For thousands of years, the regal Shih Tzu has charmed its way into the hearts of millions of pet owners. They are one of the most well-known lap dogs on the planet, and these pups are known for their warm personality and love of humans. This dog's small size, common health conditions and energy level make Shih Tzus a bit tricky to feed, however, which is why it's so important to find the best dog food for Shih Tzus.
This ancient breed was developed in China and was first noted in historical documents around the year AD 624. The Chinese royalty called the Shih Tzu “little lion dog,” not only for its characteristic appearance, but its fierce, fun personality.
Don’t worry, their fierceness does not mean aggressive. They simply have strong, yet magnetic, personalities and can be a bit stubborn at times.
The Shih Tzu is a small breed with long, flowing human-like hair. They have a short, compact brachycephalic face, giving a ‘smushed-face’ appearance. They typically weigh between 9-16 pounds, making them the perfect size to fit in your lap.
Shih Tzus typically have a medium energy level, so while they may decide to spend a lot of time curled up at your side or in your lap, they will still crave their daily walk. This unique energy level paired with their small size makes them a difficult breed to feed.
There are many dog foods that I recommend for Shih Tzus based on their health condition and life stage. Here's a look at the brands I'll be discussing in detail in this article:
|Dog Food Brands||Price||Value||Rating|
|Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d Small Bites||$$$$$||$8.98/lb||4.0/5|
|Royal Canin Shih Tzu Breed Health Nutrition||$$$$$||$8.84/lb||4.7/5|
|Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Healthy Development||$$||$1.85/lb||4.5/5|
|Royal Canin Shih Tzu Breed Health Nutrition Adult||$$$$||$3.65/lb||4.6/5|
|Natural Balance Limited Ingredient||$$||$2.23/lb||4.5/5|
|Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic + Mobility||$$$$||$6.31/lb||2.8/5|
|Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+||$$$$||$.29/oz||4.7/5|
* Click on the Shih Tzu dog food for more information and prices or scroll down below for more details.
Best Dog Foods for Shih Tzu
10 vet recommended brands
Shih Tzu food for common breed health concerns
Knowing how to feed a Shih Tzu and what specific dog food brands are good for Shih Tzus can prevent certain health problems that this breed is predisposed to and increase the dog's lifespan. While many Shih Tzus are very healthy, purebreds can have a few medical issues. I have highlighted a couple here that can be helped by special nutrition.
Before switching your dog to any new diet, always consult with a veterinarian. Remember that no article on the internet, including this one, can replace a consultation with a vet.
Dental Disease in Shih Tzus
Life-long dental care is essential to keeping your Shih Tzu healthy. Their brachycephalic head structure means a shortened jaw, very crowded teeth and often an under bite. Crowded teeth are more likely to trap food, hair and other debris, potentially leading to infection, dental pain and tooth loss.
With dedication, it is easy to train your puppy to tolerate daily tooth brushing, which can reduce the frequency of necessary dental cleanings. It is also important to have regular veterinary check-ups at least once a year.
When I need to recommend the best dog food for Shih Tzu's to prevent dental disease, I reach for Hill’s Prescription Diet t/d Small Bites. Hill’s t/d is a balanced diet for adult dogs weighing less than 22 pounds.
It stands out due to its unique kibble structure, which has a special fiber matrix technology. It basically is designed to collapse onto the tooth and grasp the surface of the tooth when your dog bites down on the kibble. As your dog continues to chew, the kibble helps to physically clean the tooth’s surface.
Dry Eye – Keratoconjunctivitis Sicca (KCS) in Shih Tzus
Many Shih Tzu dogs suffer from KCS as they grow older. These dogs do not produce enough tears, causing a painful chronic dry eye that can lead to blindness. It is a type of autoimmune disease that may have a strong genetic component in Shih Tzus.
As a brachycephalic breed, Shih Tzu dogs also have shallow eye sockets that give them a slight “bug-eyed” appearance. This facial structure can predispose them to having problems with their nasolacrimal duct and natural tear film.
Immunosuppressive therapies and medications to stimulate or replace tears have been the mainstays of treatment for many years. A recent study has shown that some sufferers of KCS can be helped if fed a diet high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatories.
The diet used in this study was a custom blend of fish, rice, green tea and high levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. It will be interesting to see if any veterinary diet manufacturers will produce a similar formula for the public in the future.
In the meantime, it is a good idea to talk to your veterinarian about supplementing your Shih Tzu with omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil for dogs supplements are proven to work for this) and consider switching to one of the best dog food for Shih Tzus with this condition. I recommend Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Sensitivity RC, if you can find this brand in your local pet store or after discussing with your vet.
This Sensitivity diet is often prescribed to pets that have food allergies, as the protein source is from fish and the carbohydrate is from brewer’s rice. It has a high level of omega-3 fatty acids, which will help support skin and eye health in your Shih Tzu.
How to Feed a Shih Tzu
(tips for healthy dogs)
Remember that it's important to consult your veterinarian or a canine nutritionist before switching your pup's diet. This is important even if Fido isn't suffering from a health condition. Your vet can help you choose the best dog food for Shih Tzu that will meet your dog's individual nutritional needs.
Puppy Shih Tzus
Since Shih tzu puppies have a special facial structure, it is best to stick with a small breed puppy food that is easy for them to pick up and chew. These small breed dogs tend to mature faster than larger breed dogs, so please feed a puppy-specific diet until they are 10-12 months of age.
My top pick for the best dog food for Shih Tzus in the puppy stage is Royal Canin Shih Tzu Breed Health Nutrition for Puppy. Royal Canin’s Shih Tzu formula has it all. Proven nutrition and special thought into the kibble shape for optimal digestion.
Shih Tzu dogs often have an awkward bite due to their shortened jaw and underbite. Royal Canin’s special ‘V' shape (it looks like a heart to me) makes it easier for him to pick up and chew. Shih Tzu puppies can also be picky, but this formula has a good reputation for taste, with good ratings from Shih Tzu enthusiasts on Royal Canin’s website.
Can’t find Royal Canin or it’s too expensive? Don’t worry! I have another recommendation for the best dog food for Shih Tzus in their puppy stage. Check out Hill’s Science Diet Puppy Healthy Development. Shih Tzu puppies, like other small breeds, are prone to becoming overweight or obese as they age. There is a relationship between poor blood glucose levels and obesity.
Hill’s has included a key ingredient, barley, to help your puppy maintain level post-meal blood glucose levels and consistent growth. The small kibble size is perfect for small mouths. This food is appropriate for pups up to 12 months of age.
Best Dog Food for Adult Shih Tzus
It is best to transition your puppy to the best dog food for Shih Tzus in the adult stage of life around 10-12 months of age. When you change the food, even if you stick with the same brand, it is necessary to mix them together in order to lessen tummy troubles.
Mix the food 20% ‘old’ food, 80% ‘new food’ for 2-3 days. Then by day 5, go to a 50%/50% mix. By day 7, your puppy should be eating 100% ‘new’ food.
Shih Tzu dogs make excellent apartment companions and tend to have a more middle-of-the-road energy level. Less activity can lead to obesity, even in young adults and puppies.
Talk to your veterinarian at your dog’s 12 month check-up about his body condition and weight. Based on his body condition, your vet can select the best food for his particular needs.
Normal Body Condition Shih Tzus
If your Shih Tzu is a normal body weight and enjoys regular exercise, a great place to start is Royal Canin Shih Tzu Breed Health Nutrition Adult. This adult formula is excellent for adults over 10 months of age to 7-8 years of age.
Royal Canin provides the right balance of nutrients to optimize a lean body condition over a lifetime. Just like the Royal Canin Shih Tzu puppy food, this food also has the optimal shape for digestibility.
Pay attention to the feeding recommendations on the side of the bag. If you find that your dog isn’t as active as he used to be or if he has undergone a life change, you may need to adjust how much you are feeding in order to maintain a proper body weight. Royal Canin has very specific feeding guidelines to help you along the way.
Shih Tzus with Sensitive Tummy and Skin
If your Shih Tzu is normally healthy but occasionally has a bit of sensitive stomach or itchy skin, look no further than Natural Balance Limited Ingredient Fish and Sweet Potato to help. Natural Balance has a great track record for safety and quality nutrition.
This best dog food for Shih Tzus is also formulated to tempt even the pickiest of eaters. Their limited ingredient diets are easy to digest and are made to specifically help our sensitive dogs.
While it is NOT a hypoallergenic diet, fish and sweet potato are less likely to be allergenic. If your Shih Tzu has itchy skin and an undiagnosed food allergy, this diet may be a good place to start. Even dogs with environmental allergies (ie. mold, pollen, dust mites) see improvement on this diet.
Low-Active Adult Shih Tzus
Many adult Shih Tzus easily become overweight or obese. Increased body mass can have very negative consequences for them, as it puts extra strain on their joints and makes it harder for them to breathe.
Generally, I reach for Hill’s Prescription Diet Metabolic + Mobility Formula for the best dog food for Shih Tzus who have become a bit too chunky and have come to me for help. This special diet is by prescription only, but it works wonders for dogs that need it.
It contains wonderful ingredients like glucosamine and fish oil in higher levels than found in over-the-counter dog food. It can help improve mobility in as little as 21 days and reduce body weight by 13% in 60 days.
Senior Shih Tzus
Shih Tzu dogs are one of the longest-living breeds out there. They are considered senior or geriatric around 10 years of age but can live to be upwards of 15. As they age, their nutritional requirements change as well.
Joints start to ache and mental function can start to decline. Active ingredients in my top pick for the best dog food for Shih Tzus in their senior years will help your pup go strong for as long as possible.
Even with dedicated dental care throughout their life, Shih Tzu dogs can lose many teeth over the course of their lifetime. This can lead to problems picking up and chewing their food. A great place to start for ANY Shih Tzu senior is Purina Pro Plan Bright Mind Adult 7+ Beef and Brown Rice Entrée.
This quality canned food is packed with nutrition and 100% beef to tempt even the pickiest of seniors. It is soft and easily digested by seniors with dental problems. Essential botanical oils are added for an antioxidant boost to keep your Shih Tzu’s mind sharp.
If your aging senior needs a bit more boost for joint, skin and digestive health, you can try any of these arthritis supplements for dogs, or mix in Freshpet’s Vital Whole Blends mix-in senior supplement. It is an easily chewed, soft supplement which contains cranberries, quinoa, and joint supporting chondroitin sulfate, and glucosamine.
The Doggy Bag – Take Home Message
All dogs live the longest, healthiest lives when they are kept in a leaner body condition, receive life-stage-appropriate balanced nutrition and routine veterinary care.
Regardless of which best dog food for Shih Tzu you choose for your furry family member, it is important to follow feeding instructions carefully and consult with your veterinarian if you are concerned about your dog’s health or nutrition.