How Much Food Should A Shih Tzu Eat?

How much food should a shih tzu eat?

One Meal Just Isn’t Enough

It’s not just a case of “How much food should a shih tzu eat”, it’s not quite as simple as that. It’s not complicated either but there are other factors to take into account to discover what is right for your dog.

A large dog can usually meet all of its nutritional needs on just one large meal per day. It’s not so for a small dog like a shih tzu. A shih tzu, with its tiny stomach, cannot eat all it needs to in one day in one sitting.

It’s best to distribute a shih tzu’s daily food allowance over three equally portioned meals, ideally breakfast, lunch and supper.

Of course, if you are out at work or at school all day and cannot get home for lunch, this creates a problem. You will either need to have someone come in, or perhaps another household member feed your dog at lunch time or, alternatively, buy a commercially available automatic treat and water dispenser that you can load with dry food. You can also use a treat dispensing toy for this; this attention grabbing toy is also good for relieving separation anxiety. Make sure you buy the correct size toy, XS for puppies, S for adults.

If your shih tzu is still a puppy, he will need feeding four times a day. This is because his stomach is smaller still and with him being at the growing stage will need more food than an adult. On top of this, puppies are prone to hyperglycemia if they go too long between meals. Four meals a day, evenly spaced out, help to prevent this condition from happening.

Some experts say that puppies should be “free fed”, that is you put their food into a bowl and let them come and go as they please to eat the contents. Myself and others say that this is not a good thing as it allows your puppy to get into bad habits and eventually he will be telling you when and what to feed him.

To place yourself as pack leader, and therefore in control of your dog, it needs to be you dictating the menu and what is eaten. In an article I’ll be posting in the near future I’ll be delving deeper into an effective way of training your shih tzu to eat on demand.

But for now, if you just show your puppy where the food and water bowls are at feeding times until he remembers for himself, that will suffice.

Quality, Weight, Activity, Age

A shih tzu eating with his face buried in his bowl.
ID 73488248 © Blanscape | Dreamstime.com

These are four words that don’t usually go together but in this case they describe the other four factors that determine portion sizes.

If you are buying cheap “value” food, it most likely includes in its ingredients substances known as “fillers” and “by-products” that have no nutritional value at all. This means your dog needs to eat more to ingest all of the nutrients and vitamins that he needs.

This is counterproductive as, not only will you have to buy extra food, but also you will probably be facing large veterinarian’s bills as a result of your shih tzu either becoming malnourished or dangerously obese, both conditions that could become fatal.

So cheap food is not so “cheap” or of “value” in the long run. It is far better for you and your dog for you to invest in quality food that contains at least 25% lean protein and around 10% healthy fats such as omega 3 and omega 6 and is labeled as whole grain. There is an unsubstantiated but plausible theory that grain free may actually be harmful for a dog in the long run. I go into the best food to feed your shih tzu here.

A shih tzu’s natural, healthy weight, his activity level and age all come into play when assessing how much he should eat. To take the two extremes, a large, young adult who likes to run around and play a lot is going to need to replace many more calories than an a smaller, senior adult that sleeps most of the day.

How Much Food Should A Shih Tzu Eat?

A shih tzu offered a bowl of food.
ID 99183848 © Chaoss | Dreamstime.com

So, assuming your shih tzu is fit and healthy and you are going to feed him quality, whole grain food  consisting of at least 25% lean protein and 10% healthy, omega fats, here are the guidelines of how much to feed him per day. Don’t forget to divide these quantities evenly between three servings.

Weight/
Activity
4.5 – 6.5lbs
(2 – 3kg)
6.5 – 11lbs
(3 – 5kg)
11 – 15.5lbs
(5 – 7kg)
Low
Activity
2 – 2.1oz
(55 – 60g)
2.1 – 3oz
(60 – 85g)
3 – 3.3oz
(85 – 95g)
Medium
Activity
2.1 – 2.5oz
(60 – 70g)
2.5 – 3.5oz
(70 – 100g)
3.5 – 3.9oz
(100 – 110g)
High
Activity
2.5 – 2.8oz
(70 – 80g)
2.8 – 3.9oz
(80 – 110g)
3.9 – 4.2oz
(110 – 120g)
Adult Food Chart

Also take into account the serving instructions on the packaging as these have been thoroughly researched and are usually very accurate. If there is a conflict between these figures and the manufacturer’s directions, go with the latter.

Shih tzu are quite susceptible to allergies and many of these allergies can be triggered by different foods. If your shih tzu is on a hypoallergenic diet, or a veterinarian has recommended one, the size of the portions change for hypoallergenic dog food.

Weight/
Activity
4.5 – 6.5lbs
(2 – 3kg)
6.5 – 11lbs
(3 – 5kg)
11 – 15.5lbs
(5 – 7kg)
Low
Activity
0.9 – 1.2oz
(25 – 35g)
1.2 – 2.5oz
(35 – 70g)
2.5 – 3.2oz
(70 – 90g)
Medium
Activity
0.9 – 1.6oz
(25 – 45g)
1.6 – 3.2oz
(45 – 90g)
3.2 – 3.5oz
(90 – 100g)
High
Activity
1.2 – 2.1oz
(35 – 60g)
2.1 – 3.9oz
(60 – 110g)
3.2 – 4.2oz
(90 – 120g)
Adult Hypoallergenic Food Chart

If you have a shih tzu puppy, for reasons I go into in my article “Best Dog Food For A Shih Tzu”, it is a very good idea to start your puppy off on a hypoallergenic diet whether he has allergies or not.

As I mentioned before, as your puppy needs extra energy for growth, the daily allowance starts much larger and tapers off as he reaches adulthood. Don’t forget to divide these daily allowances into four equal portions served at regular intervals during the day.

Age/
Weight
2 – 3 months 4 – 5 months 6 – 8 months
4.5lbs
(2kg)
2- 3.5oz
(55 – 100g)
1.8 – 3.2oz
(50 – 90g)
1.2 – 2.1oz
(35 – 60g)
9lbs
(4kg)
3.9 – 7.8oz
(110 – 220g)
3.2 – 5.6oz
(90 – 160g)
2.1 – 3.9oz
(60 – 110g)
Puppy Weight Food Chart

From nine months old onwards, switch your puppy to the adult allowances.

The Importance Of Portion Control

A shih tzu out shopping for treats.
ID 92934935 © Pongmoji | Dreamstime.com

It is just as important for your shih tzu’s health to give him the correct sized portions as it is to give him the right quality of food. When you come to measure out a portion from the above tables you may think that it’s too tiny to satisfy your shih tzu but don’t forget also that his stomach is tiny.

The main causes of obesity in dogs is oversized meals and too many treats. With obesity comes the related health problems. Breathing difficulties, heart problems, joint problems and the increased possibility of contracting diabetes are the main diseases that can arise if your shih tzu overeats.

If you are following any of my training advice you are probably giving treats to your shih tzu. There is no problem with this as long as the treats are deducted from the daily allowance and constitute no more than 10% of his total daily food intake.

The chances are that when you are eating at the dining table your shih tzu will beg for scraps. However much it hurts you not to and however much he begs it’s imperative that you don’t give him anything. Again, you must make feeding him your decision for you to stay in control and to avoid your shih tzu overeating. When he realises that the begging will get him nowhere, he will stop.

Equally important is to give your shih tzu sufficient quality food to eat. Seriously underfeeding will lead to malnutrition and growth problems. If your shih tzu doesn’t want to eat at all, it’s time to take him to see the veterinarian to find out what the problem is.

You shouldn’t have any problems as long as you follow the guidelines I have written down above and follow the feeding instructions that come with the quality dog food products as I have previously suggested.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and that you have found it helpful. Don’t forget to see my article on the best dog food for a shih tzu.

If you have any questions about this post or shih tzu in general, please leave a comment or use our contact us form.

Bye for now.

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16 thoughts on “How Much Food Should A Shih Tzu Eat?

  1. Have a 12 month old shitzu, he weighs 16lbs. When should I switch him to adult food and how should I wean him off puppy food? Cup size I should give him?

    Thank you!

    1. Hello Angelina,

      Thank you for contacting Shihtzuandyou with your query.

      A shih tzu usually reaches adulthood at around 10-months, so you should be moving your boy onto adult food right now. Personally, I would do this right away, but if it makes you feel more assured try a week on 75% puppy, 25% adult, then a week 50/50, followed by a week 25/75, then 100% adult food after that.

      The amount of food needed varies upon the weight and activity levels of the dog and the quality of food. With your shih tzu at 16-pounds, he will need between ¾cup and 2 cups of good quality, nourishing food per day, the actual amount depending upon his level of activity.

      Spread this out over two or three feedings per day. Shih tzus have very small stomachs, so little and often is the ideal.

      I hope this helps,

      Shih Tzu Steve.

  2. My puppy just turned 8 weeks old and weighs 3lbs. 1 oz. I got him ten days ago.The breeder was feeding him a well known brand of puppy chow that was probably not the best quality. The vet told me to feed him another brand of high quality canned wet puppy food. He said to only feed him 3 tablespoons a day. So I gradually changed the food over a few days by mixing the two. But is 3 tablespoons a day correct?

    1. Hello Donna,

      Thank you for your query.

      According to my Puppy Weight Food Chart, a 2-month old shih tzu puppy weighing 4½ lbs should be fed 2 to 3½-ounces of food per day. As your puppy only weighs-in at 3 Ibs, I would say he needs closer to the lesser amount of 2-ounces.

      That’s going to be around 3 to 4 tablespoons, so I would say that your vet is giving you some good advice here.

      Personally, at 2-months I recommend feeding your puppy four level tablespoons rather than three heaped tablespoons of the high-quality wet puppy food, spread evenly, say every four or five hours, during the day.

      This is to ensure that his stomach doesn’t become overfilled and bloated and also that he always has something in his stomach as an empty stomach can result in any dog throwing-up yellow bile.

      I hope this helps,

      Shih Tzu Steve.

      1. Thank you for your help. I appreciate your explanation of how to spread out the feedings. I was giving Rocky one Tablespoon three times a day which he gobbled up quickly. I ‘ll feed him the four tablespoons daily total spread out four times a day. It just looks like such a tiny amount. He looks at me with those puppy eyes and I tell him I’m just doing what the vet said. Thanks again.

        1. I know. It’s very hard not to give in when they look at you with those eyes!

          I would keep checking with your vet every couple of weeks on how much to feed him through to reaching adulthood at around ten months.

  3. HI,
    This is the first time in my life that I have a dog, my kids are so happy but we have no experience at all. our dog is 6 months old (female), she is mixed half Malteze half Shih Tzu. she is active but we don’t take her out everyday because of the heat in the country we live in (the temperature is 50 degrees now) how much should we feed her everyday? and how much treats as we are still training her and we need treats.
    Thanks a lot

    1. Hello Angy,

      Thank you for your comment.

      I appreciate the difficulty you have taking your dog out. I live where temperatures reach up to 40º at this time of year. I take my two boys out early in the morning just after sunrise and again, if I have the opportunity, around sunset.

      If I can only take them out once, there is an area in the bathroom where they can attend to their business. I guess that you must have a similar arrangement.

      To get back to your point, as you are not exercising your girl very much but you say she is active, I would feed her around the middle of the range suggested in my Puppy Feeding Chart.

      That is, 50g (1.7 oz) per day is she weighs in at 2kg (4.5 ibs), up to 90g (3.2 oz) per day if she weighs in at 4kg (9 ibs).

      This total includes treats, so I would recommend dividing this allowance into three and giving one third as a morning meal, one third as an evening meal and the remaining third as treats during the day.

      As a new dog parent, you may benefit from my PDF guide “7 Steps To A Happy Shih Tzu”.

      If you have subscribed to my free newsletter, you will have already received the link to download this guide for free as a bonus for signing up.

      If you haven’t yet subscribed, You can do so here:

      Yes, please subscribe me to your free newsletter and send me the link to download my free PDF guide!

      Your contact details will be stored on secure servers and never passed on to any third parties. You may unsubscribe at any time and still keep the guide.

      Best wishes,

      Shih Tzu Steve.

  4. My Shih Tzu Wilson, is 18.5 years. How often should he eat and he is 9.9 lbs. Some times when I try feeding him doesn’t want t eat. Usually he eats 1 good meal a day.
    Is this normal and latley he just wants to eat yogurt and cheerios mixed in.

    1. Hello Jon,

      When any shih tzu reaches senior age, it’s not unusual for them to eat only one meal per day. My Bruno is nearly 14. Some days he’ll eat one meal, less often he will eat two meals in a day. Sometimes he will go as much as a day and a half without eating. I don’t think that this is anything to worry about.

      If you’re concerned about how much he should be eating, take a look at our adult food chart:

      Click here to see the Adult Food Chart

      What does worry me is the Cheerios. There’s no problem with the yoghurt, as long as it is plain or natural. Dogs cannot process sugar the way we humans can, and Cheerios have a very high sugar content at 34%. Is there any way that you can persuade Wilson to eat a good quality kibble with his yoghurt in place of the Cheerios?

      I hope this helps,

      Shih Tzu Steve.

  5. after having 2 Shih-tzu,s over 27 years i have now taken on a 3-year-old rescue Shih-tzu, he is very lively but beautiful, but he is waking me up every morning around 6-30 i have tried everything i can think of, and i am now trying to get his feeding amount right as he is so different to my recent dogs, so could you tell me the suggested daily feed, please? i have tried various suggestions ie. amount, and times of feeding, times of the last walk, and toilet times, but it makes no difference to his waking me up the same time, he is on dried food so i just need to know the correct daily amount, please. regards

    1. Hello, James.

      My apologies for taking so long to reply to your query. I’m afraid I went AWOL for a couple of months but now I’m back on the case and catching up with the backlog.

      As you have had around twice as much experience with shih tzus as me, I don’t think that there can be much I can tell you about the breed that you don’t know already.

      The size and amount of portions that I have laid out in the Adult Food Chart on this page are to be taken merely as a guide. As you well know and are currently experiencing, each individual shih tzu has its own feeding needs and preferences. You need to experiment, as you are, until you find the right formula that works for both you and your dog.

      For example, after months of experimenting my two boys have settled on a quality wet food in the morning, some home cooked food in the afternoon and an always available bowl of quality kibble to graze on during the day.

      With regards to your rescue dog waking you up for food at 6:30 in the morning, I think this is probably something he has learned either with his previous owner or at the rescue center.

      I think you will be able to train him out of this. When he barks to wake you up, tell him to be quiet, put him back in his bed and tell him to go to sleep (or go bye-byes as I tell my Charlie!). Then go back to bed yourself and ignore any further barking. Wear ear plugs if you have to.

      When you have stayed in bed until you want to, get up and feed your dog. Okay, it means a few more restless mornings, but eventually your shih tzu should get used to his new, later feeding time.

      I hope this helps.

      Shih Tzu Steve.

  6. My shitzu only weighs 1.44kg how much food should I be feeding her and how many times a day please

    1. Hello Sharlene,

      Thank you for your query.

      At 1.44kg, I’m guessing that your girl is still a puppy. Whether this is true or not, how much to feed her and how many times a day is dependent upon certain factors such as age, weight, and level of activity.

      Within this post, I have published tables setting out guidelines for daily food allowances using these factors. Click on the appropriate link to go straight to the table that applies to your shih tzu:

      Puppy Feeding Chart

      Adult Feeding Chart

      For a puppy, this allowance should be divided into four or five meals per day to take into account their tiny stomachs and the relatively larger amount of food compared to adult portions.

      For an adult, with less food in total and a slightly larger stomach, the daily allowance should be divided into two or three meals per day.

      I hope this helps,

      Shih Tzu Steve.

  7. Don’t overdo it on snacks. While healthy snacks are an important part of a dog’s overall diet and can work well to tide a dog over until the next meal and treats are vital for training and are fantastic for reinforcing good behavior, these additions to meals should take up no more than about 10% of a dog’s daily food intake.

    1. I totally agree with you, Ryenne.

      Any treats given to your dog should be taken into account against the recommended total daily food allowance.

      For more information on what constitutes a shih tzu’s daily food allowance, take a look at the three charts contained within this post.

      Thank you for taking the time comment,

      Shih Tzu Steve.

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