US Vet: “This is the Best Dog Food for Shih Tzus”

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Picking the best dog food for your Shih Tzu can be a challenging task. As you probably know, your small “Lion Doggie” can gain weight quickly if her diet is unbalanced. Therefore, in order to choose the right food you have to make plenty of decisions, from considering Fido’s life stage and health requirements to ensure that she gets all the proper nutrients from the highest quality sources. All of this with the abundance of information might be overwhelming.

I used my 12 years of Veterinary experience and reviewed over 100 dog food products to find the best dog food for Shih Tzus.

After considering the nutritional needs along with genetic health conditions that Shih Tzus tend to have, I found that “Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free Dry Dog Food” is the best overall food for adult Shih Tzus. In addition to meeting my dietary criteria for Shih Tzus, it has the best combination of nutrients and quality sources.

But I understand that no two Shih Tzus are alike, and your Shih Tzu might have a different life stage or have different needs. That’s why I prepared a shortlist of the best Shih Tzu foods that address the most common Shih Tzu needs. 

In addition to picking the best products for your pooch, I outlined my process for choosing dog food. I want you to know what gets inside the furry stomach. The process is written in plain & simple English that will help you make wiser dietary decisions for your Shih Tzu.

I encourage you to read our review process and check out our in-depth reviews below so that you’ll be able to come up with your own dietary decisions.

Let’s get started.

Before You Pick The Best Food For Your Shih Tzu

Cute Shih Tzu is staring to the camera with his tongue out and wondering when is she going to eat

There’s no such thing as one food that fits all Shih Tzus. While I did my best to find the best food for most Shih Tzus, you might prefer to pick a more specific formula.

That’s why I elaborate here our main considerations while reviewing the best dog foods for Shih Tzus.

You can divide your research journey into 3 steps:

The rest of the guide will show you how to pick the right food for your Shih Tzu’s life stage, how diet helps in common Shih Tzu health issues, and what to look for on the label.

For your convenience, I (Dr. Libby Guise) shortlisted 15 dog foods. These foods were carefully selected and should satisfy your Shih Tzu’s needs. I also noted which food is best for certain life stages or particular health issues.

After going through the shortlist, you can find additional considerations that might be of interest to you and your fur-baby.

Finally, I answered the most popular questions that I’m being asked regarding Shih Tzus’’ nutrition and diet.

Please keep in mind, while I tried to do my best to find the best food for your Shih Tzu, it would be a good idea to understand how and why we made our decisions.

The recommendations in this review are not intended to replace the doctor-patient relationship. Always consult your veterinarian before making major adjustments to your furbaby’s diet.

The Right Diet For Puppies, Adults, And Seniors Shih Tzus

Two adorable Shi Tzus are lying on a boardwalk

One of the most lovable small breeds, the Shih Tzu is an intelligent, affectionate pooch. At each life stage, Shih Tzu will need to consume different nutrients and consume a different amounts of calories.

Essential considerations for all life stages

Shih Tzus are fun, lovable pups that thrive on cuddles, playtime, and daily walks. 

With their fierce energy, these pooches tend to eat more than other small breed dogs. To help your furbaby stay in top condition and enjoy a long life, feed him a nutritionally balanced diet with quality ingredients.

Like most diminutive dogs, Shih Tzus burn through energy quickly. You want to feed them a protein (about 22-25%) and a calorie-rich diet to meet their daily needs. But it’s easy for these pups to gain extra weight, so look for healthy carbs like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These ingredients will help to provide valuable antioxidants, digestive fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals.

Start with real meat and organs to provide the essential amino acids your pup needs to build and maintain lean muscle mass. A balanced blend of calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium will help to support strong teeth and bones. 

To fulfill his energy requirements rely on sources of healthy fats (8-10% minimum) including Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids. The omega fatty acids are key to keeping your special pal’s long hair silky smooth. 

Shih Tzu pups are prone to food allergies and sensitivities. Consider starting your pup on a limited ingredient product from the start. That way, if your furbaby develops a digestive issue, you may have an easier time pinpointing the cause. Either way, look for foods that include probiotics and/or prebiotic fiber to support gut function. 

Daily Calorie Requirements

 The calorie requirements of your Shih Tzu will change as he ages. Puppies need extra energy to fuel growth, while seniors tend to be less active and don’t need as much fat or calories in the diet.

  • Puppies – Puppies are a moving target. Their needs change as they grow. A general rule for these youngsters is to feed about an ounce of quality, dry puppy food per pound of body weight per day. You can decrease to an adult portion around nine months when the growth rate drops. 
  • Adults – A Shih Tzu with normal activity levels needs approximately 35 calories per pound of body weight. 
  • Seniors – Less active pups and seniors will require about 30 calories per pound of body weight.

Feeding Quantity & Frequency

As caloric requirements change with age, the amount of food and frequency of meals will also vary.

  • Puppies – Because growing Shih Tzus burn energy extremely fast, split the daily portion into four daily meals until they’re about six months old. After that, you can taper to three meals per day and to twice daily by the time they’re a year old.
  • Adults and Seniors – We recommend dividing their food into morning and evening meals to provide a more consistent energy supply.

The Appropriate Nutrition For Common Shih Tzu Health Issues

This awesome Shi Tzu is happily jumping in the snow and staying fit

Some health conditions are more popular among Shih Tzus than other dog breeds. Each breed inherits some genes that can be associated with certain health issues. 

It doesn’t mean that Fido is going to develop these conditions. It just means that Shih Tzus have a higher chance as compared to other breeds.

However, it’s possible to reduce the risk by proactively feeding Shih Tzu with the right nutrients. Here we list the most common Shih Tzus health issues and how certain nutrients can reduce risk.

A quick reminder: if you think your special pal suffers from any of these conditions, schedule an exam with your veterinarian to confirm your suspicions. Even with healthy dogs, these dietary recommendations may help prevent future problems. Always check with Fido’s doctor before making changes in his diet.

Eye Problems

Shih Tzus have large, bulging eyes that can be prone to injury and other conditions, including:

  • Keratitis – Inflammation of the cornea that may lead to ulcers
  • Proptosis – he eyeball pops out of the socket
  • Progressive retinal atrophy – an inherited condition in which the retinal tissue folds, causing vision impairment
  • Epiphora – excess tear production that causes staining of fur under the eyes

No matter the eye condition, a diet consisting of a variety of fresh food sources can help promote ocular health. Look for ingredients like:

  • Foods rich in carotene – orange vegetables like squash and carrots
  • Blueberries – an excellent source of antioxidants
  • Broccoli and Kale – packed with phytonutrients
  • Salmon or Sardines – a rich source of omega fatty acids

Make sure to avoid poor-quality foods that use highly processed ingredients, fillers, and excessive carbohydrates as these can contribute to dull, crusty, runny eyes. Some commercial products may also cause allergic reactions that can affect the eyes.

Joint Health

Like many breeds, Shih Tzus can suffer from hereditary joint issues including hip dysplasia and luxating patella. These conditions result in extra movement and rubbing in the joints and often result in pain and arthritis later in life. 

Nutritional support for joints includes omega fatty acids to fight inflammation and glucosamine and chondroitin for cartilage maintenance and repair. You should also look for a balanced blend of magnesium, phosphorus, and calcium for strong bones. 

Intervertebral Disc Disease (IVDD)

Believe it or not, Shih Tzus have relatively long backs, and this puts them at risk for intervertebral disc disease (IVDD). With IVDD, the spinal discs protrude or rupture causing pain and potential paralysis. Because extra weight can exacerbate back pain, keep your pooch on a high-protein diet with moderate fat and restricted carbs to prevent obesity. To further manage the condition, omega fatty acids for inflammation and glucosamine and chondroitin to maintain healthy intervertebral joints.

Hypothyroidism

Although it may not be as common as other conditions, some Shih Tzus suffer from hypothyroidism. When a dog’s body doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormone, he has a hard time regulating his metabolism. Signs of hypothyroidism include changes in appetite, lethargy, increased urination, and weight gain.

Diets that support hypothyroidism should have a balanced blend of minerals including iodine, selenium, and zinc. Look for foods that are rich in lean protein, include healthy fats, and have whole-food ingredients that provide digestible carbohydrates.

Allergies

Shih Tzus can suffer from allergies to the environment, parasites, foods, or medications. No matter the underlying cause, a primary symptom is irritated, flaky, itchy skin. Diets that include natural sources of omega fatty acids and vitamin E help to support the skin and keep it healthy. If your pooch suffers from food sensitivities, consider a limited ingredient diet to help you avoid the offending materials. At least avoid foods that contain artificial ingredients, unnecessary additives, and common allergens such as corn, gluten, and soy.

Ear Infections

Those long, silky ears and hair in the ear canal predispose Shih Tzus to external ear infections or otitis externa. Whether the underlying cause is allergies, ear mites, bacteria, or yeast, it irritates the ears. If your pup is scratching his ears or shaking his head more than usual, or you notice an odor, schedule an appointment with your vet to treat the problem. For healthy pups, remember to regularly clean the ears.

Because allergies can cause itchiness and trigger ear infections, providing a hypoallergenic diet may help prevent problems. Offer limited-ingredient products that are allergen-free. You should also choose food that includes vitamin E, omega fatty acids, and antioxidants. Kibble made from whole fruits and vegetables provides a rich source of these nutrients.

Collapsing Trachea and Breathing Problems

As a brachycephalic dog breed, Shih Tzus have a flat face and shorter than usual snout. This can lead to breathing problems that lead to exercise intolerance, overheating, and collapse. Add to that the risk of under-developed airways. One common problem with Shih Tzus is a collapsing trachea. If the cartilage in the windpipe starts to weaken, the trachea can flatten and make breathing difficult and painful. The condition is most pronounced in overweight pups. 

If your pooch suffers from a collapsing trachea, feed them a high-protein, low fat, low carb diet to maintain a healthy weight. A raw food diet or canned products can help reduce your pal’s weight. You should also look for omega fatty acids and antioxidants to help reduce any inflammation.

Dental Disease and Overcrowded Teeth

These pups have a small mouth and often have an underbite. Because tooth overcrowding is common, Shih Tzus suffer from:

  • Crooked Teeth 
  • Gum Disease
  • Tooth Decay. 

Offer your pup high-quality dry dog food to help prevent tartar build-up. A well-balanced diet with minerals for strong bones, vitamin E to boost immunity, and omega fatty acids to fight inflammation can help promote dental health. Providing regular dental care by brushing your pooch’s teeth and scheduling dental cleanings will also help prevent periodontal disease.

Ensuring High-Quality Nutrients

Handsome Shih Tzu is posing her silky hair in the wind

Now that you have information about the basic nutritional needs of Shih Tzus and how to adjust their diets to prevent some common health conditions, we need to ensure that the nutrient sources are best of class.

  • Kibble Size – With their small mouths and teeth, Shih Tzus need little bites that they can crunch. Look for formulas made for small breed dogs.
  • Whole Protein As the Top Ingredient – These pups need a protein-rich diet from real meat sources. Because they tend to gain weight, they focus on lean meats like chicken, turkey, and salmon.
  • Minimal to Moderate Fat – Shih Tzus need healthy fats including omega fatty acids in their diets to maintain a healthy coat and skin. But keep the content in the low to moderate range to help your pooch avoid obesity.
  • Contains Easily Digestible Ingredients – Between the tendency for Shih Tzus to have food allergies and the risk of hypothyroidism, these pups need digestible food. Look for products with whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, and lean proteins. 
  • Limited Ingredients – With their tendency to develop food sensitivities and allergies, it’s wise to focus on limited ingredient diets. Look for products that contain approximately six to eight whole food ingredients.
  • Enriched With Probiotics and Other Supplements

Several supplements are helpful for Shih Tzu’s health. Look for 

  • Probiotics to support healthy gut function
  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin for joints
  • Omega fatty acids help maintain their silky coat and keep skin healthy
  • A balanced blend of essential vitamins and minerals
  • Ingredients to Avoid – In addition to looking for healthy, whole foods, there are ingredients that you should avoid giving your pup. 
    • Beef may be too fatty and pose a higher allergen risk. 
    • Meat and animal derivatives are hard on the sensitive digestive system.
    • Poultry by-products are harder to digest and lack the nutritional density you want.
    • Cereals and other fillers don’t provide the energy your pup needs and can cause unwanted weight gain.
    • Allergens such as corn, wheat, and soy may trigger food issues.
  • Free of Chemical Preservatives – Natural preservatives such as rosemary and other herbs or tocopherols are healthy alternatives to potentially harmful chemicals. BHA, BHT, Ethoxyquin, and nitrites/nitrates may be linked to some types of cancer.
  • No Artificial Colors, Flavors, or Additives – Artificial ingredients can cause health problems including allergic reactions and cancer. Look for products with all-natural ingredients.
    Meets AAFCO nutritional requirements for a complete and balanced food – The AAFCO is a voluntary organization of veterinarians, nutritionists, and other scientists. They conduct nutritional analyses of pet and livestock foods and provide recommendations for nutritional requirements for different animals. Look for a statement on the label that the product meets AAFCO requirements.
  • Produced in a Handful of Countries – To ensure that your pup is getting food made with safe, wholesome ingredients, pick products made in a country that follows good manufacturing practices and food safety protocols. Some nations that we recommend include the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

Our 2022 Review For 15 Dog Foods For Shih Tzus

Curious Shi Tzu lying in bed and wonder when mommy is going to find the best dog food for mysel

We reviewed over 100 products by following the process presented above and classified the best of them based on everyday Shih Tzu needs. 

We considered the life stage, common Shih Tzu health issues for each pick and ensured it has the best nutrient sources.

Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free Dry Dog Food

  •  First 5 ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Turkey Meal, Chicken Meal, Peas, Dried Ground Potatoes
  • Key feature: high protein, moderate fat
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 34% Crude Protein,16% Crude Fat,4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 417 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Grain-free, protein-rich dry dog food
  • Life Stage: Adult Dry food
  • Best for: Overall Pick
  • AAFCO Statement: formulated to meet the nutritional level established by AAFCO Dog food nutrient profile for maintenance

With high protein to support your pup’s muscle mass and moderate fat, this food provides essential nutrients for an active lifestyle. Chicken fat and salmon oil provide healthy omega fatty acids and other essential nutrients.

With superfoods such as carrots, broccoli, and apples, the formula contains antioxidants for cellular health, vitamin E for immunity, and a balanced blend of other essential nutrients. The ingredients are digestible and include prebiotic fiber and probiotics for gut health.

This formula includes rich sources of beta carotene for eye health and taurine to support the heart. There are no artificial ingredients or fillers in the food.

Owners share that their dogs love this food, and they have healthy shiny hair, healthy skin, and firm poops.

CANIDAE Grain Free Pure Petite Small Breed Raw Coated Dry Dog Food

  • First 5 ingredients: Salmon, salmon meal, lentils, peas, tapioca
  • Key feature: limited ingredient, high-protein
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 24% Crude Protein,13.5% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 525kcal/can
  • Type of Product: Dry Small Breed Puppy Food
  • Life Stage: Puppy
  • Best for: Shih Tzu Puppies
  • AAFCO Statement: formulated to meet the nutritional needs established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for growth, including the growth of large dogs

This protein-rich food starts with salmon and salmon meal as the first two ingredients. The lean meat provides your puppy with the essential amino acids he needs to build lean muscle mass

The fish ingredients offer healthy sources of omega fatty acids to support brain, skin, and hair health. Vitamin E and antioxidants from whole grains and vegetables provide for immunity and cellular health.

With no artificial ingredients, corn, wheat, or soy, this food is designed to go easy on the digestive system. The product includes a balanced blend of minerals and vitamins.

Customers say their dogs love the flavor of this food, and it’s gentle on the tummy.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Formula Small Breed Senior Dog

  • First 5 ingredients: deboned chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, barley, oatmeal
  • Key features: moderate fat, high protein
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 23% Crude Protein,13% Crude Fat, 6% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 363kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Small breed dry dog food
  • Life Stage: Senior
  • Best for: Senior Shih Tzu
  • AAFCO Statement: formulated to meet the nutritional needs established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for senior dogs

Starting with chicken as the first ingredient, this food from Blue Buffalo has the high-protein content your pooch needs to maintain healthy muscle mass. The moderate-fat comes from healthy sources of omega fatty acids and provides adequate energy for an aging dog.

With whole food ingredients that include digestible grains, garden vegetables, and antioxidant-rich fruits, this product is designed to offer a balanced blend of essential nutrients. 

The formula includes glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint health, vitamin E for immunity, taurine for heart health, and L-carnitine to boost metabolism. Prebiotic fiber and probiotic organisms help with digestive function.

Small dog parents say their pups love the flavor of this food, and they have lots of energy and healthy skin.

DIAMOND NATURALS Small Breed Chicken and Rice Formula Adult Dry Dog Food

  • First 5 ingredients: chicken, chicken meal, cracked pearl barley, ground white rice, grain sorghum
  • Key feature: moderate fat, high-protein
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 27% Crude Protein,16% Crude Fat,3% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 345cal/cup
  • Type of Product: Dry small breed adult food
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: Budget
  • AAFCO Statement: formulated to meet the nutritional needs established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance

Starting with chicken as the top ingredient, this food has the essential amino acids your pup needs for lean muscle maintenance. The moderate fat content comes from healthy sources of omega fatty acids to support the skin and coat.

Superfoods including digestible grains, fruits, and vegetables help to provide a balanced blend of essential nutrients and antioxidants to support an active lifestyle. There are no artificial ingredients in this product.

The formula includes probiotic microorganisms for gut health. Prebiotic fiber and a balanced blend of insoluble and soluble fiber aids digestion

Customers say the food is budget-friendly, the kibble is the right size for tiny mouths, and their pups thrive when they eat this formula.

The Honest Kitchen Chicken Recipe Grain-Free Dehydrated Dog Food

  • First 5 ingredients: Dehydrated Chicken, Organic Flaxseed, Dehydrated Potatoes, Dehydrated Sweet Potatoes, Dried Apples
  • Key feature: high protein, moderate fat for an active lifestyle
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 24% Crude Protein,15% Crude Fat,6.5% Crude Fiber, 8.5% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 446 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Dehydrated Adult Dry Dog Food
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: Premium Food
  • AAFCO Statement: formulated to meet the nutritional needs established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for Maintenance

Starting with real chicken, this product is made with human-grade ingredients to provide your pooch with premium nutrition. The protein-rich formula provides essential amino acids to support healthy muscles.

There are no artificial ingredients, by-products, or preservatives. The grain-free dog food relies on antioxidant-rich whole fruits and vegetables for balanced nutrition. 

As a dehydrated food, this product offers fresh ingredients. Just add water and feed.

Customers say this their pups gobble down the food and thrive when they eat it.

NUTRO ULTRA Adult

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Brewers Rice, Rice Bran
  • Key feature: Protein-rich formula for adults
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 26% Crude Protein, 15% Crude Fat,4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 348 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Natural Dry Dog Food
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: Adult Shih Tzu
  • AAFCO Statement: formulated to meet the nutritional levels established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for Maintenance

With three sources of lean protein, this formula provides a balance of essential amino acids to keep your pup’s muscles strong. The moderate fat content provides a healthy source of omega fatty acids and other essential nutrients for healthy skin, coat, and brain.

A blend of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables offers a rich source of antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins that your pooch needs to sustain a healthy lifestyle. 

The formula contains the proper balance of calcium and phosphorus for strong bones. Chicken and lamb meals provide natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin for the joints. With prebiotic fiber and all-natural ingredients, this product should also be easy to digest.

Customers say their dogs like the food, and it’s easy on their tummies.

Merrick Lil’ Plates Grain-Free Small Breed

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Turkey Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Potatoes
  • Key feature: grain-free
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 38% Crude Protein,17% Crude Fat,3.5% Crude Fiber, 11% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 412cal/cup
  • Type of Product: Dry small breed adult food
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: Active Dogs
  • AAFCO Statement: formulated to meet the nutritional needs established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance

Packed with protein and energy, this food is designed to provide essential nutrients for an active pup. The first three ingredients are sourced from real meat to ensure your pooch gets the amino acids he needs for healthy muscle mass.

Chicken fat, salmon meal, and salmon oil provide rich sources of healthy fats including omega fatty acids. The formula includes real vegetables and fruits including potatoes, apples, and blueberries to provide digestible fiber, antioxidants, and a balanced blend of essential vitamins and minerals.

Glucosamine and chondroitin offer support for healthy joint function. The product includes prebiotic fiber and probiotics to aid digestion.

Customers report that the kibble is small enough for Shih Tzu mouths, and their furbabies act like puppies again when they eat the food.

Hill’s Science Diet Adult Perfect Weight Small & Mini Chicken Recipe Dry Dog Food

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken, Cracked Pearled Barley, Brown Rice, Pea Bran Meal, Corn Gluten Meal
  • Key feature: protein-rich, low-fat
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 24% Crude Protein,9% Crude Fat,13% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 291kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Dry
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: Weight Loss
  • AAFCO Statement: formulated to meet the nutritional needs established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance

This food starts with chicken as the first ingredient. The high-protein content offers a rich source of essential amino acids to support lean muscle mass. 

With a low-fat, high fiber content, this formula is designed to help your pooch drop unwanted pounds and maintain a healthy weight. It’s supplemented with L-carnitine to boost metabolism.

Healthy whole grains, fruits, and vegetables offer a rich source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals for a healthy lifestyle. Prebiotic fiber aids digestion.

Owners of small-breed pups say their dogs like the flavor, it helps them drop a few pounds, and the kibble is the right size.

Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Small Breed 

  • First 5 ingredients: Salmon, Salmon Meal, Peas, Potatoes, Canola Oil
  • Key feature: limited-ingredient
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 29% Crude Protein,14% Crude Fat, 5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 450 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Limited Ingredient, grain-free food
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: sensitive stomach
  • AAFCO Statement: formulated to meet the nutritional level established by AAFCO Dog food nutrient profile for maintenance

With a single source of protein and limited ingredients, this kibble is designed to be easy on the stomach. There are no grains, artificial ingredients, or meat by-products in the formula.

The food features digestible carbohydrates and prebiotic fiber to aid digestion. It includes a minimum of 20,000,000 CFU/lb of probiotic microorganisms.

This product has a balanced blend of essential nutrients. Fortified with glucosamine and chondroitin, the formula also offers support for joint maintenance and repair. Taurine supplements help to ensure heart health for your pooch. 

Customers say the kibble is the right size for tiny jaws, and it helps clear up digestive issues.

Natural Balance L.I.D. Limited Ingredient Diets Dry Dog Food

  • First 5 ingredients: Duck, Duck Meal, Potatoes, Cassava Flour, Sweet Potatoes
  • Key feature: limited-ingredient
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 24% Crude Protein,10% Crude Fat,4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 370cal/cup
  • Type of Product: Dry LID adult food
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: Allergies
  • AAFCO Statement: formulated to meet the nutritional needs established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance

With a single protein source from duck, this limited-ingredient food is formulated for dogs with allergies. The product doesn’t include any grains, peas, lentils, legumes, corn, wheat, or soy. 

Flaxseed and fish oil provide healthy omega fatty acids to support the skin and coat. The total fat content is in the low moderate range to provide sufficient energy. 

Supplementation with taurine helps to ensure heart health. The duck meal offers a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin for the joints, and there’s a balanced blend of essential minerals for strong bones.

Parents of pups with allergies say feeding this food helps clear up skin and gut sensitivities from allergies. 

AvoDerm Advanced Sensitive Support Lamb Formula Grain-Free Small Breed Adult Dry Dog Food, 4-lb bag

  • First 5 ingredients: Lamb, Lamb Meal, Peas, Garbanzo Beans, Pea Flour
  • Key feature: high protein, moderate fat 
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 23% Crude Protein,13% Crude Fat,4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 497 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Small Breed Dry Dog Food
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: Skin Allergies
  • AAFCO Statement: formulated to meet the nutritional needs established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for Maintenance

This grain-free diet is specially formulated for dogs with food sensitivities and skin allergies. It features easy-to-digest lean meat from lamb. The protein-rich diet provides essential amino acids for your pup’s muscles.

Healthy fats from avocado, chicken fat, and flaxseed offer a rich supply of omega fatty acids to promote skin and hair health and to prevent inflammation. The formula includes a balanced blend of essential vitamins and minerals for a healthy lifestyle.

The product has a limited number of digestible ingredients to be easy on the stomach. It’s also fortified with prebiotic fiber and probiotics to support gut health.

Owners say their dogs love the food, and it helps make the skin and coat healthy again.

Blue Buffalo Life Protection Chicken & Brown Rice Recipe for Small Breed Dogs

  • First 5 ingredients: Deboned Chicken, Chicken Meal, Brown Rice, Oatmeal, Barley, Menhaden Fish Meal
  • Key feature: Moderate protein, moderate fat
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 26% Crude Protein,15% Crude Fat,4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 397 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Dry dog food
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: Joint Health
  • AAFCO Statement: formulated to meet the nutritional level established by AAFCO Dog food nutrient profile for maintenance

With a high protein to support lean muscle mass and a balanced blend of calcium and phosphorus for strong bones, this food is designed to keep your pup moving. The formula includes natural sources of omega fatty acids to battle inflammation and glucosamine and chondroitin for joint health.

Whole grains provide healthy carbohydrates to fuel an active lifestyle without adding unwanted pounds. The moderate fat content comes from healthy sources of essential fatty acids to support the skin and coat.

Digestible fruits and vegetables provide the balance of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals your pal needs. There are no artificial ingredients or fillers in the product.

Pup parents say their dogs like the food, it’s the right kibble size, and it helps keep their furbabies fit and active.

Whole Earth Farms Grain-Free Small Breed Dry Dog Food

  • First 5 ingredients: Pork meal, potatoes, peas, sweet potatoes, pea protein
  • Key feature: All-natural dog food
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 26% Crude Protein, 14% Crude Fat, 3.5% Crude Fiber, 11% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 340kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: grain-free, high protein
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: IVDD
  • AAFCO Statement: formulated to meet the nutritional level established by the AAFCO Dog food nutrient profile for all life stages

This product has three sources of animal protein to support lean muscle mass. The moderate fat level includes omega fatty acids making this food suitable for pups that are at risk for IVDD. The caloric content is also lower to prevent unwanted weight gain.

Garden vegetables and fruits provide rich sources of antioxidants and essential nutrients for your pup’s health. The formula includes a balance of minerals that your pooch needs for strong teeth and bones.

With probiotics and digestible ingredients, this food is made to be easy on the stomach. Probiotics are included in the formula for gut health. 

Small dog parents say the kibble is a perfect size, and the food helps their pups stay fit and active.

Wellness CORE Natural Wet Grain-Free Canned Dog Food

  • First 5 ingredients: Turkey, Turkey Broth, Pork Liver, Duck, Chicken Meal
  • Key feature: Protein-rich, grain-free
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 11% Crude Protein,8% Crude Fat,0.5% Crude Fiber, 78% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 493cal/can
  • Type of Product: Wet adult food
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: Grain-Free
  • AAFCO Statement: formulated to meet the nutritional needs established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for maintenance

With three sources of meat in this protein-rich food, Wellness Core canned food offers a balanced blend of essential amino acids. There are no by-products or artificial ingredients in the formula.

The fat content includes omega fatty acids for a healthy coat and skin. With chicken meal in the formula, there’s a natural source of glucosamine and chondroitin to support joint function.

Whole foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, and broccoli offer a balanced blend of essential nutrients and antioxidants to support total health.

Customers say this food is easy on the gut and helps firm up loose stools.

Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Small Breed Chicken Dinner Canned Dog Food

  • First 5 ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Carrots, Peas, Brown Rice
  • Key feature: Ground food
  • Guaranteed Analysis: 10% Crude Protein,7.5% Crude Fat, 1.5% Crude Fiber, 78% Moisture
  • Caloric Content: 214 kcal/cup
  • Type of Product: Wet Small Breed Dog Food
  • Life Stage: Adult
  • Best for: Wet Food
  • AAFCO Statement: formulated to meet the nutritional needs established by the AAFCO Dog Food Nutrient Profiles for Maintenance

Starting with real chicken, this protein-rich food from Blue Buffalo provides the building blocks for your pup’s muscles. The fat content includes healthy sources of omega 3 and 6 fatty acids for the brain, coat, and skin.

Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables offer antioxidants and a balanced blend of essential nutrients for an active lifestyle. 

Carrots and sweet potatoes provide rich sources of beta carotene for the eyes. Vitamin E and glucosamine are included in the formula to provide support for the joints and immunity.

Doggie parents say this is good food or a delicious topper for picky eaters, and their pups have energy and shiny coats when they eat this food.

Foods Shih Tzus Should Not Eat

They’re so cute, it’s hard to resist sharing a special tidbit from the table. But there are some “treats” that you shouldn’t give your furbaby. Avoid feeding these foods:

  • Alcohol, beer, or hops
  • Fruit seeds or pits
  • Fatty meats like bacon
  • Anything with xylitol – that includes some brands of peanut butter, chewing gum, and mouthwash
  • Onions or garlic
  • Chocolate, coffee, tea, or soda – all contain harmful stimulants
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Grapes and raisins
  • Excess salt

Is Grain-Free Food a Good Option for Shih Tzus?

Grain-free dog food has become a popular option for dogs with food sensitivities and allergies, but it’s not without risk. Several years ago, the FDA reported a potential link between grain-free diets and a form of heart disease in which the heart muscle enlarges and becomes inefficient. A 2018 study suggested that there may be more factors required that combine with grain-free foods to cause the problem. Other potential factors include exotic meats such as alligator and ostrich and foods that have peas, lentils, or potatoes in the top five ingredients. Research is ongoing to understand the role of diet in developing this disease.

Here’s the thing: if you have a Shih Tzu with a grain allergy, gluten is probably the cause. Avoiding foods that contain wheat, rye, and other materials with high levels of gluten may be all that’s necessary. There are several healthy, whole grains including quinoa, rice, and oatmeal that don’t have gluten. However, if your pup is already on a grain-free diet and appears to be thriving, don’t rush to change things. Either way, consult with your veterinarian to find the best option for your pooch.

Frequently Asked Questions

Anxious Shih Tzu with her tooth our can't wait to get the daily meal

How do I change my Shih Tzu dog’s diet?
There are several reasons you may need to change your pup’s diet such as when transitioning from puppy to adult food or if you need a specialized formula. Whenever you make a switch, do so gradually to avoid stomach upset. Start by mixing about 25% of the new product with 75% of the old formula. Feed this combination for at least two days, then do a 50/50 mix for a few more days. Continue gradually changing from the old to a new food until your pup is eating the new diet.

How often should I feed my Shih Tzu?
The frequency of feeding will vary based on your pal’s age. Younger dogs need more frequent meals. Feed puppies four meals a day at first and transition to three feedings by about six months. Once your pooch reaches adulthood, you should be able to feed him twice a day.

Is Chicken bad for Shih Tzus?
Chicken is an excellent source of lean protein for Shih Tzus. Unless your furbaby has a sensitivity to poultry, you should be able to safely feed products with chicken in the ingredients.

How long can a Shih Tzu go without eating?
With their high metabolism, Shih Tzus can last about four days. However, we don’t recommend you wait that long. If your pup isn’t eating for over two days, contact your veterinarian. There’s likely an issue that needs attention.

Is milk good for Shih Tzu?
Small quantities of mild are probably safe for your Shih Tzu. But adult dogs lack the enzyme to digest milk, so larger portions can cause stomach upset. For puppies, talk to your veterinarian about acceptable milk replacers. Cow milk does not have the nutrients that a growing puppy requires.

Why is my Shih Tzu always hungry?
There can be different reasons that your pooch always seems to be hungry. If you have an active pup, he simply may need more calories. Make sure your food has adequate energy density to meet his needs. Dogs can also experience increased hunger if they have intestinal parasites or some diseases like diabetes. Check with your veterinarian if you suspect a health issue may be involved. Of course, some pooches are opportunistic and will eat or beg whenever there’s an opportunity.

Can certain dog food help reduce shedding in my Shih Tzu?
If your pup is losing hair, seasonal shedding is one possible reason. However, your dog’s health and diet can also play a major role in shedding. Some reasons for increased or unusual shedding include skin problems, vitamin deficiencies, and endocrine disease. The same factors can also affect hair growth. 

If you don’t have a reasonable explanation for the hair loss, consult with your veterinarian for a check-up. He may be able to help you get to the root cause.

What human food can Shih Tzus eat?
Shih Tzus can and should eat many of the foods that humans enjoy, including:

  • Apples without the seeds
  • Bananas
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Mango 
  • Kiwi
  • Pears
  • Berries
  • Peanut butter without xylitol
  • Yogurt with live probiotic cultures
  • Carrots
  • Eggs
  • Green beans
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Pumpkin

Why won’t my Shih Tzu eat?
Shih Tzus can be picky eaters, but they can’t go very long between meals. So, if your pup stops eating for more than a day or two, contact your veterinarian as soon as possible. There may be an underlying health issue.

Dry vs Wet Food – Which is better for your Shih Tzu?

You may be wondering if you should feed your furbaby canned food or kibble and what’s the difference between them? Each type has its pros and cons, but if you’re feeding a product, either one can be equally beneficial from a nutritional standpoint. 

Wet food is often more flavorful and appealing to dogs. It includes more water, so it helps keep your pooch hydrated. However, it can be more expensive to feed and may leave food residue on the teeth. If you feed all canned products, the water content may trigger loose stools.

Dry kibble helps to keep the teeth clean and is usually more cost-effective. You can use this food in food puzzles and other dispensing toys. The higher fiber content helps keep stools firm. Overall, dry food may be the best option for your Shih Tzu.

The Final Woof

A smiling Shih Tzu is lying next to her food bowl and happy with the food she's about to eat

Shih Tzus are playful, cuddly pups with lots of energy. They need a high-protein, calorie-dense diet to fuel their active lifestyle.

But these pups can pack on the pounds quickly, so keep the fat low to moderate. Also, because Shih Tzus often have sensitive stomachs, focus on digestible whole fruits, grains, and vegetables.

Based on the nutritional needs of these dogs, we recommend Wellness CORE Natural Grain-Free Dry Dog Food as the best dog food for Shih Tzu.

Photo of author
Dr. Libby Guise earned her DVM from the University of Minnesota in 1994. After working in private practice in Wisconsin for two years, she joined the USDA as a Veterinary Medical Officer. In 2011, Libby came home to focus on raising and teaching her adoptive daughter. She lives in Wisconsin with her daughter, husband, and two furbabies: Charis, a lab-mix rescue pup, and Chesed, a Springer Spaniel.

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