Diet, Health

Best Food For A Shih Tzu With A Sensitive Stomach | Health Guide

shih tzu dog food sensitive stomach


Best Food For A Shih Tzu With A Sensitive Stomach


royal canin shih tzu food
Best Choice Dog Food – Royal Canin – Shih Tzu

If you own a Shih Tzu then I’m sure you’re already aware that our beloved breed is susceptible to an upset tummy and knowing the best food for a Shih Tzu with a sensitive stomach is very important.


This post is specifically for anyone who owns a Shih Tzu with a sensitive stomach or is experiencing an upset tummy and would like to know more about what causes this and the best dog food to buy to relieve your dog of its discomfort. Once you’ve read this article you’ll have a good idea of why your Shih Tzu may suffer from a sensitive or upset stomach and also be provided with a list of the best dog food to feed them and the reasons why.


After doing some research on the different dog food available our best choice award goes to Royal Canin For Shih Tzus. It is specially formulated for the Shih Tzu breed, has quality ingredients and nutritional value and they have even designed the kibble to suit the shape of a Shih Tzu’s jaw. You can read the extended review here.


Jump straight to Dog Food reviews…


However, please consider reading the other information in this post as it may help you prevent any future problems with your dog’s stomach and it’s never a bad idea to be educated about the health concerns of your pet.


Article Contents:




Causes Of An Upset Or Sensitive Stomach


The most common cause for an upset stomach is when your Shih Tzu eats something that either disagrees with their stomach or contains a toxic ingredient. More serious causes could be a possible virus or another underlying health condition such as a stomach ulcer or pancreatitis.


The most obvious signs of an upset stomach include:


  • Fatigue.
  • Depression.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Vomiting.
  • A desire to eat grass or lick carpets.
  • Excessive drooling.
  • Wind.
  • Stomach tremors or noise.


Below I will give an overview of the causes of an upset stomach.


Ingesting Harmful Foods Or Toxins


The Shih Tzu is very sensitive to a variety of foods so if you feel your dog is suffering from an upset stomach you should first make sure they have not eaten anything that could be poisonous. A lot of Shih Tzu owners assume that their dog can eat all the same foods we enjoy as humans but this is not the case.  They have a different metabolism than we do and some common foods for us are poisonous to them.


According to the Animal Poison Control Centre and the ASPCA the below foods are considered poisonous for the Shih Tzu and the symptoms can range from a mildly upset stomach to serious disease and even death:


  • Avocado.
  • Bread dough.
  • Tea, coffee, and caffeine.
  • Dairy products.
  • Cherries.
  • Chocolate.
  • Garlic.
  • Onions.
  • Grapes.
  • Macadamia Nuts.
  • Mouldy Foods.
  • Mushrooms.
  • Peach Pits.
  • Apple cores.
  • Green potatoes.
  • Raisins.
  • Artificial sweeteners.
  • Alcohol.



Another possible source of toxins could be something they have eaten while being taken out for a walk.  For example, grass is well known to give dogs a sensitive stomach and there are also some flowers and plants that are toxic to dogs.


Your Shih Tzu may also start to show signs of an upset stomach if their normal food is suddenly changed.  As different brands of dog foods contain different ingredients from different sources it’s more than possible that a certain ingredient just might not agree with your dog.


When a change of food is the reason for a sensitive stomach it is most commonly due to the main meal that the dog eats at dinner time. However, it should be noted that a simple change in snack and treats could also be the culprit.


While we are on the subject of eating it’s worth pointing out that a stomach upset may not have anything to do with the food itself but the speed at which your Shih Tzu eats. I don’t know about you but my little boy can woof down food like he hasn’t been fed for months! Although I haven’t experienced this with my dog, eating food too fast that has not been chewed properly can be another reason for an upset stomach.


If you think that this is a cause of your Shih Tzu having an upset stomach you then might want to consider a slow-feeding bowl.


shih tzu sensitive stomach


The special design of these types of bowls means it’s much harder for your dog to gulp down too much food in one go and also creates a little bit of entertainment for them during mealtime. If you would like to learn about the benefits of a slow-feed dog bowl then you might like to read our article – The Best Slow-Feed Dog Bowls.


Another excellent little contraption that will help to slow down your dog’s chomping is a meal or treat dispenser. These are designed to eliminate gulping, choking, vomiting, and bloating and will also be great fun for your dog.


Check out the best Slow Feeders on Amazon


Stomach Viruses Or Other Health Conditions


The two main stomach viruses that you need to be aware of are the Parvo and Corona Virus. These are highly contagious diseases and are transmitted through the feces of already infected Dogs. It can be caught by your dog ingesting the fecal matter of another dog while out walking or in more indirect ways such as from the soles of shoes, clothing, or any surface that the feces may have been in contact with.


Both Parvo and Corona are highly contagious and can result in life-threatening symptoms. Although it can affect dogs of all ages, puppies are more susceptible to becoming infected.


Symptoms of the Parvovirus:


  • Depression.
  • Reduced appetite.
  • Vomiting.
  • Diarrhoea.
  • Irregular heartbeat (seen in the cardiac strain of the virus).


Symptoms of the Coronavirus:


  • Lethargy.
  • Reduced appetite.
  • Diarrhoea.


Both viruses are extremely serious but the Coronavirus is much less likely to be fatal. Obviously, if you suspect your Shih Tzu may have contracted one of these viruses then you should visit the Vet immediately.


In the sad event that your Shih Tzu is infected with one of these viruses, they will be diagnosed with a physical exam and a fecal culture. Further treatment will involve IV fluids for rehydration, medication to help with the symptoms of their upset stomach, and antibiotics to prevent any further infections.


Although much less common, it should also be noted that a sensitive stomach could also be a symptom of a more serious illness and if the symptoms are constant or recurring then you should take your Shih Tzu to the Vet for an examination as soon as possible.




In most cases, your dog should naturally recover from an upset stomach within 24 hours or a couple of days at the most. If the symptoms last longer than this then you should take a trip to your Veterinarian to get a professional diagnosis. If the symptoms seem especially acute and your dog is clearly in a lot of pain or discomfort then you should visit your Vet immediately.


Although most cases can be treated at home you should not attempt a home remedy if your Shih Tzu is showing any of these symptoms:


  • They are especially lethargic.
  • Continuous vomiting.
  • Continuous diarrhoea.
  • Bloody feces.
  • Extreme dehydration.


The Best Dog Food For A Shih Tzu With A Sensitive Or Upset Stomach – Ingredients


As you would have read above there are a few things that can cause your dog to have an upset stomach but most commonly it’s down to them eating something they shouldn’t. At some point, they will inevitably get their chops on food that doesn’t agree with them.


Whether it’s from nosing around in the garbage, something they find while out on a walk, or as is more common in my house, the niece and nephew handing out sweets or covertly sharing their dinner.


It’s impossible to completely protect your dog from never eating something they shouldn’t but something that is in your control is the food you feed them.  Below I will give an overview of the best foods available and the reasons why I believe this and also links to places where you can purchase this food if you feel there is a suitable one for you.


Feeding your Shih Tzu the right kind of food is important for a few reasons. Firstly, good quality food with quality ingredients is obviously more beneficial for their overall health. Just as with humans, they will feel better, look better and be less likely to suffer from illness.


Another important reason is that they get the right balance of different types of foods and nutrition.  Different dogs of different sizes and at different ages will have specific nutritional and caloric needs. Just think about the difference between a Shih Tzu puppy and a fully grown St Bernard. They are both dogs but will obviously have a completely different diet.


I would like to note that from this point on I will be specifically focusing on the best food for an adult Shih Tzu. If you would like to know more about the best food for a Shih Tzu puppy then please read my article – What Is The Best Food For Shih Tzu Puppies?


Dog Food Ingredients



The 3 most important ingredients for your Shih Tzu will be protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Due to dogs being essentially carnivorous animals, protein is the most important part of their diet. This is especially true for the Shih Tzu as they have fairly dense muscle mass.  This may be surprising because of their toy-like appearance but in fact, a Shih Tzu is a very sturdy dog for its size.


best dog food


Proteins are molecular chains of amino acids and are the building blocks of muscles and tissue in the body. If you have ever looked at the ingredients of dog food you may have noticed protein labeled as “meat meal” or “dehydrated protein”.


At first glance, this might suggest an inferior source of protein but this is not entirely true. Meat meal or dehydrated protein is the product of removing the water content of the original protein source. While this process will lead to the loss of some of its nutritional value the protein content is drastically increased.


For example, whole chicken protein contains about 70% water and 18% protein whereas dehydrated chicken protein contains about 10% water and 65% protein. This is obviously a massive difference for an animal that needs a diet rich in protein.


Therefore, good quality dog food should have either a meat meal or a dehydrated protein as one of the first listed ingredients. Ingredient lists that contain words such as “digest” or “by-products” should be avoided.


After protein, fat is the most important part of a dog’s diet. Fat is a highly concentrated source of energy and is primarily used for this purpose. As with proteins, some fat ingredients are better than others.


When looking at the ingredient list of dog food you should look for specific fats such as “chicken fat”, “animal fat”, “salmon oil” etc. Good quality dog food will also include at least one fish oil due to the benefits of the omega-3 fatty acid that it contains.


Fats can also come from a plant’s source but these should be found further down the list of ingredients and be supplementary rather than the primary fat source.


Other benefits your dog will get from eating the right amount and quality of fat include:


  • Improving their coat.
  • Improving their skin.
  • Boosting their immune system.
  • Utilising certain fat-soluble vitamins more efficiently.


And finally, we have carbohydrates that provide energy and mainly come from plants and grains. As well as providing energy in the form of sugars they create structure and texture to the food and beneficial fiber. Although fiber is not a required nutrient for your Shih Tzu it will keep your dog fuller for longer and therefore helps towards preventing obesity.


When looking for carbohydrates in the ingredients list of your dog food make sure they are from healthy, complex sources rather than simple, processed sources.


The carbohydrates will usually be one of the first ingredients listed and might include:


  • Barley.
  • Oats.
  • Rice.
  • Whole Wheat.
  • Whole corn.
  • Potato.
  • Millet.


The right amount of protein, fats, and nutrients will mean your dog stays full for longer. And of course, it’s far better to feed your dog the right amount of quality ingredients rather than too much of an inferior product. This is important to recognize in relation to this post as it means your dog will spend less time searching for food they shouldn’t be eating and will play a big part in helping to avoid an upset stomach.


Below is a useful chart for how much you should be feeding your Shih Tzu.


shih tzu feeding guide


Dry Food Or Wet Food


Whether to give your dog dry food (known as kibble) or wet food is an important decision and will depend on many factors. The dry food/wet food debate is quite a contentious issue with different people having different opinions on what is the best option. It seems to me that the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle as there are both pros and cons for either option.


Your decision will depend on factors such as the size and age of your dog, any specific nutritional requirements, and your budget. I have listed the pros and cons of both types below.


Dry Food Pros:


  • Prolonged storage.
  • Can be bought in large quantities.
  • Easier to feed.
  • Less mess.
  • More energy-dense.
  • Lower cost.
  • Easier to measure portions.
  • Possible dental benefits.


Dry Food Cons:


  • Less appetizing.
  • Can sometimes contain more grains.
  • More likely to contain preservatives.


Wet Food Pros:


  • More appetizing.
  • Often contains more protein and fat.
  • Higher moisture (important for dogs prone to urinary infections).


Wet Food Cons:


  • Can lead to weight gain.
  • More expensive.
  • Cause more mess.


Personally, I feed my Shih Tzu a mixture of both. It’s clear that he obviously prefers the wet food as it’s gone within a few seconds of me putting it down! But I also like to feed him dry food as well for the benefits that can provide. Another option is to mix both wet and dry food together in the same dish.


In this post, I have tried to give a good overview of the nutritional needs of dogs and things to look out for when purchasing food for your Shih Tzu. However, if your dog shows any signs of irregular eating habits you should discuss this with your Vet. Also if your dog has any specific health conditions you should again talk to your Vet about the appropriate diet for certain illnesses.


Raw Food Diet For A Shih Tzu


Although a controversial topic, raw food diets are becoming more popular amongst dog owners. The idea is that the ancestors of dogs would have eaten raw food so this should be the ideal diet for their descendants too, as this is the type of food their bodies have evolved to consume for optimal health.


If you would like to learn more about a raw diet for your Shih Tzu you might want to read our in-depth article: Raw Food For A Shih Tzu.



Recommended Foods For A Shih Tzu With A Sensitive Or Upset Stomach


And finally! Here are my recommendations for the best dog foods to feed your Shih Tzu. I have tried to find foods that tick all or most of the boxes for a healthy nutritional diet and provided links to places where you can purchase the food.


Royal Canin


royal canin shih tzu foodroyalcanin junior shih tzu food


Royal Canin is an excellent choice of dog food for your Shih Tzu. This is a good choice if your Shih Tzu has a sensitive stomach as it contains natural ingredients, highly digestible proteins, and a healthy source of carbohydrates. 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 food and this design is specifically to help with that.



Benefits of Royal Canin Shih Tzu Dog Food:


  • Has a good nutritional balance.
  • Contains highly digestible proteins.
  • Healthy source of carbohydrates.
  • Variety of vitamins and minerals.
  • “V” shape kibble designed especially for a Shih Tzu.


Check The Price On Amazon


Hill’s Science Diet Sensitive Stomach Dog Food


hills science dog foodhills science dog food


Hill’s Science Diet Dog Food is another good choice. It has been formulated for small breeds that suffer from a sensitive stomach. It has been scientifically designed to be sensitive on your Shih Tzu’s stomach and is made with easy-to-digest ingredients that give a healthy nutritional balance. It also, contains no artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. 


It contains a blend of omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin E, and other nutrients that help promotes healthy skin and a shiny coat. It also contains a clinically proven mix of antioxidants including vitamins C and E that promote a healthy immune system.





  • Designed for small breeds.
  • Easy to digest.
  • Balanced nutrition.
  • Nourishes skin and coat.
  • Probiotic fiber.
  • No artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives.
  • Omega-6 fatty acids, vitamin E and other nutrients.
  • Antioxidants with vitamins C and E. 


Check The Price On Amazon


Merrick Limited Ingredient Dog Food


merrick dog food 


Using simple recipes with natural ingredients and no artificial preservatives or colors, Merrick offers a wide selection of dry and wet food that can be tailored to each individual dog’s needs.


The limited-ingredient recipes contain real proteins such as chicken, turkey, lamb, salmon, and more paired with ancient grains like oats and triticale (there are also grain-free options).


merrick dog food


Additionally, Merrick uses high-quality pea and potato protein in order to give the maximum nutrient density without sacrificing flavor or texture.


Also included with these ingredients are essential vitamins and minerals.




  • All natural ingredients.
  • Whole meat protein source.
  • Highly digestible carbohydrates.
  • Grain-free.
  • Reduced calories.
  • No artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.


Check The Price On Amazon


Halo Holistic Natural Dog Food


halo shih tzu dog foodhalo shih tzu puppy 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 whole salmon or chicken as the main sources of protein and do not contain any “meat meals” or dehydrated protein.


With highly digestible carbohydrates like oats, pearled barley, and whole peas it is another good choice if your Shih Tzu has a sensitive stomach. Due to this superior digestibility, it means your dog’s stomach will have to work less hard to process the food and more nutrients absorbed into their system.



This food is grain-free and contains healthy ingredients such as salmon and whitefish, chickpeas, lentils, and non-GMO fruit and vegetables. It has also been designed with reduced calories so is great for maintaining a healthy weight in your dog. Also, this dog food contains no artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives and no ingredients are derived from animals raised on antibiotics. 


Benefits of Halo Holistic Dog Food:


  • All-natural ingredients.
  • Whole meat protein source.
  • Highly digestible carbohydrates.
  • Grain-free.
  • Reduced calories.
  • No artificial flavors, colors, or preservatives.


Check The Price On Amazon


Further Reading


If you would like to dig deeper into all areas of caring for your Shih Tzu we recommend you check out the book below.


shih tzu complete guide book cover


Using interviews with 17 top Shih Tzu breeders, author and experienced Shih Tzu owner Molly Weinfurter has created an in-depth look at what it takes to successfully live with, raise, and train a Shih Tzu.


This book has a 4.5 out of 5 rating on Amazon with over 220 reviews.


Buy On Amazon


2 thoughts on “Best Food For A Shih Tzu With A Sensitive Stomach | Health Guide

  1. Thanks for this – it is very useful. However as you mentioned, you feed your Shih Tzu a mixture of wet / dry – what would be your recommended wet foods?

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