Shih Tzu Obesity: Tips to Help You Fight This Problem

shih tzu sitting on grass

Shih Tzu puppies are adorable small dogs that have various health issues. Since they have flat faces with short snouts, Shih Tzu dogs have trouble breathing properly. Their breathing problems worsen as they gain weight and grow older. Obesity mainly affects a Shih Tzu dog’s breathing.

Shih Tzu Obesity Explained

What is obesity? Obesity is a health condition where dogs weigh over their average or ‘healthy’ weight. It is dangerous because obesity can further cause other health conditions. When dogs are overweight, they are over 20% of their ideal, healthy body weight. Shih Tzu puppies are small and weigh only up to 16 pounds. Any weight gain can lead to obesity if pet owners are not aware and taking precautions.

Obesity is preventable, yet about 30% of all dogs are obese. Shih Tzu dogs develop this condition as they age. It is common to see Shih Tzu dogs over five with obesity. As dogs age, their bodies begin to slow down, including their activity levels and digestive systems. Although you can give supplements like probiotics to your furry friend, it does not always help maintain weight.

Pet health is essential, and obesity can lead to worsening problems. Obesity places excessive pressure on essential organs like the heart, muscles, and lungs. Dog obesity is hard to watch, and while society and pet owners are normalizing it with words like ‘cute’ and ‘normal,’ it is anything but.

shih tzu puppy with tongue out

Causes of Obesity in Shih Tzu Dogs

There are dozens of causes of obesity in your Shih Tzu. If your Shih Tzu is obese, it’s either because they are eating a poor diet or have underlying health conditions that lead to obesity.

Poor Diet

A surprising number of dogs suffer because they eat a poor diet with no nutrients. Shih Tzu puppies need a diet high in fiber and protein but low in fat. Too much fat in their diet can result in obesity.

A poor diet also includes giving your Shih Tzu puppy the wrong type of dry food. For instance, puppies need less fat and more proteins because they grow quickly. However, they are still small and need fewer calories than the same dog breed as an adult. You should refrain from feeding your Shih Tzu puppy dog food and treats for adult dogs.

Sometimes, the food is not what causes obesity, but the amount of food your Shih Tzu eats does. Some dogs struggle with food because they don’t stop eating after full. Serving dog food in an automatic feeder or multiple bowls in various parts of the house can lead to obesity. Not all dogs have the self-restraint to stop eating when they are full. For instance, Shih Tzu puppies that are bored will resort to eating as a reaction even if they are not hungry.

Underlying Health Conditions

Poor diet and a lack of exercise are not the only causes of obesity. Some health conditions have a symptom or side effects of obesity and weight gain. For instance, diabetes, cancer, and thyroid problems can result in obesity.

Although there are underlying conditions, obesity is still preventable. There are various ways to combat health conditions caused in your Shih Tzu puppy. For instance, if your Shih Tzu puppy suffers from joint pain, they may fear walking. It is harder for a dog to live an active lifestyle when in pain. If they don’t exercise enough, their bodies are not burning calories, resulting in rapid and concerning weight gain.

Hypothyroidism can also cause obesity and excessive weight gain. Canine Hypothyroidism is an immune system condition where your dog’s body attacks its thyroid gland, causing the gland to stop functioning. The thyroid gland controls metabolism. If the gland does not produce enough hormones to help with digestion, it can increase weight.

Pregnancy and hormones can also increase your dog’s weight, leading to obesity. Some Shih Tzu dogs undergo a traumatic and challenging pregnancy and birth. It takes a few months for a dog’s hormones to lower and stabilize after giving birth. Some hormones cause obesity and weight gain; however, the hormones do not last forever.

white and grey shih tzu puppy on grass

How Obesity Can Affect Your Shih Tzu

Obesity is dangerous and life-altering for Shih Tzu dogs. This health condition affects your Shih Tzu by altering their quality of life and causing pain in your dog’s joints while they move.

Lower Quality of Life

It is not uncommon to see overweight and obese Shih Tzu puppies suffering from a lower quality of life. Lower quality of life usually occurs because they develop health conditions as their weight increases. Canine obesity is severe as it contributes to heart disease.

Your Shih Tzu can develop heart disease as they gain excess weight. More pressure and fat move to your dog’s heart as they gain weight. The fat blocks arteries, which results in a lack of energy.

Heart disease is not the only concern a Shih Tzu pet owner faces when their lovable dog is overweight. The dog’s quality of life also decreases because overweight dogs struggle to play and do minimal exercise. Most dogs love to play; however, the extra weight your Shih Tzu puppy has can cause severe health problems and pain.

Excess weight can result in your Shih Tzu dog not wanting to play. Living an active lifestyle with lots of playtime makes dogs happy. If they cannot play, dogs can develop mental health disorders like anxiety and depression. The more exercise your Shih Tzu puppy lacks, the more weight they will gain.

Shih Tzu dogs don’t need a lot of exercise. They are small dogs and can overheat if they play too long or hard. However, while this is the case, they still need some form of play. These small companion dogs like being around humans and want a purpose or “job.”

Pain in Joints From Moving

Your dog may also suffer from pain in their joints each time they move. As your dog loses mobility and flexibility because of obesity, they gain pain. Obesity is a silent killer and works by adding pressure and weight onto joints and bones.

While your chunky dog may look cute, if your dog does not shed the weight quickly, the continuous pressure on their knees can develop into health conditions as they age. The most common joint health problem caused by obesity is arthritis. Arthritis is a condition when there is inflammation in your dog’s joints. The cartilage between two joints wears down. As the cartilage wears down, your dog’s bones begin to rub against each other. The friction between the two bones and joints is painful and makes it hard for your pet to move freely.

Tasks that were once easy begin to take time and energy. Instead of playing, you may notice that your dog sleeps and chooses to stay away from playing. Usually, this change occurs in senior Shih Tzu dogs.

The lack of movement and exercise only increases your dog’s chance to continue to gain weight. Obesity does not go away on its own. While it is a silent killer, it is still painful and causes preventable health conditions that are fatal to some dogs.

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shih tzu dog asleep on floor

Life Expectancy of a Shih Tzu with Obesity

The life expectancy of a Shih Tzu with obesity is low! If you compare the life expectancy of a healthy Shih Tzu at its ideal weight and an overweight Shih Tzu, you will notice that the dog with the ideal weight lives up to two years longer. While two years may not seem like a lot, the average life expectancy for a Shih Tzu is 10-16 years. Two years makes a significant difference in the lives of our furry friends.

Dogs that are obese also have a lower life expectancy because of the conditions they develop from the excess weight. Heart disease and joint conditions are often fatal, especially if pet owners struggle to control the conditions.

Recently, some studies have shown a link between canine obesity and cancer. Dogs that are obese are more likely to develop deadly forms of cancer. There is still a lot that researchers are trying to understand about this topic.

shih tzu dog sitting on couch

Signs That Your Shih Tzu May Be Obese

You should carefully watch for signs that your Shih Tzu puppy is obese. The best way to tell is by weighing your pet frequently. Weighing a dog is not easy, though, as they have their personalities and interests. Shih Tzu puppies are active and love to run around, and it may be hard to get them to stay still enough to weigh them properly.

Experts recommend giving your dog a treat to entice them to stay still long enough on the scale. If this proves to be too difficult, you can bring your dog to a vet with a larger scale.

Shih Tzu puppies that weigh 10% over their ideal weight are obese. Since the ideal weight of a Shih Tzu is at most 16 pounds, 10% of 16 pounds is only 1.6 pounds. The one pound makes a big difference! While it may not seem like a huge deal, this weight gain on your small dog can prove to be fatal.

Other signs that your Shih Tzu puppy is obese are a lack of energy, frequently sleeping, overeating, and less movement. Sometimes, it is hard to see the weight gain because it is so tiny. One pound is not a big difference, and you may not see it on your little dog breed. However, if they are not moving or playing as much, they could have extra weight pushing them down.

Obesity has to be frequent, though. It is normal for your dog’s weight to fluctuate in one week. However, if your dog is consistently 17 or 18 pounds, they are likely obese. If this is the case, it is best to try and help your Shih Tzu lose weight or maintain its current weight. If the weight is not excessive enough to cause damage, it may not need immediate medical attention.

How to Care For and Treat Your Shih Tzu for Obesity

Obesity is a slow killer, and you should take it seriously. While some fat on your dog may not seem like a big difference, it can cause severe health conditions. While there are ways to prevent obesity, there are also ways to treat your Shih Tzu for obesity.

Although obesity is technically fatal, it will not kill your dog quickly. Instead, it is a slow burn. Since it is a slow burn, pet owners can help their dogs lose the extra weight.

Changing their Diet

One way to treat and care for your Shih Tzu with obesity is to change their diet. Sometimes, diet is what causes obesity and weight gain. Most popular commercial pet food manufacturers make dry dog food with ingredients that cause bloating and digestive issues. For instance, most dry dog foods contain starchy vegetables like potatoes. Although potatoes are delicious and hold some nutrients, they are not filling and hard to digest.

Since potatoes and starchy vegetables cause digestive problems, this results in your dog being hungry again. It would help if you changed your Shih Tzu puppy’s diet to contain natural and fresh ingredients. Instead of dry dog food, you should feed your Shih Tzu puppy raw meat in small portions and fresh vegetables and fruits. This food is also lower in calories.

For dogs that cannot contain their hunger and eat constantly, you can also feed them on a schedule. While it is tempting to leave out a gravity feeder, your dog’s food is constantly on display and in your dog’s reach. While they lose weight, the food is a temptation. Switch to bowls and feed them during specific times to lower the calories your dog consumes a day.


Encouraging Exercise

A big part of losing weight is exercising and living an active life. You should encourage your Shih Tzu to exercise in creative ways. Dogs are funny animals with unique personalities and interests, and each dog breed also has its capabilities and limits.

As hyper, happy, and energetic as Shih Tzu dogs are, they don’t need a lot of exercise and can suffer from overheating. In other words, you need to introduce exercise carefully. Your dog should not see exercise as a chore, though. It is beneficial to turn the ‘exercise’ and active lifestyle into an enjoyable game. For instance, take your dog on daily walks to a park. It is best to change your walking trail so your dog is excited to be around new smells and environments.

Instead of playing with the same toy, you can create your own mentally and physically stimulating game. Not all dogs, however, can participate in rigorous exercise. Since obesity causes joint health conditions like arthritis, you should limit heavy activity. Running and leaping can harm your dog’s joints and bones, causing inflammation and pain. However, you can still encourage exercise with arthritis! Water sports and swimming relieves pressure from your dog’s weight. Many puppies with arthritis and obesity often use swimming pools to exercise their legs to lose weight. Since water creates a ‘weightless’ effect, there is a lack of weight and pressure on your dog’s legs.

How to Help Your Shih Tzu Live a Fulfilling Life with Obesity

Once your dog has obesity, it is not the end of the world! As you treat and care for your dog’s health condition and weight, your dog can still live a long and fulfilling life. However, it would help if you encouraged your dog to lose weight to increase its life expectancy.

Some products can bring relief to your dog suffering from obesity. Dogs that have trouble exercising because of inflammation in their joints can take supplements with anti-inflammatory properties. A common inflammation-fighting supplement is Omega 3 Fatty Acid. This fish oil supplement releases anti-inflammatory properties that reduce swelling and pain.

You can also provide your dog with a knee or leg compressor. This product acts similarly to one that humans use to reduce swelling in their knees and joints. It works the same way. Since obesity does not paralyze or end your dog’s life immediately, there are not many things you can do to help your Shih Tzu live a fulfilling life with obesity besides treatment and weight loss.

However, you should always take your dog to your local vet if you notice any significant changes in their weight. For instance, if obesity results from an underlying condition like Hypothyroidism, you will need to get medical treatment from a veterinarian.


All in all, Shih Tzu puppies develop obesity as they age. Obesity is common in dogs over the age of five, and the number of obese canines increases each year! Thankfully, there are ways you can treat and manage your dog’s condition. However, it is best to prevent obesity in the first place as it can cause worsening health conditions. Many health conditions caused by obesity leave after a dog loses the excess weight.

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