Shih Tzu Food – Which Diet Is Best?

Shih Tzu Food - Which Diet Is Best?

Processing Shih Tzu Food – How It Might Affect Your Dog’s Health

I apologize if you landed upon this page expecting to see a list of recommended shih tzu food items, products or recipes. If that is what you were looking for, you may find the information you require in one of my previously published articles:

Best Dog Food For A Shih Tzu? – Find Out Here

Healthy Home Cooking For The Shih Tzu Well Being

How Much Food Should A Shih Tzu Eat?

However, I suggest sticking around and taking a read of this important food health report:

In this report I’ll be looking into the composition of shih tzu food, together with how it is processed and how it is handled with respect to the effect it may have on the health of a shih tzu.

Thanks to the researchers at CANWI (the Companion Animal Nutrition and Wellness Institute) and the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine, there is about to be a revolution in the way we think about feeding our dogs and, hopefully, the manufacturing processes of the pet food industry.

CANWI is registered as a charitable organization. 

If you would like to make a donation, you can do so here.

Sixty Years Of Canned Food And Kibble

Shih tzu canned food and kibble.

For ever since I can remember, and that goes back over sixty years, we have been feeding our pets high processed canned foods and ultra processed dry kibble. More recently, there has been a trend to move away from these diets with the introduction of less processed foods such as air-dried kibble, commercial homemade-like, actual homemade and even raw diets.

Up until now, no-one has ever conducted any serious research into which of these diets with which ingredients is best for our pets. The only completed research so far has been about the nutrients in pet food. This is why the only existing legal requirement regarding the composition of pet food is that it has adequate nutrients for the average dog or cat.

However, just as there is no such being as a an average human, there is also no single example of an average pet. Anyway, which of us shih tzu parents would be happy with just adequate nutrition for our not average charges?

As I say, all this is set to change thanks to CANWI and the University of Georgia group. As I write, they are researching the effect different ingredients, and different processing and preparation methods have on the pets eating them regarding their health and well being.

The aim of their research is not to tell you what to give and what not to give your pet. Instead, they are going to make all of the results of their research freely available to the general public. This is so that pet food manufacturers can improve their products, vets and pet nutritionists can give better dietary advice, and you and me, the pet parents, can make informed and better choices over what diet we feed our dogs. Perhaps it will even help us make better choices for feeding ourselves, also.

Read on to discover the major areas of research the CANWI and Georgia teams will be looking into.

About Dietary Advanced Glycation End Products (AGEs)

A shih tzu researcher!

Advanced glycation end products, or AGEs for short, are formed in the body when a sugar meets a protein. AGEs then move around the body, eventually binding to tissues, organs, cells and DNA, causing them to malfunction.

Here they subsequently cause inflammation. In humans this leads to chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease and cancers. AGEs even accelerate the growth of tumors, causing even more painful inflammation.

The Western Diet is Full of AGEs

The group of foods known as the Western diet is packed with high fats, high protein and high sugar content. When these foods are processed, there is a dramatic increase in the number of AGEs within.

The more processed a food item is, the less taste it has. So that we eat their high processed foods, and therefore keep on buying them, manufacturers add artificial flavorings to their products, AGE is one such artificial flavoring, increasing the AGE count yet more.

Research indicates that to avoid chronic disease we should be consuming no more than 15,000 to 20,000 AGE units per day.

The AGEs of a 3-ounce (64g) chicken breast, raw and fried.

Now consider this example. A 3-ounce (64g) piece of raw chicken contains approximately 800 AGE units. When this piece of chicken is fried, the AGE count increases tenfold to 8,000 units. 

This is around half the daily recommended total for a human. From this it is easy to understand that most of us are consuming way too many AGE units.

Now think that we humans, generally, do not eat a diet that consists solely of high processed food. We also eat minimally processed foods such as raw fruit and vegetables.

Then consider your shih tzu. If he is on an ultra processed diet, that’s the term given to canned food or dry kibble where the ingredients are individually processed and them processed again when they are brought together, that is all he is eating day in and day out for all of his life.

If this is the case, he could be consuming up to 150 times the amount of AGEs than for you and I. It’s the same for any breed of dog, though if you have a cat it is only 50 times due to their different dietary requirements.

With AGEs scientifically shown to be a major factor in the development of chronic diseases in humans, it is fair to assume that with their amplified consumption of units, AGEs are having the same effect on our pets and are a contributing factor as to why, generally, they are not living as long as they used to years ago before the advent of high processed food. This is what the research aims to prove and the results are already leaning that way.

The Damage AGEs Can Do

AGEs cause collagen to die back, a major factor in the formation of wrinkles.

For an example that makes the damage AGEs can do easy to picture in your mind, AGEs bind to the collagen underneath your skin. Eventually the collagen dies away and because of the AGEs cannot be repaired. This leaves behind wrinkles. 

Only this is just not happening to your skin, it’s happening to every organ in your body. If you are eating a lot of AGEs you grow old quicker due to this breakdown of tissue structure and functionality.

Now, if AGEs is doing this to us humans, what is it doing to our dogs that are consuming 150 times the amount we are?

To give one representation, in the course of her work as a vet, Dr Raditic has witnessed changes to the lens tissue at the back of the eye in dogs. This is an area with a high concentration of collagen. She has noticed a greying of the tissue due to AGEs, which is similar to what would be expected for an aging change in the tissue.

What Do We Do? – We Can’t Stop Feeding Our Dogs

Around 90% of us pet parents feed our dogs high processed canned or dry kibble foods. We do it for convenience and because we know it’s safe as the product has to be recalled if there’s any sign of bacteria, and also we know it contains all the minerals and vitamins our dogs need. 

Dr. Turner of the research group has overseen the collection of a database of the AGE count of over 500 human foods. Now he is looking to do the same for all pet diets including raw, flash-frozen, canned, dry, and more.

When the database is ready, Dr. Turner plans to release it for all to see. When that happens in the near future we will be able to make better decisions to reduce the AGE count of our pets’ diets, so reducing the inflammation that AGEs cause, and so reducing the chances of serious and chronic diseases developing.

What Research Into AGEs Is Telling Us

Research probed different diets and how each diet affected dogs.

Dr Bridglasingh of the Georgia group previously headed research studying four diets of as similar composition as possible but each processed in different ways. The aim of this study was to evaluate how the different levels of processing affected the amount of AGEs in each diet and how this in turn affected the dogs eating the diets.

The four diets studied were high-heat processed kibble, heat processed canned food, air-dried food, and minimal processed raw food. The minimal processing for the raw food diet was necessary to eliminate the bacteria.

The results came through as suspected. The more processed the diet. The more AGEs were found in the blood and urine of the dog eating that diet than of the dogs eating the less processed diets.

Next, Dr. Bridglasingh wanted to know if the increased AGE counts had any effect on metabolism. She found that the higher number of AGEs makes changes to the bacteria in the gut which, in turn, alters the metabolism.

As the research continues now at Georgia University, the team is looking at the role of AGEs in the diet and so then in the body of dogs and cats in both healthy and diseased conditions.

If the results are as expected and AGEs are proved to be involved with diseases such as chronic kidney disease, diabetes mellitus and osteoarthritis, the aim is to discover what can be done to lower AGE levels and to help individual pets have an improved quality of life.

Our pets live with us in the same environment, breathing the same air, drinking the same water, sometimes eating the same food, and suffering from very similar diseases. 

For us humans, on medical and nutritional advice there has been a move towards eating minimal processed products consisting of whole ingredients. The pet food industry will need to take note of this and start providing the same for our dogs and cats. The emphasis used to be just about the nutrients. It’s not any more. Now it’s also about the ingredients and the way that they are prepared.

Safe Nutrition For Your Shih Tzu

Safe nutrition for your shih tzu.

Every situation is different and every dog in each of these situations is an individual, so there is no blanket single diet that can be said to be right for all dogs. Several different factors have to be taken into consideration. The health status of the dog, the financial status of the pet parent and that parent’s personal beliefs are just three of the main ones.

Then there’s the question of the food companies. Are they doing enough to make sure that the food is safe and nutritious? Do they follow safety procedures? Do they have certification for the premises where the food is processed, regardless of whether they make it themselves or buy it in from a third party?

One question that may well get a negative reply is have they tested their finished product to ensure that it is digestible? The product could well contain the best nutrients available, but if the dog cannot digest the food, all of those nutrients are going to waste.

Many pet food companies would claim not to do a test for digestibility because they do not run tests on animals on ethical grounds. Yet there isn’t much that could be considered unethical about this particular test.

It merely involves giving the food to a sample pool of dogs for one or two weeks and collecting their stools for laboratory analysis. Whatever came out with the stools can be taken as indigestible, and whatever stayed in as digested and absorbed into the body.

It is then a simple case of mathematics and adjusting the food content accordingly. It’s a relatively inexpensive test that can be carried out on kennel dogs or selected individual household dogs. There is no reason for pet food companies not to conduct this test.

We shih tzu parents can carry out a simplified version of this test on our own dogs. If you try out a new food on your shih tzu and it makes him poop more, then he is not getting as much nourishment from it and it would be wise to not continue with it. However, if you try a new food and he poops less, then he is probably getting more out of this food than his usual food, and it would be a good choice to add this to his regular diet.

As well as finding out if your pet food company runs digestibility tests, finding out who actually formulated the food and if they have the relevant qualifications to do so would also be useful information to have. There are many people in the pet food industry that are well intentioned when putting recipes together but are not necessarily qualified to do so.

Safe Food Handling For Our Pets

The safe handling of food during processing is essential.

We are constantly being advised by doctors, dietitians and nutrition experts, whether personally or through the media, to eat more fresh food in the place of high processed food. This is evidently filtering through to us pet parents as there is a trend for us to use the same philosophy on our dogs.

Utilizing this philosophy can result in a substantial rise in the cost of our pet food shopping bill. The more processed foods have a much longer shelf life. They can stay on sale for months or even years. Less processed foods have to be eaten immediately, or if not within a day or two, otherwise they go off. For this reason, less processed foods are more expensive to produce.

There is some concern over the safety of commercial  minimal processed foods and raw diets. Despite the fact that many pet food manufacturers have in place a system to check for possible bacterial contamination, we as pet parents should be vigilant and ensure that the food we are giving our dogs has been subjected to such tests. If the information isn’t clearly available on the packaging or the company’s website, we should be asking them about this directly.

There should be a quality control system in place checking for bacterial pathogens and any risk of contamination in minimal processed and raw food production, just as there is for canned food and dry kibble.

Recently, at the time of writing, there have been recalls of dry kibble contaminated with salmonella. We should expect the same action if any minimal processed or raw diet food is found to be contaminated. Whatever diet we are giving our dogs, we need that assurance.

We should get as much information about the food we are giving our dogs as we can, in particular regarding safety and nutrition. Again, if this information is not on the label or the website, we should contact the food companies directly. The ones that respond accurately and willingly with the answers to our questions are most likely to be the companies with the best manufacturing practices and philosophies.

Safe Food Handling At Home

It is essential to practice safe pet food handling in the home to protect your shih tzu’s health.

The need for the safe handling of food for your shih tzu doesn’t end with the food manufacturers. We pet parents need to be even more careful and vigilant when handling our dogs’ food as we do not have the same safety checks installed at home as the manufacturers have in their processing plants.

This is true for all the types of food and treats that you give your shih tzu, but especially so if you are providing your own homemade or raw diet. The human-intended food we buy from our shops isn’t subject to the same stringent contamination tests as pet foods are. This is because if our raw and fresh food is contaminated with bacteria it isn’t as critical, for the food is intended to be cooked to kill off any such bacteria.

So in theory anyway, it is perhaps safer to give your shih tzu a commercial homemade-like or raw diet than to put together your own. In practice, this is not necessarily so.

Nicole Cammack headed a survey into households where pet parents were feeding raw or minimally processed diets to their dogs. The aim was to determine whether there were any food borne illnesses contracted as a result of having raw food in the house. The survey returned no confirmed cases of illness at all.

What we do know for sure is that whatever diet you are feeding to your shih tzu, to reduce the risk of food borne illness, storing the food correctly, cleaning up thoroughly after making the food and washing your hands is just as important as having the correct ingredients in the food.

What Is The Best Shih Tzu Food?

What is the best shih tzu food?

There is not yet any proven evidence to determine which diet is the best but current research implicates that the more processed a food is, the more AGEs it will contain.

There is evidence that shows that cutting down on the amount of AGEs in our diets lowers the risk of disease in humans. Until the research is completed, it is reasonable the same is true for our pets. The research is pointing that way, anyway.

On this basis, the more fresh food and less processed food in your shih tzu’s diet the better, with the proviso that the fresh food is added safely.

If you are already giving, or are planning to give, a homemade diet to your shih tzu, it is a good idea to consult with a qualified pet nutritionist to make sure that your dog is getting all of the nourishment he needs.

Individual dogs with their varying activity and health levels, and variations in size and weight will have very different nutritional requirements. 

Making up your own diet plan may contain some errors that could be detrimental, or at least not beneficial to your shih tzu’s health and well being. A consultation with a suitably qualified and experienced pet nutritionist can correct these errors.

One final point. Allowing your shih tzu to become overweight can be just as hazardous to his health as too many AGEs or poor food safety. Whatever diet your dog is on, stay within the portion guidelines as given, in order of merit, by your pet nutritionist, your vet, or as stated on the product label.

I have published feeding charts based on age, weight and activity levels for a healthy shih tzu in my post:

How Much Food Should A Shih Tzu Eat?

These charts are just a rough guide and the advice of your food nutritionist or vet takes precedence, especially if your shih tzu unfortunately has health issues. Remember when using these charts that if you regularly give your shih tzu treats, that 10% of the daily allowance should be reserved for this purpose.


I would like to thank you for taking the time to read this report. I hope that it has given you some minimal processed food for thought. 

I believe that the findings of the research being carried out by CANWI and the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine will revolutionize the pet food industry for the better. If enough of us pet parents ask these companies enough questions, it may even speed things along.
If you have any queries about this report or anything relating to the shih tzu breed, please leave a comment below or use the contact shihtzuandyou form.

List of Acknowledgements

All of the information written in this report is based on knowledge I have learned from these good people:

Dr. Donna Raditic

Co-founder of CANWI

Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist

Dr. Karen Becker

Co-founder of CANWI

Holistic Veterinary Surgeon

Dr. David Turner

President and co-founder of the Anti-A.G.E. Foundation. 

A researcher into the link between cancer and diet at the South Carolina Medical University at Charleston.

Dr. Turner has now joined the CANWI group.

Dr. Joe Bartges

Professor of Internal Medicine, Interventional Radiology and Nutrition at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine.

Heading the research group in AGEs,

Dr. Siobhan Bridglasingh

Completed her doctorate on AGEs in dog food.

Postgrad joining Dr. Bartges’ team.

Nicole Cammack

Master’s Degree in Human Nutrition

Studying at the University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine for a Ph.D in Comparative Biomedical Sciences for Companion Animal Nutrition

Dr. Laura Gaylord

Board Certified Veterinary Nutritionist


I would like to thank all of these good people for passing on their findings to the general public and for all of the time and effort they are putting into this research for the benefit of our pets worldwide.

I am sure that you can also appreciate the good work that CANWI is doing. Please remember that CANWI is a registered charitable organization and, as such, relies on donations to fund the cause.

Please click here if you would like to make a donation to CANWI.

Thanks again,

Shih Tzu Steve.

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