Friday, April 27, 2007

Watching out for health problems

Many purebreds are prone to certain health conditions, and Shitzus are no exception. Here is a list of known problems to affect Shitzus:

- a blood vessel defect known as portosystemic shunt (dog appears dazed, bumps into things and snaps at you - these could be signs of this problem)

- kidney displasia (drinking more than usual and urinating more than usual could be a sign of kidney problem)

- a respiratory disorder known as brachycephalic airway syndrome (snorting and snoring are minor symptoms; however, overheating, overexercise or stress can leave your dog struggling for breath. Immediately move your dog to an air conditioned area, wet him down and talk calmly and stroke him until it passes)

- hypothyriodism (symptoms can include lethargy, weight gain, hair loss and skin infections)

- cataracts (cause a progressive decrease in your dog's vision)

- corneal ulcers (symptoms can include squinting, rubbing the eye and sticky discharge coming from the eye. Can be caused by not using tearless shampoo which gets into the eyes and irritates them)

- entropion (turned-in eyelids...eyes are often red and runny)

- inward growing eyelashes

- eye disorders known as retinal dysplasia

- hemolitic anemia

- platelet deficiency

- a blood clotting disorder known as von Willebrand's disease (often inherited or caused by a protein deficiency)

- progressive retinal atrophy (form of progressive of the earliest signs is night blindness)

- dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca)

Because these are common to Shitzus, keep an eye out for these symptoms and if you do notice anything out of the ordinary, check with your vet as many of these problems require blood tests and other medical tests before they can be confirmed.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Make no bones about "bones'

I think Shitzus come out of the whom hunting for bones.

This afternoon, my youngest (8 months...yes, the innocent looking one in the front of the picture) found a bone buried last fall in the yard. He was ecstatic and kept his prize close to his mouth. The oldest, who buried it, stared at his brother and cried for over an hour until I finally got him a fresh steak bone to chew on.

Fresh steak bone or decayed buried bone? The oldest grabbed the fresh one in his mouth, stared at the decomposed bone that his brother had, and the two did the most cautious switch-aroo I've ever witnessed.

The youngest, of course, was happy as a clam. And a wily one he is! The older one, who discovered his bone was not fresh at all, started grunting all over again. I had to cut him the last fresh bone.

They were happy for about an hour. After that...the bones were gone. Then the fight began over the putrid, left-over one from last autumn. I promptly made sure that it got tossed in the garbage and both boys have been antsy ever since.

Bones...actually good for them, but can become a wee bit of a nightmare. :-)

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

A new meaning for the term "sick pups"

Today we made our boys a plate for supper. We cut sirloin tip roast, warmed it up, and lined the plate with lettuce leaves.
They trotted toward their dinner plate, sniffed a bit...then they each grabbed a piece of lettuce and ran and hid so they could feast on it and yet protect their precious cargo from the other one.
I watched this with my jaw hanging down. They repeated this process until they devoured each and every piece of lettuce on the plate.
So much for the meat-eating theories!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Keeping your dog's eye area groomed

Although I highly recommend regular trims by a professional groomer, there are those times in between grooms when your pets need some attention, particularly with the small hairs that grow into their eyes from just above the nose.

To solve this problem, I went out to a pet store and bought a small pair of professional grooming scissors with a blunt nose that is designed specifically for this area. All it takes is a little snip every week and those pesky hairs will not be in your dog's eyes.

Of course, this is not as easy as it sounds. Getting one of these innocent looking creatures to sit perfectly still while you attempt this is quite a challenge. However, if you are patient and persistent, you can do it.

My oldest dog didn't take much training as he was familiar with his groomer doing this. He was a bit shaky at first and moved a bit, but a few well-times "no's" in a firm voice kept him quite still.

The little one was not so easy. When he saw the scissors coming towards him, he fought like 40 bears to get away from me. It took three days of constant attempts. First I would hold his chin firmly but not don't want to hurt them. Then I would slowly bring the scissors toward him and snip perhaps a couple of ends not even near his eyes to let him know it wouldn't hurt. If he wanted to sniff at the scissors, I'd let him so he knew what it was. Of course, the word "no" again worked wonders. I started off quietly but firmly as I held him. As he fought, my voice would begin to rise slightly each time. But never a yell or scream because this scares them and you don't want your dog to be a nervous wreck or associate the grooming session with anxiety. You'll find, if you try this, that saying "no" repeatedly and firmly will work over time. I found with each time I raised my voice a bit more, he'd fight a bit less. We're at the point now that when I bring out the scissors, each dog jockeys for position to have a clipping. But then again, this is quality time spent with "mom" and each wants to be the first to take advantage of it.

Most importantly, when they behave for you when you clip them, do not forget to treat them to reinforce that they behaved well.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Brushing your dog

Shih-Tsu's need a lot of brushing. Whether you have the classic look which is the long hair to the floor with a top knot or ponytail tied at the head, or you have your pets trimmed short like I do, you still need to keep on top of it.

Most people automatically think that the longer the hair, the more brushing the dog requires. But even with the short hair, you need to brush it often.

The longer hair in some respects may be a bit easier to maintain because the weight of the fur will keep it from getting too messy. With the shorter cut, I find the dogs can look messy if I don't brush them each day as the hair is more fly-away.
However, one of the most important reasons for constant brushing is to prevent matting. Any of us who have tried to get through a serious mat in our dog's fur knows that we swear to be more diligent at brushing to prevent this from ever happening again. However, mats do happen for different reasons depending on the dog's behavior. With mine, behind the ear is the most common place because when they want to play, that's where they nip at each other. And that's the first place I brush. You'll know you're own dog and where they are prone to mat. Typical areas are behind the ear, on the bum, the back of the legs and the beginning of the tail (we tend to brush the ends a lot to make it look fluffy, but it's the start of the tail that often gets neglected).
Because their fur is so thick, the brushing also helps clean it out and spreads the natural oils within the hair to keep it healthy. And because Shih-Tsu's don't shed like the average dog, the brushing helps release some of the excess hair and again, cleans out the fur.
You definitely need the flat wire brush for working through their thick, luxurious hair. I use it every day on the dogs. Don't try using a regular bristle'll will only smooth the surface and after a while the mats will build up underneath. I also use a comb regularly after the wire brush to make sure I haven't missed any major knots. I don't do this every day, but once a week is fine.
Although some may think of brushing as tedious, I use it as a way to bond with the boys. I started brushing them when they were puppies to get them used to the tools and now they come quite happily when I call them because it's their private time with "mom". I don't allow the other to interfere...I make sure that while I brush them I speak soothingly to them...and I pat them a lot as I'm brushing them as they find it very comforting.
Regular brushing is not an option with this breed - it's a necessity. However, it doesn't have to be fight. With the right tools and loving hands, you can make this an experience that you and your pets look forward to.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Shitzu's favorite thing...

is, without a doubt, chewing.

These little darlings can chew for hours. Whether it's a steak bone or a rawhide chew, they will be amused for a good long time. I always make sure I have toys they can chew as well as "pig ears" and other items that are made for dogs. It's good for their teeth and, most importantly, it saves your furniture! Do not think these cute little dolls are beyond eying up and going after your cabinet edges, tables, shoes, purses, area rugs (a favorite "toy"- they love working the wool pieces out of the matting) and couches. If they don't have plenty of toys and dog chews, look out...your things are on the hit list.

So for the sake of your sanity and the health of your pets (since I seriously doubt that wood stain has any health benefits), please make sure you are well stocked with things the Shitzu loves to chew.

Friday, April 6, 2007

Should you breed your dog?

Because I have two male dogs, I have been approached on more than one occasion by somone inquiring if I would be willing to breed them.

My oldest one is small for a Shitzu...he was the runt of the litter...and the smaller size is desired by some people. I also found out (to my surprise) that when my young is old enough, he will be desirable because he has the cinnamon coloring which is not common.

At first I used to joke about setting up a brothel for my boys and listing a secondary income on my tax return as a "dog pimp". Of course, thinking of what I could do with the extra cash every time they bred put a smile on my face.

However, reality set in after talking to some people I know who volunteer at pet shelters. With so many homeless animals waiting to be adopted, the question became should I even consider being responsible for bringing more dogs into the world?

Of course, everyone wants the puppies. They're cute, kids love them and they provide hours of amusement. However, puppies grow into adult dogs and then people tend to get bored with them. Taking care of them is full time commitment and, it's pretty obvious by the over-populated shelters, that a lot people just aren't willing to devote the time and energy it takes to raise a healthy dog.

In the end, I looked to my cousin as an example of a responsible breeder. She has bred her female Shitzu twice, and only when she had committed buyers who she personally knew and was able to keep tabs on the welfare of the dogs after they left her home. This to me sounded like a reasonable compromise...make sure the dogs had good homes before bringing them into the world.

So, how is my pimping operation? Pretty broke. Right now my earnings are at zero. Why? I haven't found anyone with a female Shitzu that is as committed as my cousin to ensuring that the new puppies have good homes. Will I ever find one? Maybe not. But that's okay because at least I don't worry about the lives of their offspring.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Food that are safe for dogs

The previous post I listed all the foods that are dangerous for your dog. And that list is really important because it contains a lot of items that I never would have dreamed of could harm my little boys (pictured to the left).

This list, however, are everyday items that we eat which are safe for your dog:
  • lean meat and fish (cooked)

  • raw or cooked vegetables and fruits not on the "danger" list

  • cooked rice and other cooked grains

  • plain, low-fat yogurt

  • small amounts of bread (you don't want them becoming overweight with carbs)

I think dogs are alot like us - they like variety in their meals.

My little shitzus go absolutely crazy for fresh lettuce (their favorite is romaine with a bit of the white crunchy stem) and cabbage. They also love baby carrots, celery and cucumber. They'll eat this before they touch their dog treats so I often now reward them with lettuce and carrots. Don't you wish you kids were this easy to please?

Monday, April 2, 2007

Dangerous Food for Dogs

There are some foods that we eat every day and don't give a second thought to. These foods, however, can harm your dog. Here is a list:

  • Chocolate - dangerous because it contains theobromine and caffeine, both of which are toxic to dogs. However, carob, white chocolate and cocoa butter contain little or none of these toxins. Unsweetened chocolate is the most dangerous. One ounce for a 20 lb dog is dangerous.

  • Macadamia nuts - one ounce of nuts for a 20 lb dog can be toxic.

  • tomatoes and tomato plants - the plants contain atropine which can cause heart arrythmias and tremors. The highest levels of atropine are in the leaves and stems of the tomato plant, followed by unripe green tomatoes and then red tomatoes.

  • onions and garlic - one tablespoon of onion or one teaspoon of garlic per 10 lb dog can destroy red blood cells.

  • grapes and raisins - 4 ounces ingested by a 20 lb dog will cause kidney failure

  • any food that has mould on it or is spoiled (even slightly)

  • raw meat and raw bones (this one is debatable. There are some advocates of this kind of food and some against it. Do your own research)

  • alcoholic beverages, marijuana, coffee and tobacco - I think it goes without saying that you do not give these products to your pets. However, pets have been known to eat and drink thing they shouldn't. How many times have you seen the gobble up something they shouldn't? Call your vet immediately if your pet has ingested any of these products. And please, if you are a smoker, don't leave your ashtrays within reach of your pet or throw your cigarette butts in the yard where your dog can roam.