Daisy is a twelve year old Shih Tzu

I remember meeting Daisy for the first time back in 2002: she was a lovely, gentle puppy whom Celine had just acquired from a prestigious line of Kildare Shih Tzus. She went on to live the healthy life of a fit active adult dog, and I rarely saw her until 2011.

A trip to the vet

It was during her annual check up three years ago that Celine mentioned a new problem: Daisy had started coming to a full halt on her walks. She would just stop, and sit down, refusing to budge. Celine had to carry her home to avoid being stuck out in the cold for ages.

When I checked Daisy over, I could find nothing dramatic wrong with her. She had a mild heart murmur, but that’s common in older dogs, and there were no other signs of heart disease. She had some arthritis, with slightly creaky joints, but it’s rare to find an older dog that is completely clear of this type of issue. I could find no single reason for Daisy refusing to walk, so I suggested that Celine try simple training methods to try to encourage her little dog to keep walking.

Celine did her best: she used tasty treats to try to tempt Daisy forwards. She tried walking her in new places to make the strolls more interesting and exciting. She tried a special harness to gently pull her along. She tried pleading with her. She tried getting cross with her. Nothing worked. Daisy is a determined little dog, and once she had decided that she didn’t want to walk anymore, that was that. She just stopped in her tracks and refused to budge.

Going for walks became an ordeal

As time went on, the problem deteriorated, to the extent that walks became an ordeal: Daisy hid under the chair when she saw the lead and Celine dreaded the prospect of carrying her yet again. She may be a small dog, but she’s a big enough bundle to carry in your arms. I discussed the problem with Celine and we decided to investigate the problem in more detail, in case there was some hidden illness lurking underneath the surface. We carried out detailed blood and urine tests: could low grade liver or kidney disease be depleting Daisy’s energy levels? When the results came back, they were normal. So what is going on with this little dog? Why does she just sit down and refuse to budge?

This type of case is challenging for vets and owners. The answer to the problem is probably a combination of the physical and the psychological. As the years have passed, Daisy’s heart murmur has become louder, and her joints are a bit stiffer and creakier. When she goes for a walk, it’s likely that she begins to feel tired and uncomfortable (just like many older people). Over the past three years, she’s learned that if she just sits down, she’ll eventually be picked up and brought home, which is exactly what she wants.  

In theory, Celine could work hard to keep prompting Daisy to want to walk, but the reality is that an elderly little dog is never likely to want to walk as briskly as an adult human. Celine has made a practical decision: she heads out on walks with a buggy, and when Daisy gets tired and wants to stop, she lifts her into it.

Celine realises that she may look like a mad dog woman with her dog baby in a pram, but she doesn’t care. She has found the answer to the problem: now Daisy stands at the door wagging her tail when it’s time for a walk and both Celine and Daisy are able to exercise for as long as they want, at their own pace.

Tips

  • Older dogs often become slower and less keen to exercise
  • It’s important to rule out underlying conditions that can be treated
  • Mobility aids – such as dog buggies – can provide a practical solution to the problem

3 Comments

  • Yvette P{onan says:

    Thank you so much for this article. I have been so stressed worrying about my 12year old Shih Tzu. He sometimes walks and other times just sits down. Did all the tests and they are all normal. His breathing is sometimes loud and that worries me but the vets say that there is nothing wrong with him. Maybe just old age.
    Thank You once again
    Yvette

  • Inny says:

    Our Shih Tzu Daisy was diagnosed with a heart murmur during a routine checkup when she was 10yrs old. She was a very active healthy dog loved her best friend Burt an Australian Shepard,she had been with him since we got her, everyday she attacked her food twice a day as if it were the best food in the whole world.
    One morning she didn’t eat, all day she didn’t eat, on the second day she went to the vet, her heart was in critical condition , started medication for it , came home and laid down by my chair as usual and never got up. I picked her up and she died in my arms.
    The sudden turn for the worst is still a nightmare, it seemed so untrue, she had never been sick a day at 10 yrs.

  • Cole says:

    My Shih Tzu Sophia has a heart murmur, she also will hid under the table before walks but once she starts going she’s fine. It’s weird.

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Please note that I am unable to answer veterinary questions in comments. If you have questions or concerns about your pet's health it is always better to contact your vet.

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