Caring for a Tibetan Mastiff


Feeding

Possibly this is the most fundamental aspect of ensuring that a Tibetan Mastiff enjoys a long and healthy life but at the same time is a subject which contributes to a large amount of discussion and sometimes acrimony. As this is the case we will only mention how we have fed our TMs over the years and why.

Our intitial introduction to feeding TMs was based on what we had been feeding our Lhasa Apsos for many years and we had no idea whether it would be appropriate for a TM. We had always fed our Apsos on a complete food based on soya, with very little meat content and thus low in protein.We had discussed with a well known animal health nutritionist, the feeding habits of Tibetan dogs in their native country and he had no hesitation in recommending a new food which had been brought out by his company, Edward Baker and Co. He reasoned, and we agreed, that the rather poor diet the dogs would be fed in Tibet would be most similar to the original recipe for Omega but with the addition of necessary nutrients not found in tsampa and maybe a few pieces of dried meat or cheese. We liked what we had been told and began feeding Omega to the Apsos. We could not have chosen better for all of our Apsos lived long and healthy lives well into their teens, in one case reaching the age of 18.

The question was, would Tibetan Mastiffs also benefit from this food. The answer was a resounding yes and so this same food was used to feed, even wean, all our TMs. Of course all our dogs would be given table scraps and dog biscuits but basically they have all been fed the same food. Many of our TMs have lived into their teens and the vets have not, over the years, made much money out of us from illness of our dogs.

We used to feed Omega, butit is some time since we have fed it because it is now manufactured with a higher protein level of 27%, which we think is too high for a growing puppy. The protein level of complete foods is, in our view, very important but  that does not mean that an ultra low protein level is going to right for a TM. Finding the right food, however, for TMs is not an easy task, especially when, apparently, so many them are very fussy eaters but nevertheless we do believe that a simple and low protein diet, without a high proportion of meat, raw or cooked, being fed, is one that suits TMs best of all. We can do no more than to offer advice based on our experience and the longevity of our dogs over 20 plus years.

                    
                     
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Grooming

At one time the seasons were identifiable, the dogs moulted in the early spring, had no coat for the summer shows and thereafter it grew back until it was time to go to Crufts when it started to fall out again. Nowadays the moulting season seems to go on much longer and even during the summer months tufts of dead hair can be pulled out. Whenever a TM commences its moult, we have always groomed out the dead hair, which allows the skin to breathe and any dead skin shed naturally. A time consuming but necessary task. A dog in summer coat should not be penalised by a judge. But, as one experienced TM lady once retorted to an inexperienced judge who had mistakenly referred to a dog being in full coat, “ No, he is not in full coat, he is in full body” A lack of coat will show up more faults and this a judge should notice.

We have never found it necessary to bathe our dogs, except in exceptional circumstances. Regular grooming is a more healthy alternative.

Some longer haired TMs have hair which grows long excessively between the pads. This hair, but not that which grows between the toes on some older TMs, we trim back to the level of the pads, thereby preventing a build up of mud or other substances.

The Breed Standard requires that the hair on even the longest haired TMs should not be trimmed.

                                       
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Teeth

We have found that tartar can build up on a TMs teeth even when they have bones to chew on. Regular teeth checks are advisable and cleaning done if necessary.

              
                         
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Exercise

We have been blessed with TMs that have never demanded regular exercise and given their history, TMs are not a breed which require miles of walking every day. Having said that walks of a medium duration are enjoyed. It is very important that young puppies are not over exercised and even puppies of six months or more should not be given strenuous exercise.

                            
          
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Seasons

The majority of Tibetan Mastiff bitches will come into season only once a year, towards the end of the year. This is quite normal and to be expected. This is thought to be to coincide with the onset of winter in the dog's native Tibet. In Tibet bitches invariably gave birth to their litters during the winter months where not only did the extreme weather conditions ensure that only the strongest puppies survived but also at that time the nomads would be living in their winter settlements. By the time the spring arrived and the move to summer pastures had begun, the puppies would be better able to take care of themselves.

                                   
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Bloat

It is not unknown for a TM to suffer from bloat, which is the complete or partial twisting of the stomach, resulting in a build up of intestinal gasses. Whilst the cause of this is not certain, it does seem to us that the longer bodied dogs are more susceptible. We experienced it three times with two of our bitches and it is a very frightening experience. We suspect that it was due to both bitches moving too much after they had been fed. The symptoms are a general distress of the dog including hiding under or behind furniture, a need to drink water very often, followed by a heaving to try and vomit the water up again. This is rapidly followed by a severe deterioration of the condition of the dog with the stomach swelling noticeably. The dog should be taken to the vets without delay. A tube inserted into the stomach might work and release the gas after relaxant drugs have been administered. Failing that an operation is needed to untwist the stomach. The stomach is then stapled to the wall of the gut to prevent it happening again. This is a most distressing experience for dog and owner and one we hope others will not have to experience.

              
                    
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