Quality food only!
Shih tzu have sensitive, tiny stomachs that need filling three times a day, while puppies, with their even smaller stomachs, need four meals per day. If you study the tables in my post “How Much Food Should A Shih Tzu Eat?”, you will find that an individual meal could be as little as 0.3oz (9g), which to us doesn’t look very much.
It’s vital then, that you feed your shih tzu superior quality food to pack all of the nourishment he needs into such a small package. It may be more expensive but buying cheaper, low quality food will prove to be a false economy as there will be more veterinarian bills to pay for treatment of the diseases and allergies your shih tzu would be likely to suffer as a consequence of a low quality diet.
What’s in the best dog food for a shih tzu
The best dog food for a shih tzu will be totally grain free and have at least 25% protein and 10% healthy fats, particularly omega 3, omega 6 and vitamin A. High protein because this breed burns calories faster than others. High fat to keep the skin moist and the characteristic, thick, rapidly growing coat shiny and healthy. Don’t worry, your shih tzu cannot develop high cholesterol like you or I.
To give you an idea of what to look for on the labeling, superior quality dog food will consist of all natural ingredients to a standard high enough for human consumption. This can be one or more of meat, poultry, fish, vegetables and fruit.
Naturally, these all natural ingredients will be preserved by natural preservatives, usually a blend of vitamins. You may see this on the ingredients list as “tocopherols”. Tocopherols are a blend of vitamin E compounds extracted from oils, nuts and vegetables. They are easily absorbed by the body and have the added bonus of acting as antioxidants.
Some salmon oil or other natural omega 3 oil may be added for extra flavour and to enhance skin and coat health.
Other beneficial natural additives are probiotics for the digestive system and glucosamine and chondroitin (the two usually go together) for joints and bones. It also helps if amino acids, in relation to the protein, are mentioned on the ingredient list. Scientific tests have shown that dogs can detect if their food contains amino acids or not. Meals that contained no amino acids tended to be left untouched.
All ingredients should be traceable to their sources, at least on the manufacturer’s website if not on the packaging.
Incidentally, all of your good work tracking down wholesome food for your shih tzu will be undone if you then go and serve it in a plastic bowl. Plastic bowls can leach hazardous chemicals into the food placed inside it, especially if it has picked up some scratches, as it will with normal wear and tear. These scratches will also become a haven for bacteria.
Ceramic or stainless steel bowls of the non-slip variety are a much better option, with stainless steel having the edge because of its durability and because it is not going to shatter if you drop it as ceramic would. A chipped ceramic bowl would also harbour bacteria.
What’s NOT in the best dog food for a shih tzu
Many of the dog food products that are widely advertised and abundantly available in supermarkets are not at all good for a shih tzu to eat and this is probably true of most other dog breeds, too. They only sell due to the clever advertising and product placement.
The worst examples will contain low quality food of little nutritional value because to stay competitively priced with their equal low quality rivals, manufacturers have to add cheap ingredients. These ingredients include fillers, by-products, generic meats and meats from unspecified sources, high grain content, wheat or soy gluten and chemical additives to preserve, enhance colour and enhance flavour.
Fillers consist mainly of waste from cereal crop processing plants, the residue that is left after all of the humanly edible parts have been taken. By-products come from meat processing plants. These can be any animal parts not fit for human consumption, for example, beaks, lungs and feet. Generic meats can be anything else from roadkill to animals from shelters. As for meat from unspecified sources, well, that could be absolutely anything and whatever it is, it’s going to be ghastly. A high grain content in dog food lowers the quality by reducing the protein and fat content below the necessary percentages.
These fillers and additives can cause a number of health problems including cardiovascular diseases, breathing difficulties, intestinal diseases, diabetes and allergies, to mention a few.
So you can perceive from this that low quality dog food is not fit for a shih tzu or any dog, in my mind.
Should I use dry food or wet food?
There is a school of thought says dry food is better for your dog’s teeth than wet food but there is no scientific evidence to support this claim. The only effective methods of keeping your shih tzu’s teeth clean and healthy are regular brushing and regular dental chew sticks.
What I do know is that when my two boys have eaten dry food their stools look much healthier than if they had just eaten wet food alone and their poop is much easier to dispose of, too. If you want to give your shih tzu a diet that only consists of dry food that’s okay but my personal opinion is that I think it would be boring for your shih tzu to solely eat the same dry food day in and day out.
That’s why I give my two a mixture of dry food and wet food to make mealtimes more appealing for them. I use a 50% mix of freshly cooked meat or fish and some vegetables to 50% dry food. I use freshly cooked food because of Bruno’s health conditions, but in normal circumstances tins or pouches of high quality dog food are just as good.
You can also experiment with the wet food to dry food ratio to find which suits your dog. Although I use half and half, most experts recommend 25% wet to 75% dry. If in doubt consult your veterinarian. It is also important to make sure the portion sizes are correct, otherwise, if your shih tzu is anything like mine, he’ll just eat the wet food and leave the dry.
The dry food I give to my boys is Royal Canin Shih Tzu Breed specific dry dog food. As far as I know, this is the only brand that produces a bag of food dedicated to shih tzu, although I’m led to understand that Eukanuba Yorkshire Terrier variety dry dog food will suffice just as well. Apart from having the essential, high quality ingredients, both these bags contain kibble small enough and the correct shape for a shih tzu to pick up, roll his tongue around and draw into his small mouth. As my in-field poop tests have proved, these products have been formulated with efficient digestion in mind.
Here’s a little tip if you are feeding your shih tzu only dry food and he refuses to eat it, as happens sometimes with this breed. Try either warming it up, or, to add some flavour, spoon over some hot, clear chicken broth. Make sure the broth contains no onions or garlic before doing this.
If you decide only homemade wet food is for your shih tzu, you will have to add canine vitamin and mineral supplement to ensure he receives all the same nutritional benefits he would from commercial, quality wet dog food products. If you are mixing wet food with dry then these vitamins and minerals should already have been incorporated into the quality dry food by the manufacturer.
Here are some suggestions for ingredients that can be safely given to your shih tzu as quality wet food: turkey breast, chicken breast, lean beef, lean lamb, salmon, liver, heart, green beans, peas, carrots, sweet potato, plain rice, brown rice, cottage cheese, plain yoghurt, apple, raspberry, blueberry. All meat, fish, vegetables and rice must be cooked properly apart from the carrots, which can either be cooked or raw.
The best dog food for a shih tzu puppy
Royal Canin also produce a shih tzu puppy version which has the kibble size reduced accordingly as well as the ingredients adjusted slightly to aid the healthy growth of the puppy. Charlie was eating this until he was ten months old when he progressed to the adult version.
Having said that, if I were to bring home a new shih tzu puppy today I would take a different approach to his diet. I would start him off on a hypoallergenic diet. Why? Because the shih tzu breed is very susceptible to developing an allergy. Although there can be other catalysts, that allergy is most likely to be triggered by the ingesting of certain foods.
If you start off feeding your puppy on a hypoallergenic diet you are allowing yourself a blank canvas. By adding “normal” food to his diet one item at a time you can determine which one, if any, is causing an allergic reaction. A possible allergic reaction may take the form of an ear infection or a skin infection noticeable around the eyes, paws, legs and rectum. It could also take the form of an intestinal infection causing symptoms such as vomiting, excess gas or diarrhea.
There are several hypoallergenic small breed puppy dog foods available on the market. When choosing yours, don’t forget to check the ingredients list for quality.
The best dog food for a senior shih tzu
As your shih tzu passes eight years of age, it’s time to think about modifying his diet to account for the changing needs of his advanced years.
As he becomes more sedate and less active he will not need to take in as many calories. Less calories means less food so it is important that the food he does eat has more of what he needs packed inside of it.
There are several quality dog food products especially formulated for our small breed senior citizens. The packaging will be clearly marked for age or “senior” and “small breed”. Look out for those that have the quality ingredients plus the following extra supplements.
As a shih tzu ages his skin tends to dry up more. Food fortified with extra omega fats can help to keep the skin moist.
Trouble with the joints, particularly the hips and the knees, plus the back are also common problems with older shih tzu. To help ease the joints somewhat, a higher glucosamine and chondroitin supplement in the food will help. Glucosamine and chondroitin is especially effective for relieving the symptoms of osteoarthritis.
Fortified vitamins will help with wellness and keeping the immune system up to scratch. Extra probiotics will keep the digestive system functioning regularly.
The best dog food for your shih tzu
Follow these feeding guidelines and the chances are that your shih tzu will live a full, happy, healthy life. I don’t want to say definitely buy this product or definitely buy that product as the food you do eventually settle on depends upon your discretion and, ultimately, your shih tzu’s taste. You will probably need to try a few different foods and brands before settling on the right ones.
Just keep watch over the ingredients when selecting and measure out the portion sizes when serving and you will be doing the best you can for your little one.
I hope that you have found this article useful. If you have any questions, please leave a comment or fill out our contact us form.
Until next time.