Best Dog Food for Shih Tzus: How to Pick the Good Shih
Oh, Shih! Your dog needs to eat! Shih Tzus can be hungry little fellers. In fact, it’s pretty easy for this breed to get a little pudgy, and it doesn’t help that lots of Shih Tzu owners tend to pamper their pups. This breed isn’t particularly picky, and they don’t have too many special dietary needs. Still, there are a few key things to keep in mind if you want to find the best dog food for your Shih Tzu.
That’s where we come in. We consulted several registered dog trainers, breeders and handlers to figure out the best options for your little friend. So saddle up and strap on that learning cap!
Quick Picks: 5 of the Best Options for Shih Tzus for Optimal Nutrition
**Below, you'll find our expert's science-backed reviews, but you can also click the links above to see current prices or read customer reviews on Chewy.
Shih Tzu Diet: Calories & Macros
**Please note: these estimates are based on an average weight for this breed. Every dog is different. Please talk to your vet before making changes to your dog's diet.
The first step in planning a good, healthy diet for any dog is usually figuring out how much she weighs.
Shih Tzus can weigh anywhere from nine to 16 pounds (unless you have a real chunker on your hands). However, it can be tough to determine how much your Shih Tzu actually weighs, since they have so much hair.
The best option is to have your dog weighed at the vet or groomer; they’ll be able to give you an accurate measurement and tell you how your dog stacks against others of her age, activity level and health.
In general, though, average adult Shih Tzus need to consume about 35 calories per pound of bodyweight per day. So, if you have a smaller Shih Tzu who weighs nine pounds, you’d feed her about 315 calories per day. If you have a bigger dog, you’d feed her closer to 560 calories per day.
That’s a pretty big difference, so it should be easy to see that it’s critical to know how much your dog really weighs, especially since this breed is so prone to obesity.
It’s also important to remember that puppies and senior dogs have different dietary needs. Puppies tend to need much more calories, and older dogs tend to need fewer calories.
If you have a Shih Tzu puppy, she should be getting about 30 calories per pound of bodyweight per day, and if you have a senior dog, she should get about 30 calories per pound of bodyweight.
Additionally, like any small dog, Shih Tzus are healthiest when eating a high-protein diet. My rule of thumb is to make sure protein accounts for at least 25% of your dog food, although some breeders say Shih Tzus need as much as 50% of their calories to come from protein. For the lazy dog owner, it’s usually enough just to make sure protein is the main ingredient.
That’s all pretty standard for breeds like this (Yorkies, Chihuahuas, etc.).
Shih Tzus do have one special dietary need, however: fat.
Best Dog Food Ingredients for Shih Tzus
Shih Tzus are prone to obesity, so finding a dog food with fewer carbohydrates can be good. This does not mean you shouldn’t feed your dog carbs. That’s a bad idea. It just means that you can help your Shih Tzu maintain a healthy weight by choosing a food with a higher ratio of protein and a slightly lower ratio of carbohydrates.
The most common proteins you’ll find are chicken, chicken meal, turkey, turkey meal and eggs. All of those are great lean proteins, and your little puppy buddy will probably love them.
However, if you can find a food with lots of fish in it, you’ll be really rockin’, since fish is an excellent source of lean protein and good fats, which is kills two birds with one stone: provides good lean protein and takes care of your dog’s coat.
Finally, make sure your food uses healthy, complex sources of carbohydrates instead of simple, processed carbohydrates.
In practical terms, that usually means you want to opt for foods made with sweet potatoes, rice, oats and barley, and you want to avoid corn and soy.
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Public Service Announcement: Shih Tzus Love Dry Food
Not only do Shih Tzus love dry food, but it’s also good for them.
Why? Well, Shih Tzus, like lots of toy breeds, have a tendency to develop dental problems. Dry food helps with that by cleaning the teeth with its crunch texture.
So, if you can, shoot for a dry dog food with a small kibble size. There are plenty out there (and we’ll show you a few below).
Shih Tzu Health Problems & Dietary Solutions
Obesity. “That’s not baby fat, that’s fat baby!” It’s easy for Shih Tzus to gain weight, so you really need to keep an eye on how much they’re eating. Additionally, if you can help it at all, try not to give them people food.
Another good way to curb their weight is to add more protein and veggies into their diet. Protein and veggies naturally have fewer calories than carbohydrates (again, don’t eliminate carbohydrates; that’s dangerous).
Some enterprising Shih Tzu owners make their own dog food, which is another good idea; it’ll help you control the exact ratios of all the ingredients.
Nappy hair. Long hair is a trademark of this breed. Like we mentioned above, if you don’t take care of your Shih Tzus coat, it’s going to be weird and gross really fast.
In addition to regular baths and a few trips to the groomers (duh), it’s also a good idea to include lots of good fats in your puppy’s diet.
Snapshot Reviews of a Few of the Best Dog Foods for Shih Tzus
This is a great dog food for any small dog, but it has a few special ingredients that are just right for Shih Tzus.
The main ingredient here is fresh chicken, but there are a few other protein sources as well, adding a nice variety to your pup’s diet.
The carbohydrates come mostly from brown rice, which is a good, complex carbohydrate with plenty of fiber that can help protect against too much weight gain.
The thing we really like, though, is that this formula includes a Vitamin A supplement, and that’s awesome, since Shih Tzus need a lot of help with their coat.
The one drawback is that we wish this formulate had more calcium, but it should be an issue for puppies or adult dogs; you might just need to change to a more calcium-rich food when your little friend gets older.
How’s it taste? Our pup liked it! She’s not picky, but this one was gone particularly quickly.
As far as I can tell, this isn’t formulated specifically for small dogs, but it didn’t seem to matter much to our dog.
And there’s a lot to like her. Most importantly, though, this dog food includes four meats, which is relatively rare. Even more importantly, one of those meats is fish.
I always prefer to feed by dog whole ingredients instead of extracts, so I always prefer to feed my dog fish instead of fish oil, for example. Canidae nails it.
This is one of the few dog foods out there formulated specifically for small-to-medium dogs (dogs in the 12-15lb range). And that’s awesome! That’s almost all Shih Tzus. It basically means the kibbles are in that weird goldilocks zone for a dog that size: not too big, not too small.
It’s also packed with good fats, which is something I look for in Shih Tzu dog food. Got to take care of that coat. This recipe has a mix of both animal fat and flaxseed, so all your bases should be cover.
The main ingredient here is chicken, which accounts for your protein, and the carbohydrates come from brown rice. It’s also got a bunch of anti-oxidant rich fruits (mostly berries).
Chewie didn’t like it as much as she liked some of the others on the list, but she licked the bowl clean in any case.
I like this dog food mostly because the main ingredient is beef, which gives it a slightly higher fat content that some of the others we reviewed.
That said, it only has 27% protein, which meets our minimum requirement of 25% but might not be enough for a pudgy, active Shih Tzu, so keep that in mind.
Also, there is corn in this recipe, so if your dog is overweight, steer clear.
This formula really excels in the taste department, though. It mixes small, crunch kibbles with tender, chewy bits, and that went over very well with Chewie. It’s kind of like having Marshmallows in Lucky Charms. But for dogs. It’s a really good idea.
**Disclaimer: Our dog food reviews are based mostly on (1) our expertise and that of the experts with whom we consult and (2) the information provided by the manufacturers. We do test many dog foods (with our dog's help), but we can't test them all. As such, please remember the above recommendations are our opinions, and you should consult your vet before making changes to your dog's diet.
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