The Best Dog Food For A Shih Tzu
The best dog food for a shih tzu is not something that comes down to a certain product, recipe, or set of ingredients. Besides, like us humans, each shih tzu is an individual with individual needs. What is best for one shih tzu may be totally different to what is best for another. The best food for a shih tzu is simply the best choice that you can make taking your shih tzu’s needs, your knowledge, economic situation, beliefs, and time availability into account.
For many years it has been the way that pet food companies worldwide face some degree of legislation to ensure that the food they produce is free of contamination and has adequate canine vitamins and nutrients for the average dog.
But they are the only constraints that are applied to the industry. There is no compulsion for the manufacturers to test that the particular ingredients they are using can be digested, are the right combination for a specific type and breed of dog, or that they do not have any adverse effects on long-term health.
This is probably about to change sometime in the near future, thanks to ongoing scientific research. Although this research is perhaps a few months away from publishing any substantiated findings, it is leaning towards one thing.
That is that we may be able to prolong the lives of our pets by either helping to prevent the onset of chronic diseases or by lessening the effect of such diseases already contracted. This includes illnesses such as heart disease, kidney disease, diabetes mellitus, and osteoarthritis.
We can do this by gradually changing our pets’ diets from one that may consist chiefly of ultra-processed or high processed foods to one that features mainly minimal processed foods.
Research into human diets has shown that human health generally improves when replacing high processed ingredients with minimal processed ingredients. The new research into animal diets is starting to indicate the same for our pets.
For a more in-depth look at this research, see my report:
Slow Change For The Better
Any changes you make to your shih tzu’s diet needs to be gradual, say one item at a time, or one meal per week at a time. This is to ensure that it is not a shock to the system and that our dogs can tolerate food that is either new to them or presented to them in a new way, aren’t allergic to it, and are getting the nourishment they need from it. By that last point, I mean that they are digesting the new food and are not just pooping it all out. In addition, if you were to attempt to completely alter a shih tzu’s diet in one go, it’s very unlikely that he would eat it. You know how they are!
To really ensure that your shih tzu is getting all of the correct nourishment that he needs, I advise a consultation with a pet diet nutritionist, especially if you are making your own homemade food.
When searching for your pet nutritionist, make sure that you find one that is suitably qualified. For this, I suggest either asking your vet to recommend one or conduct your own online research. If you have a healthy pet, there are online pet nutritionists that will make a diet recommendation online for a small fee, but if your dog has health issues a nutritionist will need to see him in person.
Why Change Your Shih Tzu’s Food?
Be Careful With The Kibble
Research is beginning to show that typical heat-dried kibble, in the context of long-term health, is the worst kind of food to give to your shih tzu for a number of reasons. The main one is that it is ultra-processed. Each separate ingredient is cooked on very high heat before the kibble is assembled and then dried, again using very high heat. This makes the finished product extremely high in volume with dietary advanced glycation end products (AGEs).
AGEs have been shown in humans to cause the degeneration of cells and tissue, assisting in the development of chronic diseases. Until the ongoing research is complete, it is fair to assume that the same happens to dogs. The research is shaping up that way, anyway.
Moreover, all of the heat treatment the kibble is subjected to renders it tasteless and also kills off most of its nutritional content. To comply with nutrition regulations and to make dogs want to eat it, the kibble is spray-coated with a combined nutrient mix and taste enhancer. More often this is done using inferior quality animal feed products, together with low-quality vitamins and minerals.
Your chosen bag of kibble may claim to contain healthy omega-3 fats, but this synthetic spray-on coating starts to break down these healthy fats as soon as you open the bag, turning them rancid in as little as a week. The once life-enhancing omega-3 fats transform into potentially life-shortening rancid fats.
Kibble is also receptive to infestations from storage mites. The most common of these that could be crawling around your dog’s bowl is tyrophagus puirescenyiae. If your shih tzu eats kibble and suffers from itchy, inflamed skin, constant ear infections, or hair loss, it could be an allergic reaction to these mites that are causing these symptoms.
Then there is also the risk of bacterial contamination, as there is with any pet food but, interestingly enough, the most recent mass recalls for this have been mainly for heat-dried kibble products with, for comparison, raw pet food having zero recalls. Popular opinion would have us believe it was the other way around.
Plus, if the kibble is not grain-free, mycotoxins may be present as a result of fungal contamination. Over 75% of dry dog food containing grains such as corn, cereals, wheat, or rice have in tests been found to contain at least one mycotoxin. A dog affected by mycotoxins can display symptoms such as muscle tremors, seizures, and hyperthermia. There can also be kidney, liver, and breathing issues because of this.
Should You Can The Can?
Although canned food is not ultra-processed as is dry kibble, it is still subject to enough heat treatment to put it in the AGEs multiplying high processed bracket. The ingredients are cooked, cooled, and then sealed in the can before being subjected to high-temperature heat treatment to sterilize the contents.
However, the high processing and consequent high AGEs count is not the only health hazard presented by canned food. The cans are lined with a plastic coating, with the intention of preventing a reaction between the metal of the can and the food inside leading to corrosion and consequent leaching of metal into the food.
The irony is, the plastic coating inside 95% of cans used for pet food contains BPA (Bisphenol-A), molecules which do leach into the food once the can is opened.
Dogs on a constant diet of canned food will have very high levels of BPA in their bloodstream. A high BPA count can be just as hazardous to health as a high AGEs count. BPA alters the constitution of the fecal microbiome, affecting the gut. This leads to possible hormonal deficiencies and consequently problems with some of the body’s major systems.
A few manufacturers are now using alternative materials to line their cans, but even some products claimed to be BPA-free have been shown to increase the BPA levels in the blood and feces of dogs.
It May Not Be That Easy To Change
The major problems with changing your shih tzu’s diet for the better are convenience and economy. Dry kibble has a reasonably long shelf-life and canned food even longer, making each of these cheap to produce. You can buy either product and, as long as the packaging remains sealed, you don’t have to worry about the contents going off any time soon.
With healthier, minimal processed products such as homemade-like or raw, most of these products have to be used almost immediately, certainly within two or three days. For this reason, these products are more expensive to produce and more expensive for us pet parents to buy. Not everybody can afford to give their shih tzu such healthier alternatives every day and not everybody has the time to go to the store every day to buy them.
If, for whatever reason, you cannot alter your shih tzu’s entire diet from ultra-processed or high processed to minimal processed, then make whatever improvements you can. Even serving just one meal a week consisting of minimal processed food is going to make a change for the better.
Improvements You Can Make In Your Shih Tzu’s Diet
Here follows some suggested minimal processed alternatives that will bring health benefits to your shih tzu’s diet if he is currently on a heat-dried kibble or canned food diet.
Clicking on any of the links below will take you to the relevant product page on the Amazon website. I’ve included these to give you an idea of what is available. Should you decide to continue and make a purchase, Shihtzuandyou.com will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Improvements If Your Shih Tzu Eats Kibble
As kibble deteriorates so rapidly after opening the bag, for a small dog like a shih tzu it is better to buy the smallest available bag size so that all the contents are still relatively fresh when eaten.
To eliminate the risk of mycotoxins developing, a switch to grain-free would be a better choice. This example by Nature’s Recipe is formulated, sized, and shaped for small breeds, has quality ingredients and, importantly, contains no artificial flavorings, colors, or preservatives:
The manufacturers claim that this kibble is easy to digest. To substantiate this claim, presumably they have conducted digestibility tests for this product.
The Nature’s Recipe is an affordable step up in food quality over standard kibble and much healthier for your shih tzu. However, it stills falls into the ultra processed category. What would be an even better improvement would be a complete switch to air-dried kibble.
This air-dried dog food from Ziwi Peak is one of the leading dry dog foods available if you are looking for minimal processing, quality ingredients, and potential health benefits. There are six flavor varieties and it is suitable for breeds of all sizes. The only minus point I can find with this product is that it is expensive, but then quality like this does come at a price. If you are considering trying this product, I suggest purchasing just one 1-pound (454g) pack to start with. That way you can discover if your shih tzu likes it before committing yourself to further expense.
Improvements If You Buy Canned Food For Your Shih Tzu
The long-term effects of BPA in pets are still very much at the research stage and pet food manufacturers are only just becoming aware of the concern of pet owners over this issue. It appears that the public relations officers of many companies are unable to say for sure whether the cans they use are lined with materials containing BPA or not.
Even if a manufacturer claims to be using a BPA-free lining on their cans, there’s the question of whether the substitute lining is any better regarding the health of the pet consuming the food.
It is nearly impossible to find a steel-canned pet food product that can claim to be BPA-free and have the analysis to back that claim. As the market stands at the moment, the best chance of finding a BPA-free canned pet food is with the smaller-sized aluminum cans or aluminum foil pouches.
For those pet parents that prefer to feed their dogs canned food, it took me a long time and a lot of research to find one brand that I feel comfortable recommending. I finally uncovered the clear winner, Weruva All Natural Grain-Free, but only in small cans.
Weruva is run by a couple who are actually pet parents. They use only quality, natural ingredients put together in human food factories that meet the highest global standards. Many of the natural ingredient brands are managed by one or other of the big names in pet food production. Some of the reviews of these brands from purchasers make quite alarming reading. With Weruva there is much more positive feedback.
Although Weruva uses steel cans, they can guarantee that the small cans are BPA-free. You cannot trust every company that makes such a claim but in this case, the claim appears to be genuine. The only reason they cannot make the same claim for their large cans is due to their suppliers informing them that there may be trace amounts of BPA present due to other sources of BPA being present during the manufacturing process. Their suppliers are working with Weruva to completely eradicate BPA from all of their cans.
If your shih tzu is allergic to chicken, or just doesn’t like chicken, Weruva has a 24 x 5.5-ounce (156g) can chicken-free variety pack:
However, If your shih tzu is keen on chicken, Weruva has a similar 24 x 5.5-ounce (156g) can pack featuring nothing but a variety of chicken recipes:
Potentially Healthier Minimal Processed Alternatives
To recap, it’s the repeated use of high heat used in the production of most kibbles and canned food that makes them ultra or high processed and so potentially harmful to long-term health. A gradual change to a minimal processed diet can reverse this, but usually at extra cost because of a much shorter product shelf-life.
Here’s a homemade-like product that because of the Tetra Pak packaging used has a two-year shelf-life, which is not far from the shelf-life of the average kibble. This helps keep the product down to a reasonable price. The variety featured here claims to be both grain-free and gluten-free.
Raw dog food, the least processed of all dog food products, is becoming increasingly popular. In the past, I would never have considered feeding raw food to my dogs. However, now I have become more educated about this pet-food production method, I would not hesitate to gradually introduce a quality raw food product to my younger shih tzu’s diet. The older one I feel is too old for such a drastic change.
The only processing totally raw food undergoes is a bacteria kill stage. Freeze-dried raw food has an extra freeze-drying stage but can still be described as minimal processed. As long as the ingredients are of suitable quality and provide complete nourishment, the potential health benefits of a raw diet are great.
Raw dog food is perfectly safe as long as it is handled properly. Up until now, I have not been able to find any instances of batch recalls of commercially produced raw dog food. Online purchasing of raw food that has been frozen is possible as the packaging methods keep the food frozen for the duration of the shipping time.
Here is a good example of raw dog food available frozen in packs. The manufacturer claims that all ingredients are digestible, ethically sourced, and provide complete nutrition. They also claim that the packaging is BPA-free. This product is available in beef, chicken, and turkey varieties.
For a complete, balanced diet, consider adding your chosen raw protein to a freeze-dried raw vegetable and fruit base such as this one:
Or another option is a complete raw, freeze-dried meal in one bag.
With most freeze-dried dog food you need to add warm water to restore it to an edible state. Using the correct amount of water to achieve the right food texture can be tricky. This freeze-dried raw food from Instinct comes ready-to-eat. Instinct is one of the best freeze-dried raw pet food brands on the market currently and that is reflected in the retail price.
Because the raw meat and poultry from your local store will not be bacteria-free, I advise against making your own raw food for your shih tzu. If you choose to make your own homemade recipes cook the protein at least enough to kill off any bacteria. Slow cooking at lower temperatures if you have time is preferable in order to keep the level of processing down.
For more information on feeding your shih tzu a homemade diet, see my post:
If you are thinking of, or are already serving up homemade food for your shih tzu, you may be interested in the “Free Dog Diet and Nutrition Course” published by my partners at TrainPetDog. The course includes four very good homemade recipes to get you started. Click on the link below for more information:
Summing Up The Best Dog Food For A Shih Tzu
Meals consisting of quality ingredients that have undergone minimal processing are the way forwards if you want to give your shih tzu the best chance of avoiding the onset of chronic diseases that long-term diets of ultra-processed and high-processed diets may contribute to.
The least processed of all is the raw diet. Human-grade food from your grocery store is not suitable for this as it is not subject to the same regulations as raw pet food. Human-grade food is intended to be cooked, so it doesn’t matter if it has some natural bacterial contamination as it will be killed off by the cooking process. Pet food that is intended to be eaten raw has to comply with manufacturing regulations that ensure that it is bacteria-free.
At the time of writing, of all the pet food products that have been recalled because of contamination issues, not once has there been a case of a raw pet food product being taken off the shelves. The statistics show that feeding raw pet food products to your shih tzu is safe, and nothing to be afraid of.
If you don’t like the idea of putting your shih tzu on a raw diet, the next least processed choice is commercially produced homemade-like, or actual homemade. The commercially produced homemade-like brands should contain all the nourishment a dog needs. Homemade food you make yourself will probably not have this, which is why Shihtzuandyou.com recommends a consultation with a qualified pet nutritionist. If you are making your own shih tzu food and don’t want to do this, then at least consider providing your shih tzu with a multivitamin supplement every day.
For a shih tzu that will only eat kibble or a mixture of kibble and wet food, air-dried and freeze-dried varieties that are grain-free will help avoid the health issues brought about by heat-treated and not grain-free products.
It’s Your Choice
What it really comes down to is that the best dog food for a shih tzu is the best that you are able to give your shih tzu. Make the best choice that suits your shih tzu, your budget and your lifestyle. Remember, if you do decide to change your shih tzu’s diet to transition gradually over a period of days and weeks to check that he can digest the new food and that it doesn’t trigger any allergic reactions.
This report is a completely re-written update of a post I first published over three years ago. Hopefully, if I rewrite this post again in another three years time I’ll be able to announce vast improvements in the pet food industry and that healthier alternatives have become more reliable and more affordable.
If you have any comments or queries regarding this report, or anything to do with the shih tzu breed, please use the comments box below or send a message using the Contact Shihtzuandyou form.
Bye for now,
Shih Tzu Steve.