Ah, Shih Tzus, one of the smallest, most unique and most popular dog breeds on earth! How could they not be so popular when they're just so adorable?
Besides their tiny size that's convenient for a large percentage of the population given that they barely take any space around the house, Shih Tzus are some of the most outgoing, sweet and friendly dogs you'll ever come across.
The following list is our top 4 picks for the best dog food for Shih Tzu dogs, after we've done extensive research about the nutritional needs for Shih Tzus and found that these dog food products meet the dietary requirements of these dogs best.
Our List Of The Top 5 Best Dog Food For Shih Tzus (Updated List For 2023)
Top Pick: Wellness Complete Health Natural Dry Small Breed
Pick #2: Wellness CORE Natural Dry Grain Free Small Breed
Pick #3: Diamond Naturals Dry Food for Small Breed Adult Dogs
Pick #4: Blue Buffalo BLUE Adult Dog Healthy Weight
Pick #5: Blue Buffalo Wilderness Adult Grain Free Rocky Mountain Recipes
*Note: The links in the table above, as well as several links in the remainder of the article below, will take you to over to Amazon.com where you can find out more information about the products, such as current prices and customer reviews.
What Makes The Best Dog Food For Shih Tzus?
Because of the fact that Shih Tzus are so tiny in size, and despite the fact that they are generally known to lead healthy and problem-free lives, there are a few things that have to be taken into consideration before being able to call a specific dog food product the best dog food for Shih Tzus.
A Note About Weight
Given the fact that Shih Tzu dogs are some of the smallest sized dogs you'll ever come across, weighing between 9-16 lbs and standing between 8-11 inches in height, these dogs have special nutritional needs of their own that we, as responsible dog owners, should cater to.
Make sure you weigh all that hair they have on them as well to know how much THEY truly weigh! (We're just kidding, but these fellas sure have a whole lot of hair on 'em!)
When it comes to the caloric needs of Shih Tzu dogs, the average Shih Tzu that weighs around 10 lbs will need around 350-400 calories a day for maintenance purposes.
In general, the more a Shih Tzu weighs, the more calories they will be needing a day, and the less a Shih Tzu weighs, the less calories they will be needing a day for maintenance purposes.
There are also other factors that come into play when determining the best amount of calories your Shih Tzu needs during a day's time, such as age (young, growing Shih Tzu puppies need much more calories than older, mature Shih Tzu dogs), metabolism levels, whether or not they have been spayed/neutered, activity levels, and a host of other factors that have to be taken into consideration.
The best person able to give you a precise number of calories that YOUR Shih Tzu should be eating on a daily basis is your Veterinarian, any other person that gives you such numbers will only be giving you a close estimate at best.
If you want to get a general ballpark figure about how much calories YOUR Shih Tzu should be eating on a daily basis, you can get an estimate (we can't say how close that estimate will be to reality though) by multiplying your Shih Tzu's weight in lbs by 35, which will be the number of calories your Shih Tzu needs to consume on a daily basis.
Small Breed Dog Food
We're strong believers of very specialized dog food formulas for specific dog breeds and dog sizes, and the case is no different when recommending dog food for your small breed Shih Tzu.
By making use of dog food for small breed dogs, you'll be giving your Shih Tzu all the calories they need during the day in as small volume of food as possible, which is great because your Shih Tzu needs a lot of calories but have small stomachs (just like them) that can only take in small volumes of food at a time.
Dog food specifically formulated for small breed dogs takes this into consideration and is calorie dense, meaning they have as much calories in them in as little volume as possible.
Probably the most crucial aspect of your Shih Tzu’s diet, you should be a 100% sure that they're getting all the protein they need in the dog food they're eating.
A high protein diet is definitely the best way to go with your Shih Tzu, just like it is 95% of the times with all dogs out there.
If you've got an adult Shih Tzu at home, strive to give them a diet made up of at least 18% protein, and if you've got a puppy Shih Tzu at home, strive to give them a diet made up of at least 22% protein.
Some people will argue that Shih Tzus need significantly more protein than these percentages from their diets, with suggestions like 35%-40% protein, sometimes even 50% protein popping up, but you're best off starting from the minimum required ranges and working your way up from there if there's a need for you to do so.
Considering that you go with any of the best dog food for Shih Tzu dogs options we mentioned in the list above, we've got you all covered on adequate amounts of protein, because all of these foods are based around meat as the main focus of their ingredients lists, meaning lots of protein for your Shih Tzu!
As long as the dog food you have at hand has a meat or meat meal listed as the first ingredient on the ingredients list, then it's almost always a good option for you to feed your Shih Tzu as far as protein content is concerned.
In general, dietary fat isn't all that important in the diets of the majority of dogs out there, and it's mostly only necessary that you give your dog the minimum levels of dietary fat required, as they'll get by fine on those.
However, in the case of Shih Tzus, dietary fat is MUCH more important to them than it is to these other dogs.
I mean, have you seen the hair that Shih Tzus have? If there was ever a crucial macro-nutrient that a dog should be getting enough of in their diet in order to maintain the quality of their hair and make sure it doesn't start to fall off like there's no tomorrow, it's dietary fat!
Not to mention the fact that fat, and just like it does for you and I in our food, makes your dog's food that much more tasty. Your Shih Tzu deserves to look forward to eating their dog food!
In general, a good percentage of dietary fat you should strive to have your dog's diet made up of is 5% is they are a fully grown, adult Shih Tzu, and 8% if they are still a young growing puppy Shih Tzu.
When searching for the best dog food for your Shih Tzu, make sure you have a proper look at the ingredients list and see abundant amounts of Omega-3 and Omega-6 source fats, as those are the ones that will be doing most of the work for your dog's hair and coat.
This is why when it comes to the best dog food for Shih Tzu dogs, you should ideally scour the market for high-protein dog food products that have their main protein source being fish (such as salmon).
This way, not only will you be giving your Shih Tzu some of the highest quality protein out there, you'll also be making sure that they're getting all the Omega-3 and Omega-6 essential fatty acids that they need and much more.
As far as carbohydrates in the diet of your Shih Tzu are concerned, this is one of those areas where your attention is needed.
As we've already covered in the section about daily calorie needs for Shih Tzus, these dogs are more prone to becoming overweight real fast than other dogs, so we must know exactly how much calories they need on a daily basis and give them no more and no less than the amount they need.
This also applies to carbohydrates in your Shih Tzu's diet, because if you feed them a larger percentage of carbohydrates than their bodies really need, or even feed them the WRONG type of carbohydrates that is high in sugar, both of these cases will fatten up your Shih Tzu in no time.
Don't get us wrong and assume that you should be feeding your Shih Tzu as few carbohydrates as possible in their diet, or that you should even cut them out completely, that's never a proper solution and it only leads to more serious problems and even more weight gain.
There's a right way to go about this, and as long as you pick any of the dog food options we mentioned in our list of the best dog food for Shih Tzu dogs in the beginning of this article, then any option you go with will have you covered when it comes to adequate amounts of carbohydrates and the RIGHT kind of carbohydrate your Shih Tzu desperately needs.
Shih Tzu Health Problems
Rapid Weight Gain
Because Shih Tzus are such small sized dogs that like to eat all they can, they're easily prone to become obese in no time.
This is why it's very important that you determine (by ideally asking your vet) the exact amount of calories that your Shih Tzu needs to be consuming on a daily basis, based on their weight, age, activity levels and several different factors, so you can ensure that they're not eating any less than they need to be eating and becoming underweight, nor are they eating any more than they need to be eating and becoming overweight.
Also, and by sticking to high protein dog food (which applies to all 5 options we mentioned in the list above) that has moderate amounts of fat and carbohydrates, you're basically half way into making sure your Shih Tzu doesn't skyrocket in weight without you knowing what happened.
Just like many other small breed dogs, Shih Tzu dogs have a fairly higher chance of suffering from hypoglycemia than do other, larger sized dogs.
What you can do to help your Shih Tzu avoid this health condition is to feed them dog food products that make use of complex carbohydrate sources in their ingredients list, something which all of our dog food options mentioned in the list of best dog food for Shih Tzu dogs above exactly do.
Complex carbohydrates are perfect for dogs that have hypoglycemia, as they will help your Shih Tzu maintain much more stable blood sugar levels throughout the day and avoid the violent blood sugar spikes and crashes that dogs with hypoglycemia always experience whenever they eat.
Keep in mind though that this condition can't be completely treated with a proper diet, and sometimes your Shih Tzu might need medication for it, so talk about it with your veterinarian first and foremost.
In most cases, young Shih Tzu puppies will eventually get over hypoglycemia when they grow up become adult Shih Tzu dogs, but not all of them will, as some will continue to live the entirety of their lifespans having to deal with this issue.
Both ways, a little bit of precaution will never hurt.
Being a small breed dog, Shih Tzus are much more prone than other dogs to suffer from dental problems down the line in life.
One thing you can do to help your Shih Tzu avoid developing any serious dental problems is by feeding them dry dog food and avoiding feeding them canned dog food.
Today, there is enough evidence to make us believe that dry dog food is much easier on the teeth of our dogs and is much more beneficial to them than is canned, wet dog food.
You should also strive to buy dog food for your Shih Tzu that comes in small sized bites, as the smaller the size of the kibble is, the easier it will be for your Shih Tzu's small jaw and mouth to chew on.
Certain dog breeds are known to be more allergic to certain foods (or certain ingredients in some dog food products) than other dog breeds, and unfortunately the Shih Tzu is one of those dogs.
These food allergies often show up in the form of excess shedding, increased itching and scratching, development of rashes on the skin, etc ..
Because the majority of these food allergies are caused by one or two ingredients in the dog food you're feeding your Shih Tzu, you should consider feeding your Shih Tzu a "limited ingredient" dog food product, which means greatly decreased number of ingredients used in the product and greatly increased chances for you, the Shih Tzu's owner, of pin-pointing exactly what ingredient is causing these food allergies after some testing.
Weak Bone Structure
Shih Tzus, just like many other small breed dogs, have fairly weak bones because of how tiny they are.
Compare your Shih Tzu's bones to those of a dog like the German Shepherd, and you can easily see the difference.
One of the best ways you can help your Shih Tzu out in maintaining good bone health and even strengthening their bones, besides feeding them a high protein diet, is making sure that any dog food products you intend to feed them contain adequate amounts of calcium.
Just like calcium does a world of good for your bones and mine, they do the same for our Shih Tzu's.
Tying in hand in hand with their fragile bone structure problem we talked about above, is the fact that Shih Tzus have a fairly high chance of suffering from hip dysplasia in their lives.
Even though hip dysplasia is often a problem you would see occurring with dogs of considerably larger size, Shih Tzus have a fairly high chance of developing it, although not all Shih Tzus do actually end up developing it during their lifetimes.
You, as a responsible Shih Tzu owner, can do your Shih Tzu a huge favor by having them follow a properly calculated diet and well designed exercise routine in order to keep thm as fit as possible.
The more fit your Shih Tzu is, the less chances they have of developing hip dysplasia, while the more overweight your Shih Tzu is, the more stress all that extra weight will be putting on their tiny bodies and the higher the chances of them developing hip dysplasia are.
Also, if you come across certain dog food brands that meet all of our criteria discussed in this article and have significant levels of chondroitin and/or glucosamine (both ideally), this would be perfect as both of these do tremendous work in promoting the joint health of your Shih Tzu.
Another fairly common health problem that many Shih Tzu dogs suffer from is coprophagia, the process in which dogs eat their feces after they defecate.
Most of the times, if your Shih Tzu is eating their own poop (whether that be the entirety of it or expressing the least bit of interest in it), that's a major sign that they're suffering from nutrient deficiency and that they aren't getting nearly as much as their bodies need from their diets.
They could be getting the necessary calories they need to survive, but they aren't getting the required nutrients and minerals their bodies need to thrive, which is one of the reasons why they try to make up for it by eating some of their poop.
If you choose any of the dog food options we've suggested in the list above, you're more than fine because all these options will give your Shih Tzu all the nutrients and minerals they need in their day to day diet.
A Note About Changing Your Shih Tzu's Dog Food
If you're moving from feeding your Shih Tzu one specific dog food brand or formula to feeding them another specific dog food brand or formula, please only do this change in a slow and gradual manner.
During the transitional phase, keep on feeding your dog the old dog food you want to move away from, but gradually decrease the amount you're feeding them from this dog food and gradually increase the amount you're feeding them from the new dog food you want to move towards.
This way, you'll be giving your Shih Tzu's digestive system all the time it needs to get accustomed to the new dog food without any sudden adverse reactions happening.
Assuming your Shih Tzu reacts negatively to the new dog food being introduced to their diet, you'll know so early and there won't be any significant health complications because the amount you were feeding them was still small.