6 Signs Your Shih Tzu is Overweight

Shih Tzu is Overweight  By Karole King  |Updated 06-14-2022

According to the Association for Pet Obesity Prevention, approximately 56 percent of adult dogs are clinically overweight. It’s easy to spot the signs of obesity in some breeds, but in others, like the small, long-haired Shih Tzu, it can be a challenge.

This is why Shih Tzu owners need to put on their detective caps to tell whether their dogs need to shed a few pounds or not. But thankfully, some signs can help Shih Tzu owners make an informed decision and kickstart a routine that will lead to a healthier pup. What are these signs that help us know when a Shih Tzu is overweight?

A Shih Tzu is walking down a pathThis Shih Tzu is overweight, but it may be hard to tell because of his thick coat of hair.

6 Signs Your Shih Tzu is Overweight

  1. Poorly Defined Shape
  2. Difficulty Scratching that annoying itch
  3. Reduced Energy and sedentary lifestyle
  4. Inability to Tolerate Exercise
  5. Poor Eating Habits
  6. Excess Panting

#1 Poorly Defined Body Shape

Although it may appear that all Shih Tzu have the same anatomy, most people can't tell the difference between an average and overweight Shih Tzu. Because Shih Tzu’ bodies are hidden under layers of hair, a visual inspection is not often adequate to ascertain their shape.

This is why owners need to examine their Shih Tzus physically. Ribs should be felt underneath a Shih Tzu’s coat. If an owner can’t feel any ribs, this is an indication that the Shih Tzu may be overweight. However, the ribs should not protrude. If they do, this could be a sign that the Shih Tzu is underweight. 

Detecting Hypothyroidism

Since hypothyroidism cannot be diagnosed with a visual examination, this is a sign that must be determined by a healthcare professional. Shih Tzu are frequent victims of hypothyroidism, a condition where the thyroid does not produce enough of the hormone that regulates metabolism.

This can cause weight gain and other symptoms. Owners of affected Shih Tzu need to be extra attentive to their dogs’ weight. Thyroid medication should normalize hormone production, so if a Shih Tzu remains overweight even with proper treatment, this can indicate that other factors are at play.

#2 Difficulty Scratching That Annoying Itch

A Shih Tzu, like all dogs, has to rely on its limberness to take care of basic physical needs, of which scratching is included. If an owner notices that their Shih Tzu has difficulty scratching or performing other acts that are universal to all canines, the Shih Tzu might be overweight.

Because Shih Tzu are small and compact, to begin with, gaining a few extra pounds can make life much harder for them than say a Great Dane or greyhound. These breeds have length on their side. Shih Tzus need all the help they can get.  

#3 Reduced Energy and Sedentary Lifestyle

The saying goes that pets tend to look like their owners — and this applies both to aesthetics and size. It’s no coincidence that the rate of obesity in dogs has risen alongside the rate of obesity in humans.

The percentage of overweight adults in both species is a similar number. This should come as no surprise to Shih Tzu owners. If a Shih Tzu’s owner is overweight thanks to an inactive lifestyle, the Shih Tzu’s size and lifestyle will likely be the same. After all, the only chance that a Shih Tzu has of being active has an owner that is also active.   

4. Inability to Tolerate Exercise

When we slow down, they have no other choice but to slow down too.  As dogs gain weight, the burden of those extra pounds put more pressure on vital organs.  This, in turn, makes it more difficult to tolerate the usual activities and daily exercise routine. 

Shih Tzu dogs already have the additional handicap of being a brachycephalic breed.  Elongated palates and stenotic nares can any type of movement difficult.

5. Poor Eating Habits

Shih Tzu, like other breeds, are opportunists.  If allowed a treat, few dogs will turn it down because they worry it will ruin their lovely waste line.  We can only blame ourselves for this situation. Too many high caloric treats can add up quickly.  

Dog foods rich in fats and carbohydrates may win the taste test, but add calories that may not be helpful to the dog's nutritional needs.

6. Increased Panting

The last sign of an overweight Shih Tzu is the propensity to pant during mild exercise. If a Shih Tzu gets exhausted too early or too frequently while going for walks, this could mean that it’s out of shape.

An out of shape Shih Tzu is a walking health problem, so its owner should decide upon a diet or exercise regimen to increase its stamina and reduce excess fat.

If Your Shih Tzu is Overweight, It's Time to Schedule a Vet Visit

If an owner has concluded that their Shih Tzu is overweight, the first step is to consult a veterinarian for verification. The vet will be able to determine if the problem exists in the first place, its seriousness if it does exist, and the best course of treatment. The vet will likely weigh the Shih Tzu.

According to the American Kennel Club, 9 to 16 pounds is the healthy weight range for this breed, although there are many exceptions. For instance, an 18-pound Shih Tzu can be in the healthy weight range if it has a larger frame and higher muscle density. Since a scale is not the sole judge of canine health, the vet will do a physical examination of the Shih Tzu and ask its owner questions about its lifestyle.

If Your Shih Tzu is Overweight, There is a Fix

Most dog nutritionists and vets recommend that dogs eat two meals a day.  If the food is high in calories or carbohydrate-rich, even the recommended quantities may be too much.

Thus, the vet might advocate for smaller portions or a complete change of diet. Depending on the Shih Tzu’s owner, table scraps and treats might make up a sizable percentage of the pet’s diet. In this case, the vet may advise against giving the dog these indulgences.

Table scraps are a particularly slippery slope that ends in obesity. If lack of exercise, not diet, is the issue, the veterinarian will suggest increasing the Shih Tzu’s activity. Going for a walk every day is generally recommended for Shih Tzus and virtually every other breed. Shih Tzu owners should aim to walk their pet for at least 30 minutes per day, although this may need to be broken down into two 15-minute walks if the Shih Tzu finds exercise tough.

Either increase the length or duration of the daily walks if your Shih Tzu is eating a balanced diet but still not losing weight. It’s important to note that this increase should be slight and gradual. An overweight Shih Tzu is already under physical strain, so too much activity can be just as bad for its health.  

Being small and fuzzy, a Shih Tzu doesn’t give many clues that it is overweight so it’s up to the owner.

Your Clues

  • Feel the Ribcage
  • Pay attention to breathing
  • Observe how the dog scratches
  • Assess underlying medical conditions

Most importantly, owners need to determine if their dog is mirroring their body size and lifestyle choices.  Consult a vet if any of these signs point to an overweight pooch. Keeping a Shih Tzu healthy is as easy as being an attentive owner.

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Author Bio: "6 Signs Your Shih Tzu is Overweight" 

Karol is an animal lover who has dedicated her life to helping dogs to find a safe and happy home. She now works as a freelance writer, which is her passion, and has the freedom to spend more time at home with her wonderful family.

About Janice (author and voice behind this site)

Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, Janice served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.

Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.

She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu, but she has also lived with Poodles, Maltese, Yorkshire Terriers, Beagles, English Bulldogs, Carin Terriers, and a Cocker Spaniel.

When not writing, reading, and researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, husband, and family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu and Smart-Knit-Crocheting

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