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Dynasty Dogs: The Royal History of the Shih Tzu

close up of shih tzu

Did you know that your loyal little Shih Tzu has deep roots in royal Chinese history?

While many associate the breed with Dowager Empress Tzu Hsi, who ruled in China from 1861 through 1908 and considered the dogs sacred, Shih Tzu appear in tapestries dating as far back as 2000 years. While its origins are not fully clear, there is evidence that the breed—distinct from the Lhasa Apso, Pug, and Pekingese—was developed by Tibetan Monks who offered the temple dogs as gifts to the emperors of China.

Holy pets of the palace

Called Shih-tzu Kou in traditional Chinese, which literally means “Lion Dog,” the breed’s lion-like facial features were revered in Imperial courts because Buddha was said to have ridden to earth on the back of a lion.

During the Ming and Manchu Dynasties, the little lion dogs were bred and raised by palace eunuchs and were considered the exclusive property of the royal court. They were rarely seen outside the palaces and anyone caught owning one could be sentenced to death.

These thickly coated Shih Tzus were sometimes carried inside the robes of noble women and were even used as bed warmers and placed at the feet of the emperors and empresses to generate heat.

From China to the West

Dog historians believe that after Empress Tzu Hsi came to power in the 1860s, the Dalai Lama at the time presented her with a breeding pair of extraordinary Shih Tzus. These magnificent dogs were the foundation of her pure line.

Eventually, the dogs were given as gifts to English and Dutch nobility and by 1938 a standard was set for the breed. In the late 1930s, Shih Tzus finally arrived in America and rose to enormous popularity by the 1960s. Even half a world apart from the palaces of China, Shih Tzus are never far away from their royal bloodlines.

  • When Should You Switch Your Senior Dog to Soft Food?

    smiling lab sitting in front of brick wall


    As your dog ages, you’ll likely notice changes in your best pal’s energy levels, routine and even muzzle. Older pets may require adjustments to help them get around, exercise and live their best life as a senior. One important aspect of caring for a dog entering their golden years is diet.

    When it comes to diet, every dog has unique, individual needs, regardless of age. So, there's no one easy answer to the question of soft food versus hard food. Both types of food can provide your dog with the nutrition they need — as long as you feed your dog a high-quality dog food that’s nutritionally balanced and complete.

    two dogs eating from two bowls

    Signs Your Senior Dog May Benefit from Wet Food

    If your dog has very specific health concerns, such as aging joints or weight issues, consult with your vet for more information about what type of food best addresses your dog's needs. That being said, there are a few reasons why you may consider switching your senior dog to soft food.
     

    fluffy brown dog yawning showing teeth

    Teeth Sensitivity

    As your dog gets older, their teeth may become more sensitive, which can make chewing kibble more difficult and even uncomfortable. Switching to a soft food can help to alleviate your pet’s oral discomfort when eating.

    However, if your dog is experiencing serious pain at mealtime from a condition like tooth decay or gingivitis, switching to soft food won't remedy the problem. Make sure you talk to your vet about oral care and dental treatment.

    Digestion Aid

    Digestion begins in the mouth with saliva, so if your dog has a tendency to scarf down meals, they may not be adequately chewing the food or adding enough saliva to it. Soft food can aid with digestion because it's more easily chewed.

    Hydration Help

    It’s no surprise that wet food has a higher moisture content when compared to dry kibble. If your senior pup is prone to urinary-tract issues or simply needs a little help staying hydrated, canned dog food may be a good choice.

    girl kissing older dog on the head

    Slower Metabolism

    Aging dogs tend to have a slower metabolic rate compared to their younger years, which puts them at a higher risk of becoming overweight or obese. Many nutritionally balanced wet dog foods offer high protein content with fewer carbs than dry food, which can benefit older dogs with slower metabolism. Always talk to your vet if you have concerns about your pup’s weight.

    Picky Eaters

    While wet food may be less than appetizing to humans, the opposite is true for dogs! If your aging best friend has started turning their snout up to dry food, wet food tends to be more appealing to picky eaters. Mixing wet food and kibble offers your pup a variety of flavors and textures; try adding wet food as a topper on dry food for a real treat!

    Whether you choose dry food, soft food  or a mix of both, ask your vet before making any transition. And when it's time to switch your dog's food, remember to do it slowly — even if it's the same brand and flavor — to help prevent stomach upset and allow your dog time to adjust.

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