporary decrease in appetite in Shih Tzus. If your dog doesn’t resume eating within a day or two after vaccination or shows other signs of discomfort, it’s best to consult your vet.

9. How Long Can a Shih Tzu Safely Go Without Eating?

While a healthy Shih Tzu can survive for a few days without eating, it’s not advisable to let them go without food for more than 24 hours. Prolonged fasting can lead to health issues, particularly in small breeds like Shih Tzus.

10. Can Changes in Routine Affect My Shih Tzu’s Eating Habits?

Yes, Shih Tzus are sensitive to changes in their routine, which can impact their eating habits. Factors like moving to a new home, changing your daily schedule, or significantly altering your environment can affect your appetite.

11. Are There Specific Health Conditions That Cause Shih Tzus Not to Eat?

Several health conditions can lead to a loss of appetite in Shih Tzus, including gastrointestinal issues, infections, organ diseases, and even cancer. A veterinarian should evaluate any prolonged or sudden loss of appetite.

12. Can Parasites Cause My Shih Tzu to Stop Eating?

Yes, internal parasites can cause a loss of appetite in Shih Tzus. Symptoms may also include weight loss or changes in stool. Consultation with a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment is advised.

13. Is It Normal for Older Shih Tzus to Eat Less?

As Shih Tzu’s ages, they may eat less due to decreased activity levels or age-related health issues. However, a significant reduction in appetite in an older Shih Tzu should not be overlooked and warrants a veterinary check.

14. How Can I Encourage My Shih Tzu to Eat More?

Encouraging a Shih Tzu to eat can involve trying different foods, adding food toppers for extra flavor, ensuring a stress-free eating environment, and maintaining a consistent feeding schedule. If these strategies don’t work, consult a veterinarian for advice.

15. When Should I Take My Shih Tzu to the Vet for Not Eating?

If your Shih Tzu hasn’t eaten for more than 24 hours, or if your lack of appetite is accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting, diarrhea, or lethargy, it’s time to visit the vet.

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