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Shih Tzu not eating.

Species: Dog
Age: 8-11 years
He stopped eating 6 days ago. Yesterday the vet said temperature, fecal, urine, blood tests came back normal and she felt no lumps in his stomach. He had no infected teeth.
She was stumped. He is a rescue dog (July 2010) and has chondodysplasia(?) --- chronic hip dysplasia, front legs bent outwards and his rib cage curves out a lot, but does not seem to be in pain. He wobbles outside to go potty, and never does it in the house.
I have tempted him with everything, from chicken breast, simmered chopped meat, soft rice, hollistic top of the line brands of canned dog food, baby food, the list goes on and on. 3 days ago he did eat 2 tiny pieces of American cheese.
The vet said that it would be difficult to find out for sure if he has cancer (this statement surprised me). I have limited funds, so could not afford any expensive tests. There has been no change in his routine or situation.
Any ideas?? I am helplessly watching him starve himself to death!

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh, I am sorry to hear that Doodles is having these problems.

I wish I could examine your little guy. With the symptoms you described and the fact that he is a shih tzu, I'm wondering if it is possible that he has some back pain. It is really common for shih tzus to stop eating because of back pain. Sometimes it can be difficult to detect. It may be worthwhile to call your vet and ask if back pain is a possibility. If so, they can prescribe some pain medication for you.

Your vet is right in saying that it can be difficult to diagnose cancer. There are many types of cancers that we don't have a simple test for. However, dogs with cancer don't usually tend to get sick as fast as this.

Do you know if they did a blood test called a PLI? Another possible reason for him to not want to eat is pancreatitis. Sometimes the rest of the bloodwork other than the PLI can be normal. While most dogs with pancreatitis will vomit, not all of them do.

If your vet thinks this is the case then they can prescribe some medication to help with stomach upset.

Let's see how your vet feels about back pain. Hopefully this is it!

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

Customer reply:

Thank you very much for your helpful response.
The blood work says 'Complete profile - GHP/CBC'.
The vet prescribed Cyproheptadine to try to stimulate his appetite.
Since sending you my question he seems to have lost the use of his back legs. With the chronic dysplasia they were very weak anyway. So now he cannot walk and is very stressed about it. I looped a scarf around his tummy andhe could manage to walk/wobble around with that.
He has only been given one of the Cypro. med. but I wonder if that had anything to do with him losing the use of his back legs?

I think he has chondrodysplasia perhaps? His spine, rib cage, shoulder blades and legs all look and feel abnormalal.

It does not look good for him, does it?


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh no. What you are describing sounds like a very serious back problem. If there is inflammation around one of the discs in his back this can push up on the spinal cord and cause him to have difficulty moving his back legs.

Hopefully this is just inflammation. If so, if we get him on the appropriate medication right away then he may be ok.

However, sometimes when this happens, there is a portion of a disc that is bulging up and pushing on the spinal cord.

This type of problem needs an expensive surgery in order to be fixed.

He needs to be seen by a vet as soon as possible...even tonight if you are able to get him to an emergency clinic. The vet will likely start him on some strong steroid medication to reduce the swelling.

In the meantime make sure he moves as little as possible. Do not let him do any stairs or jumping at all.

I really hope he is ok!

Dr. Marie.

Customer reply:

Thank you.
I wish you were my vet!
I felt that this vet could have done a more thorough exploration.
He cannot walk, let alone jump or go up stairs.
I also have rescued horses to take care of still, so I am afraid I cannot drive one hour to the nearest emergency clinic, plus I do not have the funds to pay their high fees.
I will take him to another vet first thing in the morning for medication at least, if they agree with your diagnosis.
Is he in pain? Is this why he stopped eating five days ago, even though he only lost the use of his legs today?
Sorry to be asking more questions than I know I paid for.

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

If this is what I think it is, then yes, he is in pain. And pain definitely can cause a decrease in appetite.

I'm fearful that he may have had some inflammation 6 days ago, but now that has progressed to a protruding disc.

The vet who sees him in the morning will do some neurological tests (these will be part of the exam, so they won't cost more), and should be able to give you an idea as to whether he will be able to walk again.

No worries about asking questions...that's what I am here for.

Feel free to post back again tomorrow after your visit.

Customer reply:

Can I give him anything for the pain??? I have childrens benadryl and something called Pet Eze. Or maybe a teaspoon of wine? Just something to relax him, maybe help him sleep...He is barking all the time, non stop.
I also have poor night vision and am scared to drive at night and am already feeling exhausted, but I feel terrible he is in pain. Help!

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I really wish there was something that you could give him tonight, but unfortunately there is nothing that is safe. The reason for this is that the vet is likely going to want to give him a strong steroid in the morning. If he has something else in his system he will not be able to get a steroid shot.

Ideally it really would be best to have him seen tonight. Is there any way a neighbor or a family member could help you out?

Customer reply:

I have Phenylbute, l gram pills, for horse use... it reduces swelling if they sustain an injury. Can I break off a grain of that for him? I also have Etogesic and Amoxicillin (sp?) (two other senior dogs were under vet care three weeks ago)

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

No...any of these drugs will interfere with any steroid he could get.

I'm very sorry but there is no medication that you can administer at home that will be safe for him.

Customer reply:

Dr. Marie,

Just to update you on Doodles....

I took him to the other vet first thing this morning (he slept on and off thru the night, luckily), and... you were right!!!
He took xrays of his spine and found inflammation and scar tissue from an old injury (?!)... I do not know what that could be as I have not aware of him getting injured during the time I have had him, and I have had no one else care for him other than myself.
He gave me steroid meds. to see if this will help. He said that if there is no improvement in 48 hours we will have to talk about making a decision.
But someone just told me that they thought the steroids were just a temporary solution, and I would still need to get a more permanent treatment for him! I hope this is not the case, as I cannot afford surgery or any other expensive treatment, I am sad to say
Thank you so much for your advice and help

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

I have seen many cases where steroids did the trick. We should know within the next couple of days.

I hope he is feeling better now!

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.