Food & Coat
... the stuff in-between
There are so many basics to cover when considering puppy and dog care. Below, a few of the major questions are considered. The majority of the following has been adapted from Pooch Palace's care guide, based on 30+ years of breeding these dogs.
What immunizations do you recommend and what is their timing?
When you come to pick up your puppy, we carefully go over the immunization guidelines. We will attach a schedule to your immunization booklet that covers the upcoming dates and shots that you need to be aware of. We don't want these puppies to miss anything and we know that keeping track of it all can be a bit stressful! We've got you covered. We will also include a list of risky immunizations and medications on the front of your immunization guide. There are a few types (Corona, Lepto and Rabies) that can pose problems for this breed and owners need to be aware of the risks when unknowledgeable vets make suggestions.
We hear there are risks to immunizing our dog. Can we skip this?
I have yet to see a single, well done scientific study that truly shows that the risks of immunizing a dog outweighs the benefits. There are always rare, potential side effects and the chance of an allergic reaction when immunizing. But, the alternative is risking that your dog will actually catch the disease and these diseases are deadly! Take Parvo, for example. If your puppy gets Parvo, there is an incredibly high chance that your dog will die. If you seek veterinarian care, the cost of treating parvo will be upwards of $3000-$5000 and even at that, your puppy may not survive. Is it worth skipping an immunization and risk this? I don't think so! Don't risk your pet. They are relying on you to keep them healthy and safe. The exception to this could be immunizations that this breed is predisposed to having issues with, such as Lepto, Corona and Rabies. These can be done on a case by case basis and with additional supervision for unwanted reactions.
Do you have a recommended vet?
We'd suggest finding a well equipped (ability to run their own xrays and lab work) rural vet for quality care and the best pricing. It's worth checking out their after hours policies (do they handle their own emergency appointments or are they going to send you scrambling to the city ER?) and compare their basic prices to other vets in your city or the rural area. Finally, can you find some reviews on them? How do their clients feel about their care?
What should I feed my puppy?
Your puppy should have food down at all times. This is to minimize the risk of hypoglycemia in your puppy, which is common in small breed puppies and can have serious consequences. We feed Kirkland Puppy mixed 1/2 and 1/2 with Kirkland Salmon adult dry food. For the first two weeks, we'd suggest soaking the food with hot water as your puppy doesn't have all of his teeth yet. This is not necessary after 10 weeks of age. Around 6 months, we stop giving puppy food and switch entirely to the Kirkland Salmon. This typically means you only need to buy one bag of puppy food and when it's used up, stick with the adult variety.
Keep a fresh bowl of water down at all times. No milk or table scraps should be fed to your puppy or adult dog, as it takes very little diet change to give a pup/dog diarrhea. Food should be available at all times, unless a weight problem occurs. Research has proven dogs are less destructive and their sugar levels are better managed when fed this way, particularly if they are left alone for long periods.
Why do you specifically recommend these Costco foods?
Bichon Shih Tzus do best on a high fibre diet. Without enough fibre, they need their anal glands manually expressed and are at risk for anal gland ruptures. The Kirkland diet has a high enough fibre content (over 4%). Additionally, Bichon Shih Tzus are a long way removed from their wild ancestors and do NOT do well on a high protein diet. Too much protein and you'll see an increase in diarrhea issues and the potential of vomiting. A protein content of less than 24% is a good fit. Finally, this breed seems to do really well on fish protein sources and the salmon food Costco offers is a high quality salmon food with an unmatched price tag. Yes, the bags are large and we've had families express concern about that given that our dogs are small! But buy yourself a good quality rubber maid to seal in the freshness once the bag is open or if you have freezer room, freeze some for later and you'll find your dog easily works through the bag long before the expiry.
My puppy isn't excited to eat his food anymore, should I switch brands?
If your puppy goes off his food for two or three days, avoid switching to a different brand as this causes digestive upset and encourages picky eaters. If he is off his food, give him a little bit of yogurt to keep his blood sugar up and offer him his food again. If he appears sick or depressed take him to the vet for an assessment as opposed to changing food. Picky eaters are created and don't occur naturally, so avoid creating this in your puppy and you'll save yourself a lot of grief.
Please give me more info on dealing with my picky dog. He wants to be hand fed, is rejecting food, etc.
Interestingly, food issues can be resolved by such simple means…. Particularly when you catch the problem this early! For about a week, I’d cut out treats all together and leave his regular food down 24/7. Don’t hand feed him, don’t fancy it up… just leave it down. If you are convinced he isn’t eating at all, and you are starting to see some hypoglycaemia symptoms (bile vomitting, shakiness and discoordinated gait), step in and give him a bit of corn syrup in his mouth and offer his food again. Or add a bit of corn syrup to his water, so his water is keeping his sugar levels up.
In our experience 100% of dog will eat what they are offered if they aren’t coddled and offered alternatives. These little guys are so smart, so if they realize that there are alternative, hand feeding is an option, eating out of a different type of bowl is fun, ice in their water might is a possibility, they will hold out for these changes as long as possible.
Catering to a picky eater is dangerous, frustrating and quite frankly, impossible. As picky eaters progress, you’ll find you are on a 2 week rotation of feeling you find something they “like” and then having the dog turn up his nose and wanting something new. It’s impossible to find the perfect dog food that will keep their interest, if they know they can change their mind about it and you’ll offer something different to tempt their palate. So it’s far easier, safer and completely recommended to pick a food, stick with it and offer NO alternatives, unless the dog is on deaths door and needs a temporary alternative for a medical reason.
It would help to reanalyze your treat offerings. Are they simple, relatively bland and fed sparingly. Again, just like with human children, if they fill their belly with the treat food, why would they eat their meal? Personally, we offer a second type of dog food as a treat. That means it’s healthy and nutritious but not SO exciting that they want to forsake their own food to get it. Yes, once or twice a week they might get some carrot pieces or a bit of something from the table, but that is it! It’s not a daily event and any behaviours requiring repeated treats get something bland and simply. If you try this and the treat aren’t “good enough” for him and he’s holding out for something better, then walk away from him and the lesson is over. This may mean you can’t work on behaviours for a week or two until he decide he isn’t getting the fancy stuff anymore and complies. If he goes one or two weeks and realizes that his dog food and a simple offering of treats is the new norm, he WILL give in and both eat his food and get excited about the treats. You’ll save yourself a lifetime of grief!
How do I deal with a puppy who wants to be hand fed?
Very simple. Just stop. Your puppy will not let himself starve when he has food right in his dish. Your puppy was not hand fed by us before you got him... he's just smart enough to realize how fun it was when you started that with him! Thankfully training him back out of it is equally simple... just stop and typically within 1-2 days he'll be happily eating out of his dish again.
Gag! My puppy is eating his poop!
Some puppies will try to eat their own stools. This is not uncommon of young dogs, especially those being fed high protein foods like vet brands of puppy food. The reason behind this is twofold: One, their food is rich in meat content and the stool smells very much like the food content. Two, the puppies watch their mothers clean up after them and think it might be a food source. Foods with less meat content don’t smell the same so the puppy won’t be attracted to them as much.
If you are home during the day, clean up stools as soon as they are left. Scold the puppy verbally, (firmly, but not harshly), if he tries to beat you to it. If you consistently clean up after your puppy promptly, you'll find this behaviour resolves.
Diarrhea and puppies:
Watch for loose stools or vomiting in your young puppy, especially in the first two weeks. This can be a little tricky as there are a variety of reasons a dog can show these symptoms. Here are some potential scenarios:
1) Your puppy has been given too fast of a diet change (you've fed him too many treats, switched his food too quickly or he's gotten into something they shouldn't have). Try to identify the issue, cut back, offer some extra yogurt in his food for probiotics, try the Pepto treatment listed below and wait it out for 12-24 hours.
2) They have stress related diarrhea from the big adjustment of leaving their dog family and our kennel and heading off to a new place. Giving your puppy yogurt for the first week will help, as well as maintaining a quiet and relaxed environment. You can also try the Pepto treatment listed below.
3) Your puppy could be legitimately ill. If you see blood in the stool, your puppy is vomiting along with their diarrhea, or you notice a significant behavioural change from your puppy (lethargy, lack of appetite, lack of interest in drinking, hiding in or behind things) watch them very carefully. If it doesn't resolve shortly, it's worth taking your puppy in for a vet assessment. It could be a simple infection or it could be something more significant, like Parvo, which can be fatal when not treated.
To treat minor diarrhea in pups mix 2 tablespoons Pepto Bismol with 1 tablespoon corn syrup. For pups under 5lbs: give 0.5tsp of the mix. Pups over 5lbs: give 1 tsp of the mix. This can be given every two hours and repeated a maximum of three times.
Vomitting and Puppies:
If you observe vomitting from your puppy or dog, there are a few potential causes.
1) Hypoglycemia. This can be a common and scary scenario for young puppies as their bodies aren't yet managing their insulin levels as well as they will when they are older. If you see a dog or puppy throwing up and you haven't seen them eat for awhile, try offering yogurt to bring their blood sugar back up. If they refuse it, take some corn syrup (NO artificial sweaters as a substitute - you want real sugar!) and smear it in their mouth. Do this again about 15 minutes later and 15 mins after that for a total of 3 small "doses". Offer dog food again. Hypoglycemia can be fatal if allowed to progress and this is one of the reasons we recommend ALWAYS leaving your puppy's dog food down for them to access. You don't want them to miss meals and end up in a hypoglycemic state.
Hypoglycemia starts by a puppy overexerting himself or feeling stressed and missing a meal. This leads to the puppy feeling sick, which you will notice with vomiting and actually refusing food. This continues to the point that the puppy becomes lethargic and shaky. If allowed to continue, the puppy will actually have a seizure and these will happen with increasing frequency. Ultimately, the seizuring can cause death.
Hypoglycemia is a risk to all small breed puppies. Sadly and strangely, not all vets are knowledgable about the symptoms and when families bring in their sick pup, they will test for all sorts of disorders and be completely stumped, all the while the puppy's condition is worsening. If you are ever concerned about a vomitting puppy, you can't go wrong with smearing some sugary yogurt in its mouth or corn syrup and observing the puppy to see if its condition improves. Please call or text us if you have any concerns at all and the first thing we tell you will be "get some sugar in that dog". And please, leave food down for your puppy at ALL times.
2) Vomiting can happen from getting into too much new food or continually being offered a food that is too high in protein. See above info for food recommendations and protein percentages. This, and mild hypoglycemia, would be the most common causes of vomiting.
3) Your puppy may have an illness. There are multiple illnesses and disorders associated with vomitting. If puppy has vomitting accompanied with diarrhea and is looking depressed, please take them to see a vet promptly.
Deworming and internal parasites:
Sadly, the vast majority of our puppies will head home with parasites. This may sound shocking, but this is a trade off for allowing our adult dogs to go on off-leash walks and have huge grass yards. Essentially this means they can eat dead mice, coyote poop, etc on their walks. They pick up large range parasites from these nasty snacks deposited by our neighbouring wildlife and in turn they will pass these "gifts" on to their puppies through their milk.
Many breeders give their adult dogs pretty sad and non-interactive lives, condemning them to a prison of cement and no true outdoor access and experiences. The result is sad parents, but parasite-free puppies because the adult dogs were unable to access anything yucky. In my mind, I’d rather have a proactive treatment plan for our puppies in regards to parasite control and treat our parents for parasites as well. I know the pups are still going to have a parasite load even as they leave us, but as you complete their dewormer doses over the next few immunizations, this should complete the process of fully cleaning them out and ultimately you will have a parasite-free puppy. What comes next? Your puppy finds a yucky treasure in your yard or on a walk and begins the cycle all over again with you.
In my mind, the key isn’t a parasite free dog, but one that is regularly treated to manage the number and levels of parasites they carry. Ultimately a dog who lives well, is healthy, active and enjoying life is the goal and parasite management is done to the best degree possible, secondary to this primary goal.
Your puppy should be brushed and combed once a day for the first three weeks after purchase and at least once a week thereafter. Young puppies typically don't mat, but this is part of training your dog to accept and enjoy grooming at a later stage.
Bathing can be done once every two weeks as required, but preferably not less than once a month. Blow drying and conditioner is required to avoid matting. See video below for tips.
Care should be taken to keep the hair trimmed away from his eyes and rectum area (to avoid excessive straining or soreness). Trim your puppy's eyes and bum every two weeks. At five to six months of age your puppy will require his first full haircut from a professional groomer. Most adult coats are kept at one to two inches in length for easiest maintenance and require clipping every six to twelve weeks, depending on your preferred coat length. Nails should be trimmed to the “pink” area every two weeks, if you are doing it yourself.
Do you have a recommended groomer?
That Dog Place, in Airdrie, is an awesome groomer for our Calgary customers. She has a vast amount of experience clipping and training this breed for grooming and I would HIGHLY recommend her. (403) 948-6420. We also have a recommended groomer for Red Deer. Please let us know if you'd like that info.
When to neuter and spay:
Male dogs should be neutered by six months of age and females spayed by six months. The older the puppy and more sexually mature he is, the lesser degree the neuter will alter his male nature. "Whole" male dogs are usually more aggressive, inclined to lift their leg on furniture, people, etc, wander, and usually extremely excitable. There are some rare exceptions but if you want a well potty trained and easily trained dog, neutering is an important step.
Do I need to brush my puppy's teeth?
Puppy teeth fall out by 5.5 to 7 months of age. So while they don't require brushing, getting a puppy used to the sensation makes it easier to brush an adult's teeth. If you do brush through your dog's life time, their teeth will be healthier overall. If you don't brush, it's not a problem, it just means you may end up with a few required dental cleanings. Feeding the dogs HARD dog food (not soft) will naturally clean the teeth, as will providing bones to chew on.
Do Bichon Shih Tzus have a predisposition to dental problems?
The Shih Tzu is a "squishy faced" breed, which essentially means the same number of teeth fit in a very tiny jaw. This compact space led to unerrupted molars, irregular tooth patterns and a higher bacteria load (and related decay) than a longer nosed breed. Thankfully, crossing the Shih Tzu with the Bichon gives a longer and larger space for all those teeth! Add Pooch Palace's careful breeding over 30 years and our own continuance in this practice and the result is far fewer dental problem. However, it does need to be said that vets are now highly focused on dental perfection. I'd love to think this is for the good of the dog, but when I've heard from clients that they've had very expensive dental work recommended for minor and completely unsympotamtic issues, I tend to think many dental treatments are being suggested as a way to pad the pocket book for the vet clinic. How do you know if your dog has an actual dental problem? Feel free to contact us and we can help you figure out if you are dealing with a serious problem or a minor one. Additionally, finding a reliable and trustworthy vet that is NOT part of the American owned conglomerate that most Calgary vets are now part of will help. We'd suggest McLeod Tr Animal Hospital or a rural vet.
Here are some practical tips:
-Shih Tzus and their crosses lose their teeth late. It's not uncommon to have a baby tooth still in place at 7 months of age. in 99% of cases these will fall out on their own and not need removing. If you do have a baby tooth that needs removed for some reason, a conservatively priced vet will charge $10-$20 for this service during the neuter or the spay.
-Your dog will tell you if he is in pain or discomfort. If a dog has an overbite or underbite, don't panic and don't allow a money focused vet to panic you. If you dog looks comfortable, eats and drinks without issue, play, naps and generally is loving life, then they are just fine! No need to mess with their mouth. If your dog is drooling, having trouble eating, generally acting uncomfortable, then get the opinion of a conservative vet. In almost all cases, a bite abnormality will not need vet intervention.
-Routine dental care is something you should be offering your pet, or expect to have a vet cleaning with the possibility of some extractions later in your dog's life. Offer hard food and bones to chew and this will help keep the teeth clean.
How often do I trim my dog's nails?
Dogs and puppies should have their nails trimmed every two to four weeks. Puppies tend to need their nails trimmed more frequently as they can become incredible sharp. For tips on how to trim your puppy's nails. Feel free to view this video.
I think my dog's coat is a little dry. What can I do?
If you stick with the Kirkland Salmon diet, the omega fatty acids will make a dry coat unlikely, so consider switching back to this diet if you've changed. Alternatively you could consider adding the fatty acid canine supplement available on Costco.ca We've used it and find it great. Adding a bit of coconut oil to your dog's food once a day is another option. Use only a tiny amount and increase it slightly over time. If you add too much, your dog will have greasy looking stools and diarrhea, so keep in mind that a little goes a long way.
My puppy seems to be scratching more than he should be. Is something wrong?
Puppies are impulsive and reactive, which is part of what makes them irresistibly cute! However, when it comes to scratching, it means that the slightest sensation can cause them to stop and scratch until they get distracted from that and head on to the next activity. Additionally, puppies have immature immune systems, so their bodies are still learning how to manage normal stimuli... everything from naturally occurring mites, to garden pollen. They may have a reaction to anything in the first months of their lives that won't bother them later. This isn't something to be concerned about... just give them time. However, the more the puppy scratches, they actually damage their own skin. If you think your puppy is itching WAY too much, use Selson's Blue shampoo a few times a week for several weeks. This is a detergent-free shampoo and will help sooth the skin, kill the bacteria and repair the damage that the puppy has done to himself. With this treatment, only low heat or just towel drying should be used after the bath so that you don't dry him out further. You may find that impulsive "itchiness" lasts until 6 months or so, until the puppy is mature enough that he is less reactive and his immune system has caught up. However, if it extends beyond this, or if you have true concerns, always feel free to take your pup to the vet. Flea and ticks can be seasonal concerns and worth considering, depending on your location.
If my puppy continues to scratch excessively beyond a year of age, what could be some additional causes?
Because of Pooch Palace's careful breeding and our continuance in that tradition, sensitivities and allergies in our dogs are really rare. However, any Bichon Frise related cross can be predisposed to "sensitivities". The most common of these would be chicken. A sensitivity typically takes the form of excessive itchiness or a "rashy" appearance through the groin. So if you feel your dog still scratches significantly more than the average dog after a year of age, or has a rash, try eliminating chicken COMPLETELY from the diet for 3 months. Eliminating chicken would include going over the ingredients of the dog food you are feeding, treats, table scraps, even the slightest trace should be eradicated or you aren't doing a true test. If the symptoms go away, you've found your problem! If it persists, it must have a different cause. At this point, a vet visit would be warranted because there are incredibly inexpensive medications that can be given that will take away these bothersome symptoms and leave you with a comfortable dog. Allergies typically only appear in a dog older than 1 year of age, so before this time, use patience and try natural alternatives.
Are Bichon Shih Tzus predisposed to any health issues?
Every breed is predisposed to a particular set of health issues. If you chat with any breeder and they can't tell you about particular problems that their dogs struggle with, you haven't lucked out and found healthy dogs, you've found a dishonest or unknowledgeable breeder! In the case of our dogs, I'm relieved that Pooch Palace poured 30 years of careful genetic management into these dogs, and as a result, we see FAR fewer problems than we would otherwise experience. We have seen single cases of major disorders pop up, but not multiples, and definitely not within certain family trees. These have been such solid and healthy dogs to offer families, but within that, there are still those pre-dispositions lurking in the background. Allergy problems, slipping patellas, liver shunts, hernias, heart murmurs and bladder stones are all things that happen with greater prevalence within this cross as a whole, and in our dogs to a far lesser extent. Mild sensitivities, typically to chicken, and hernias that can be easily corrected at the 6 month neuter/spay, are the two things that we have seen on the rare occasion. Thankfully both are easily solvable. We continue to ask our adopters to update us if they see problems with their dogs, as this will help us keep track of ongoing issues and continue to breed diligently to prevent what we can.
Trupanion Insurance Information
Why does the Trupanion Insurance trial need to be activated within 24 hours of taking your puppy home?
This is actually a Trupanion rule that we have no control over. If you don't sign up within 24 hours Trupanion will not allow you to have their insurance for free. We are a pre-approved breeder, which means Trupanion knows we send home healthy pups and waves their "waiting period" before allowing families to make a claim. Thankfully this has been RARELY needed, but we are happy to be offering it to families for those rare cases. You are taking home a puppy that has not finished it's immunization series yet, and that gives your puppy a higher chance of catching disease. In addition, the transition from our kennel to your home is very stressful for them as they leave everything they know and their friends and family, for a completely new place. The stress actually is hard on their immune systems, which further puts them at risk for an issue. Better to be prepared with something free than wish you had.
Are there any issues with choosing to insure my pet with a company other than Trupanion?
You should definitely go through whoever you have researched and feel comfortable with. We have heard nothing but positives about Trupanion but we have heard negative stories from our adopters about other insurance companies. We were told they paid premiums for years and then when they had a problem with their dog, these other insurance company refused to pay. Yes, Trupanion can be more expensive than other options, but they WILL cover what they claim to without giving you a huge hassle, withholding payment or disputing the issue. We've had multiple families use them for a claim and no one has had an issue. They offer direct billing to your vet and certainly see to be the most reputable option we have heard of thus far. If you do decide to go with an alternative, that's not at all a problem, but please keep in mind that there is typically a waiting period before they will begin coverage. Because of this, we'd encourage you to sign up for the free Trupanion trial AND your new company. That way you'll have Trupanion coverage while you are waiting for your next insurance to take effect. Also keep in mind that we are preapproved by Trupanion, but if you chose an alternative company, they may require proof of health from your vet before they will accept you. Your puppy will be healthy and have no issues obtaining this, but it will cost you a little more to obtain this as you'll need to immediately take your pup to the vet.
Do I absolutely need to get health insurance?
No. We don't personally insure any of our dogs. This is partially because we have so many! But instead of paying for insurance, you can also decide to set money aside every month incase you need it.. and if you never need it, go on a vacation with that savings account! But do be aware that city vets (particularly city ER vets) are astronomically expensive for anything beyond routine care. ALL vets in the city of Calgary, with the exception of two, are owned by an American conglomerate (VCA) that regulates the care, testing and the pricing. So if you want flexible care and pricing, you'll need to leave the city or use McLeod Tr Animal Hospital, who is one of the only independently owned vet remaining in Calgary. You also need to think ahead and before the emotion of the crisis hits, know the dollar value you are willing to invest and come to terms with what you will do if the estimate is above your limit.