We’ve all heard the saying “you are what you eat”. There’s a lot of truth in that, not just for humans, but for dogs too. Our diet gives us the building blocks we need to have a healthy body and mind. A dog with a good diet will have a longer, happier and more comfortable life, as well as the energy and motivation it needs to enjoy it to the fullest.
If you are simply looking for the best food to keep your Shih Tzu healthy then we would recommend Royal Canin’s specially formulated Shih Tzu dog food. You can read our review of this dog food here.
But please spend some time to read this article as you will learn some very important information about feeding your dog and keeping them healthy and what foods to avoid feeding your Shih Tzu.
By the end of this article, you should have a better understanding of your Shih Tzu’s needs in his or her diet, which products to trust and which foods to avoid.
- Why Your Shih Tzu’s Food Is Important
- Food You Should Avoid Feeding Your Shih Tzu
- Mistakes Dog Owners Make When Feeding Their Dog
- The Best Food To Feed Your Shih Tzu – Reviews & Recommendations
Why Your Shih Tzu’s Food Is Important
Dogs, like humans, need a healthy, balanced diet in order to function properly. Their bodies require specific amounts of macronutrients, like protein, carbohydrates and fats, as well as vitamins and minerals.
Protein, carbohydrates and fat all provide energy. Protein is also important for building and maintaining muscles and fats are important for brain function and keeping their skin and coat healthy.
Dogs also need vitamins and minerals for a number of things including maintaining healthy nerves and muscles and helping fight off disease.
A good pet food manufacturer will ensure that their products are fulfilling all of your dog’s dietary needs. But not all dogs’ needs are the same. They can vary based on age, pregnancy, health problems, lifestyle and breed. Your Shih Tzu is no exception, so it’s important to understand exactly what your dog needs and how to give it to him/her.
When it comes to selecting food, quality is everything. This means high-quality ingredients, as well as the formulation. You should look out for food that lists real meat and/or meat meal as one of the primary ingredients. The best kind of dog food contains human-grade ingredients and natural Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
But doesn’t “higher quality” mean “higher prices”? Sadly, it often does. But this doesn’t mean that it will cost you more in the long run. Higher quality food means a healthier, happier dog. This means fewer expensive vet visits and costly treatments, especially as your dog gets older.
This isn’t to say, however, that you need to blow your budget on the most expensive food on the market. You can still find high-quality food to suit your Shih Tzu’s needs at a more affordable price. The important thing is to make sure you read the ingredients before you buy so you know what you’re getting.
Food You Should Avoid Feeding Your Shih Tzu
Like all dogs, there are a number of foods which humans can eat which are harmful to your Shih Tzu. These include things like chocolate, grapes and avocados (you can see a full list a little further down). But unlike some other dogs, Shih Tzu’s are prone to certain health problems which can be made worse by eating the wrong foods.
Shih Tzu’s are prone to breathing difficulties because of their (adorable) short noses. They can also have mobility issues because of their long backs and can suffer from hip/elbow dysplasia and other joint problems. These issues are made worse if your Shih Tzu is overweight, so it is important to avoid fattening foods like cheese and keep a watchful eye on your Shih Tzu’s belly ;).
Speaking of bellies, Shih Tzu’s are prone to some issues here also. A dog’s digestive tract is petty short, so it’s difficult for them to digest tough, fibrous foods like grains. Shih Tzu’s are particularly sensitive, so try to avoid food containing grains. Grains are often used as fillers in dog food, although many dogs are actually allergic to them. Anything containing lactose should also be avoided, as dogs are actually lactose intolerant, and this could hurt your Shih Tzu’s sensitive stomach.
Preservatives, dyes and other chemical additives (watch out especially for BHT and BHA, which are banned in the UK but not the US) should all be avoided. Consuming these additives puts a lot of stress on the liver and kidneys, as they have to work really hard to remove them from the body. As the Shih Tzu is prone to liver disease anyway, this is something you should pay attention to.
Here is a list of foods you should avoid feeding your Shih Tzu:
- Chocolate: Highly toxic, can cause vomiting, seizures and even death.
- Avocado: Can cause vomiting and constipation. The pits can be dangerous.
- Bread dough: Raw yeast can lead to intestinal blockage.
- Raw eggs: Could contain bacteria which upset the stomach; can also affect the skin and coat.
- Macadamia nuts: Can cause depression, tremors, weakness, kidney stones and hypothermia.
- Nuts in general: Too much many can upset your dog’s stomach.
- Onions and garlic: Can affect the red blood cells, causing anaemia, as well as stomach problems.
- Xylitol: May be found in anything from candy to peanut butter to toothpaste. Affects insulin production, leading to weakness, seizures and even liver failure.
- Grapes, raisins and currants: Causes stomach upset and even kidney failure.
- Cow’s milk/dairy: Causes stomach upset.
- Green potatoes: Poisonous to dogs and humans.
- Mushrooms: Be careful on walks, as some mushrooms are toxic.
- Raw meat: Can contain bacteria which hurt the stomach; chicken bones or any cooked bone, could splinter and damage your dog’s gastrointestinal tract.
- Anything moldy: Could be toxic.
- Cherries: Parts contain cyanide, which is poisonous; the pits can also get stuck in your dog’s digestive tract.
- Fattening foods like cheese: Can lead to weight gain.
- Preservatives and additives: Could lead to liver problems.
- High quantity of grains: Can cause stomach upset.
- Salt: Can cause sodium poisoning.
- Spicy food: Can damage the digestive tract and the sense of smell.
Mistakes Dog Owners Make When Feeding Their Dogs
Finding the perfect diet for your Shih Tzu is important, but takes a little time and research to get absolutely right. Trying to figure out your Shih Tzu’s personal dietary needs can be a little daunting, and sometimes it’s easy to focus so hard on all the things you should include, that you forget the basics. Here’s a list of 10 easy-to-make mistakes to bear in mind.
1. Feeding your dog like it’s a human
This is one of the most common mistakes, and for some owners, one of the hardest to avoid. If you’re anything like me, your dog is part of your family, not just a pet. You want them to feel loved and included in your family’s lives and activities.
Family mealtimes and enjoying good food some of the nicer parts of most people’s daily routines. Why not want to include your pooch? One reason is that as we’ve talked about already, the physical needs of dogs and humans are quite different. A lot of human food is harmful or even deadly to dogs.
Even when our food is safe for dogs, we tend to add things to enhance the flavor, like salt or spices, which are bad for dogs. A lot of human food also contains harmful additives and preservatives. There’s also a danger when feeding table scraps that we see them as treats or rewards on top of our dog’s normal meals. This can lead to weight gain and unbalance your dog’s diet.
2. Portion control
Shih Tzu’s are little dogs, so should need little portions, right? Yes and no. We’ve talked about how being overweight can affect other aspects of your Shih Tzu’s health, and why it’s important to avoid excessive weight gain, but what we haven’t mentioned is their high metabolism. They burn energy at a faster rate than a lot of larger dog breeds like Great Danes and mastiffs, so pound-for-pound they actually need more food.
Being underweight is equally dangerous, and can leave your dog fatigued and malnourished. Dogs who are more active, pregnant, or still growing tend to need more food. Figuring out the right portion size for your Shih Tzu and sticking to it is crucial for keeping them at a healthy weight.
In general, your Shih Tzu is at a healthy weight if you can feel their ribs and see their waist tucking in if you’re looking at them from above. You shouldn’t be able to see any other bony areas (pelvic bone, vertebrae) sticking out, and you shouldn’t feel any excess fat over their ribs.
3. Making sudden changes in your Shih Tzu’s diet
Sudden changes in diet can lead to stomach problems for any breed of dog, and particularly for a sensitive breed like Shih Tzu’s. If you decide to give your Shih Tzu a new type of food, introduce it slowly by mixing in a little of the new food new food with the one they’re used to, and gradually phasing out the old food over the course of 7-10 days.
If you find yourself in a situation where you have to change their diet suddenly (maybe their normal food has been discontinued) there are a few things you can do to ease the transition:
- Make sure your dog isn’t allergic/sensitive to it by giving them a very small amount and checking to see if they have any problems. If not, gradually start giving them larger amounts until they’re able to handle their normal portion size.
- Find a food which is similar to what they’re used to. Check for the same proportions of protein, carbs and fats, and the same basic ingredients (e.g. beef and vegetables).
- Talk to your vet about probiotic supplements, which can help soothe and rebalance an upset stomach.
4. Not sticking to a feeding routine
Dogs like routine. They like to know what’s happening and when, and can become stressed if they don’t. Feeding your dog their meals at the same time every day will help them feel secure and stable (and if you’re late your dog will probably remind you anyway!).
Like portion size, your dog’s feeding schedule will depend on things like their age and health too. Most adult dogs are happy to be fed twice a day, morning and evening, whereas older dogs might need another feed during the day also. Puppies need to be fed anywhere from 3 to 6 times a day, depending on how old they are.
That said, some Shih Tzu’s may prefer to eat little and often, and be happier with their daily rations being available when they feel like eating. Feeding like this can make housetraining a little more difficult though. If you see that your Shih Tzu is not coping well with structured mealtimes, or isn’t able to eat everything at once, this style of feeding might be more appropriate.
Just make sure that your dog is still getting the right amount of food every day, which is harder to do without defined feeding times. Try to still stick as much as possible to a schedule, i.e. do not refill the bowl just because it’s empty. Wait until the normal feeding time before giving any more.
5. Choosing the wrong food for your Shih Tzu
As we’ve talked about already, every dog is different, and things like breed, age, lifestyle and health will affect their dietary needs. Not taking the time to do your research and find out exactly what your dog’s needs are can lead to health problems and affect their quality of life. Make sure to talk to your vet to get professional advice, tailored to your dog.
6. Allowing your dog access to harmful foods
This one seems obvious, but it’s impossible to monitor your dog every minute, and easy to forget the dangers of some foods when they’re harmless to us. Dogs are inquisitive, and often don’t instinctively know which foods are bad for them. That’s why it’s our job as their caregivers to make sure even the most curious (or greedy!) pup can’t get hold of anything that could hurt them. It’s also important to watch out for signs that your dog could have eaten something it shouldn’t have so that you can get it the help it needs as quickly as possible.
7. Not reading the food label
It’s easy to get taken in by bold claims on dog food packaging. But remember, dog food manufacturers, good and bad, are ultimately trying to sell you a product. Just because a food claims to be “everything your dog needs”, or “healthy and balanced”, doesn’t necessarily mean that it is, or that it is what your dog needs. Make sure you read the label carefully so you can decide if it’s right for your Shih Tzu.
8. Too many treats
Food treats can be a great way to reward your dog during training. Treats may be a useful tool, but they are still food. Forgetting this could lead to overeating, so it’s important to factor in treats in your dog’s daily ration and adjust their meals accordingly. If you feed your dog too many treats, their meals will be too small, which might leave them feeling hungry.
9. Picking unhealthy treats
Because treats will need to replace a portion of your dog’s meals, it’s important that they still contain the right kinds of nutrients, or balance out the rest of its meals, to ensure your dog isn’t missing out. You should also be mindful of introducing new treats which your dog isn’t used to. It’s easy to forget that treats, even in small quantities, could upset your Shih Tzu’s sensitive stomach. Make sure to treat them like any other food and introduce them slowly.
10. Choosing food which is wrong for you
We’ve talked a lot about what your dog needs, but it’s important to remember that the way you feed your dog needs to work for you too. For example, if your dog likes to eat slowly, but you’re out most of the day, it might not be feasible to give your dog wet food, which will dry up or attract flies before your dog can eat it. Or it may be that you really hate the strong smell of wet food, so dry food would work better. You also need to consider your budget.
As we’ve mentioned already, high quality is often high price, but this doesn’t mean you need to (or should) go outside of your budget to buy top-of-the-range products. In the long run, a balance or compromise between your needs and those of your dog is usually best.
The Best Food To Feed Your Shih Tzu
Here are my recommendations for the best dog foods to feed your Shih Tzu. I have tried to find foods that tick all the boxes for a healthy nutritional diet and provided links to places where you can purchase the food.
Royal Canin is an excellent choice of dog food for your Shih Tzu. Royal Canin dog food is specially formulated for specific breeds having studied their lifestyle, life stage needs and their tendency to develop certain health issues. It ticks all the nutritional boxes and I particularly like the “V” shape design of the kibble. Due to the Shih Tzu having a shortened jaw it can give them problems biting chunks of foods and this design is specifically to help with that. It has an excellent 4.6 out of 5 star rating on Amazon and you can read the reviews here.
- Supports healthy skin.
- Specially designed kibble.
- Helps maintain a healthy coat.
- Reduces stool and odor.
Halo Holistic Natural Dog Food
Halo holistic dog food is a good choice if you prefer whole meat products over meat meal or dehydrated meat products. The ingredients include fresh chicken and eggs as the main sources of protein with digestible carbohydrates like oats, pearled barley, and whole peas. It has been proven to have excellent digestibility providing more available nutrients to your dog during the digestion process. It also has reduced calories and fat, plus L-Carnitine to improve metabolism and help smaller dogs to achieve the perfect weight. It has a 4.2 out of 5 star rating on amazon from almost 600 reviews that you can read here.
- Made with whole salmon and whitefish.
- No rendered meat meal.
- Superior Digestibility.
- Grain free.
- Non-GMO vegetables and fruits.
- Reduced calories and fat.
- No artificial flavours, colors or preservatives.
- No factory farming or animals raised with antibiotics are used in the ingredients.
So there you have it! I hope this article has helped you get a better idea of what your Shih Tzu needs to lead a happy, healthy life, how diet is important, and that you feel confident you know the most important things to look out for. Remember, if you’re ever unsure or need advice, a good vet should be able to answer your questions.
Take Care, Elliott.