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Shih Tzus are consistently one of the most popular small dog breeds in the U.S. and a family favorite for their highly affectionate and easy-going temperaments. These low-energy puffballs make perfect lap dogs, but, due to their sedentary nature and some common health issues, ShihTzus have special dietary needs.
We explain all the nutritional and feeding requirements for Shih Tzus at every life stage and how specific ingredients can be beneficial for your furbaby’s overall health as well as potential health problems common in this adorable breed. Finally, we’ve researched hundreds of dog food brands and formulas to give you our recommendations for the best wet and dry dog food for Shih Tzus.
At A Glance: Best Dog Food For Shih Tzus
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- Nutritional Needs For Shih Tzus
- Beyond Basic Ingredients
- Best Wet Dog Food For Shih Tzus (All Life Stages): The Farmer’s Dog
- Best Puppy Food For Shih Tzus
- Best Dog Food For Adult Shih Tzus
- Best Food For Senior Shih Tzus
- Best Dog Food For Shih Tzus With Allergies
- Should I Consider Pet Insurance For My Shih Tzu?
Note: All of the dog foods we’ve included in our reviews meet or exceed Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) nutritional guidelines, are made in North America, and contain no fillers, by-products, preservatives, or artificial ingredients.
Nutritional Needs For Shih Tzus
This toy breed only reaches 9-10 inches in height and can weigh anywhere from 9-16 pounds as an adult. Shih Tzus require a diet that contains moderate calories and protein as well as healthy fats, fiber, and complex carbohydrates.
Some of the hereditary health challenges that affect this breed can’t be prevented by diet, but high-quality dog food can help reduce the risk and severity of some conditions. For example, many Shih Tzus suffer from ear infections, so a nutritious diet rich in antioxidants can help the immune system fight off infections. Here are some other ways a premium diet can benefit your Shih Tzu throughout his lifetime.
Weight Control Is Essential
Because of their small size and low-energy level, Shih Tzus are more prone to weight gain than many other breeds. And even a couple of extra pounds can worsen breed-related health issues they face. Maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent a luxating patella (dislocated kneecap) and slow the progression of intervertebral disc disease (IVDD) and hip dysplasia, two skeletal problems commonly affecting this breed.
Like all flat-faced breeds, Shih Tzus suffer from brachycephalic airway syndrome (BAS), and being overweight can seriously intensify breathing problems associated with this chronic condition. Avoiding foods with unnecessary fillers, preservatives, and artificial ingredients can help your pup maintain an ideal weight and keep severe symptoms at bay.
Expert Tip: If your Shih Tzu is even slightly overweight, it’s crucial to get it under control as soon as possible to avoid the problems we outlined above and additional long-term health issues, like diabetes, arthritis, heart disease, and more. See our guide on overweight and obese dogs and our reviews of the best dog food for weight loss.
Shih Tzus are particularly prone to environmental and food allergies. Common food allergens, such as wheat, soy, chicken, and beef, can cause extremely itchy skin and/or digestive problems. An all-natural, limited-ingredient diet rich in omega-3 and 6 fatty acids (fish, fish oil, flaxseed, etc.) helps reduce or even eliminate symptoms.
Eye diseases, such as cataracts, glaucoma, and progressive retinal atrophy, are yet another health issue many Shih Tzus face as they age. A high-quality diet typically contains many of the nutrients necessary for maintaining eye health and lowering the risks and symptoms of eye conditions.
These include omega-3 fatty acids, beta-carotene, vitamin A, taurine, and antioxidants. You’ll also want to look for the inclusion of the best whole foods for eye health, including carrots, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, spinach, kale, broccoli, blueberries, cold-water fish, and eggs.
Expert Tip For Tear Stains: While Shih Tzus are notorious for tear stains, they’re not a threatening health condition. Still, if you want to reduce these unsightly reddish-brown stains under your pup’s eyes, a change in dog food may help. Removing red meat from your dog’s diet and switching to high-quality dog food that’s low in carbohydrate fillers has been shown to help with tear staining.
Beyond Basic Ingredients
All dog food should include protein, carbs, fat, fiber, and essential vitamins and minerals. But many of the most nutritious premium dog foods are fortified with additional ingredients that have major health benefits for your furry friend. Here are a few you’ll want to look for and how they support your pup’s health. For your convenience, we’ve listed these premium ingredients in our reviews.
- Fruits & vegetables: excellent natural sources of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants to support immune health
- Fish oil and/or flaxseed: sources of omega-3 and 6 fatty acids Docosahexenoic Acid (DHA) and Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) that support brain and eye development and skin, coat, joint, and immune health
- Glucosamine & chondroitin sulfate (often from chicken meal*): maintains healthy joints
- Prebiotics & probiotics: support digestion and a healthy level of good gut bacteria (often includes dried chickory root, a powerful natural prebiotic)
- Taurine: supports cardiovascular, eye, and brain health, immune system function, and benefits many other body functions
- L-carnitine: an amino acid derivative that helps the metabolism of fats (particularly beneficial for older, less active dogs)
- Organ meats: excellent source of premium quality protein and fat as well as vitamins A, B, D, and E, copper, iron, phosphorus, selenium, and zinc
- Chia seeds: rich in plant protein, fiber, antioxidants, omega fatty acids, calcium, potassium, magnesium, manganese, zinc, phosphorus
*A note about meat meal: Quality pet food brands often use meat meal in their recipes, which can be a very healthy source of protein for your pup (as long as the “meat” is named, e.g., chicken meal, lamb meal, etc.). A meal can be made from the meat, tissue, organ meat, bone, stomach, and intestines of the named animal. But meal doesn’t include by-products like hair, feathers, beaks, heads, blood, hooves, hide trimmings, etc.
Best Wet Dog Food For Shih Tzus (All Life Stages): The Farmer’s Dog
Our top pick for the best wet dog food for Shih Tzus at all life stages is The Farmer’s Dog, our favorite brand that offers fresh, human-grade dog food delivered right to your door. Every recipe features whole-food USDA animal protein, vegetables, and fruits, all fortified with an ideal blend of vitamins and minerals for your pup’s life stage, size, and specific needs.
A huge bonus in our book, they even pre-portion your dog’s personalized meals for convenient feeding. All you have to do is fill out a brief survey, which includes your furry friend’s age, breed, current weight, body shape, and whether he has any health conditions. The Farmer’s Dog offers grain-free beef, chicken, pork, and turkey recipes developed by board-certified American College of Veterinary Nutrition (ACVN) nutritionists and flash-frozen to preserve nutrients and freshness.
While The Farmer’s Dog requires a subscription, you can cancel or pause it anytime. The only downsides? They only offer grain-free formulas, and their meals are expensive compared to premium kibble. Each recipe includes different ingredients, but here’s an overview of their turkey formula.
- First 5 ingredients: USDA turkey, chickpeas, carrots, broccoli, and spinach
- Formula highlights: human-grade & whole-food ingredients, limited ingredients, fish oil, and taurine
- Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 38% (min), crude fat 26% (min), crude fiber 2% (max)
- Calories: not available
- Starting at $2 per day
Best Puppy Food For Shih Tzus
Most veterinarians and animal nutritionists recommend that toy breeds should eat puppy food formulated specifically for small breeds. Toy and small-breed puppies have very high metabolic rates, requiring nutrient- and calorie-dense food that’s higher in protein and fat than regular puppy food.
Experts also recommend feeding toy breeds at least four meals per day until around six months old, when their metabolism and growth start to slow down (then you can switch to three times per day). Younger small-breed puppies burn through calories so fast they’re at a higher risk of developing hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), and more frequent feedings help reduce this risk. Here are our top picks for the best dry food for Shih Tzu puppies, which all have the ideal kibble size for little Shih Tzus.
Blue Buffalo Life Protection Small Breed Puppy (Grain-Inclusive)
We recommend this Blue Buffalo small-breed puppy formula, which combines an affordable price with premium, all-natural ingredients to give your itty bitty Shih Tzu the ideal balance of nutrients for whole-body growth and development. This recipe features real meat as the first ingredient (a sign of high-quality dog food), easily-digestible wholesome grains, and plenty of fruits and veggies, such as sweet potatoes, kelp, carrots, blueberries, and cranberries.
It’s fortified with Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource Bits, a blend of antioxidants, vitamins, and chelated minerals formulated by animal nutritionists specifically for small-breed puppies. A few customers said it caused their pups to have diarrhea, but most rave about this puppy food.
- First 5 ingredients: deboned chicken, chicken meal, oatmeal, barley, and fish meal
- Formula highlights: fish oil, flaxseed, dried chickory root, probiotics, taurine, and L-carnitine
- Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 29% (min), crude fat 17% (min), crude fiber 5% (max)
- Calories: 417 kcal/cup
- Starts at (5-lb bag): $14.98
Now Fresh Grain-Free Small Breed Puppy
If your puppy is already showing signs of a food intolerance, this premium small-breed puppy formula contains no beef, chicken, or grain products, which may be easier on his tummy or skin. It’s also packed with omega fatty acids and probiotics, which are beneficial for pups with allergies. Even if your puppy doesn’t have allergy symptoms, this recipe is fantastic for optimal growth and a healthy foundation for life.
It features high-quality turkey, salmon, and duck, tummy-friendly complex carbs, and more than 20 superfoods, such as blueberries, broccoli, carrots, pumpkin, apples, and more. We also love that Now Fresh only cooks all the fresh ingredients once at the lowest temperature possible to preserve their nutrients and natural flavor. The only potential downside with this food is its high price.
- First 5 ingredients: deboned turkey, whole dried egg, peas, pea flour, and potatoes
- Formula highlights: chicken-free, flaxseed, coconut oil, taurine, dried chickory root, and probiotics
- Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 28% (min), crude fat 18% (min), crude fiber 4% (max)
- Calories: 415 kcal/cup
- 3.5-lb bag: $26.99
Wellness Complete Health Small Breed Puppy (Grain-Inclusive)
This Wellness Complete Health formula is crafted with higher calories to give your active little guy plenty of fuel, and it’s fortified with tons of nutrients for whole-body health and development. This small-breed puppy food features real turkey as the first ingredient and easy-to-digest, lower-glycemic grains.
It also includes whole fruits and veggies, such as carrots, spinach, sweet potatoes, blueberries, and apples (with no corn, wheat, or soy). Shih Tzu puppy owners said their pups love this food and that it keeps their coats soft and fluffy.
- First 5 ingredients: deboned turkey, chicken meal, oatmeal, salmon meal, and barley
- Formula highlights: salmon oil, flaxseed, dried chickory root, probiotics, and taurine
- Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 28% (min), crude fat 19% (min), crude fiber 4.25% (max)
- Calories: 489 kcal/cup
- Starts at (4-lb bag): $19.98
Best Dog Food For Adult Shih Tzus
We recommend slowly transitioning your Shih Tzu to adult food around 11-12 months of age once he’s finished most of his growth. Toy and small breeds continue to have faster metabolic rates than larger dogs throughout their adulthood, so vets typically advise giving your Shih Tzu three meals per day of small-breed adult dog food.
Open Farm Small Breed With Ancient Grains
While its puppy and dog food is on the pricey side, Open Farm is one of our favorite brands due to its superior humane, sustainable, and food-safety practices. All of their pet food is formulated by animal nutrition experts, and every batch is tested by an independent third-party lab.
This adult small-breed recipe features humanely raised chicken and turkey, wholesome grains, and locally sourced fruits and veggies, such as blueberries, kale, carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes. It’s also free of corn, wheat, soy, peas, potato, and legumes. Open Farm also offers a grain-free version of this small-breed formula.
- First 5 ingredients: chicken, turkey, menhaden fish meal, barley, and brown rice
- Formula highlights: salmon oil, flaxseed, taurine, coconut oil, New Zealand green-lipped mussels (excellent for joint support), and dried chicory root
- Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 27.5% (min), crude fat 16% (min), crude fiber 5% (max)
- Calories: 436 kcal/cup
You can save 5% off every order if you sign up for auto-shipping with Open Farm.
- Starts at (4-lb bag): $25.99
Solid Gold Mighty Mini Toy & Small Breed (Grain-Free)
With fewer calories and lower fat content than many premium options, this Solid Gold formula for toy and small breeds is an excellent option for couch potato Shih Tzus who require a bit of weight control. It could also be a great option if your pup has a sensitive stomach or skin issues. This grain-free recipe features salmon as the primary ingredient and includes prebiotics, probiotics, omega fatty acids, and more to help ease digestive problems and itchy skin.
It also contains carrots, pumpkin, blueberries, cranberries, and green beans for natural sources of added vitamins and minerals. Plenty of toy parents say their furballs thrive on this dog food and that it’s quite effective in keeping off extra weight.
- First 5 ingredients: salmon, ocean fish meal, lentils, peas, and chickpeas
- Formula highlights: lower calories and fat, salmon oil, taurine, dried chickory root, and probiotics
- Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 26% (min), crude fat 6% (min), crude fiber 10% (max)
- Calories: 355 kcal/cup
- 11-lb bag: $43.99
Merrick Classic Healthy Grains Small Breed
If your Shih Tzu is showing signs of hip dysplasia or joint problems, this Merrick small-breed recipe could be an ideal diet to support his little body. It contains high levels of joint-friendly glucosamine, chondroitin, and omega fatty acids compared to many of your other options. Whether your pup has joint issues or not, this formula is a highly nutritious, well-balanced diet for any toy breed.
Featuring a combination of real deboned chicken, wholesome grains, like quinoa, carrots, apples, chia seeds, and other carefully chosen health ingredients, this premium dog food contains no potatoes, peas, lentils, corn, wheat, or soy. Most customers with picky pooches say their pups love this recipe.
- First 5 ingredients: deboned chicken, chicken meal, brown rice, and barley
- Formula highlights: salmon meal, flaxseed, taurine, chia seeds, glucosamine, chondroitin, and probiotics
- Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 27% (min), crude fat 16% (min), crude fiber 3.5% (max)
- Calories: 404 kcal/cup
- 12-lb bag: $47.00
Best Food For Senior Shih Tzus
Shih Tzus are generally considered seniors when they’re around 10 years old, so we recommend slowly transitioning your tiny tot to a small-breed senior dog food around this time. Elderly Shih Tzus need to eat a diet lower in calories and fat to help prevent weight gain. A dog food rich in antioxidants and other immune-boosting nutrients is also essential to help prevent cancer, heart problems, cataracts, and other issues that older dogs face.
Nutro Natural Choice Small Breed Senior (Grain-Inclusive)
This highly-rated Nutro senior formula is crafted specifically for small breeds who have slowed down as they age. It’s made with all non-GMO ingredients, real chicken as the first ingredient, and easy-to-digest grains (no corn, wheat, or soy). The inclusion of dried pumpkin is beneficial for healthy digestion, and dried kale, spinach, and coconut provide natural vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants for immune health. Many customers say the small kibble size is perfect for their aging seniors who have difficulty chewing.
- First 5 ingredients: chicken, chicken meal, whole grain barley, split peas, and brewers rice
- Formula highlights: fish oil, chia seeds, and glucosamine
- Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 26% (min), crude fat 14% (min), crude fiber 4% (max)
- Calories: 320 kcal/cup
- 5-lb bag: $20.98
Merrick Lil’ Plates Senior Small Breed (Grain-Free)
Another fantastic Merrick dog food, this formula may be a good option if your Shih Tzu has a sensitive stomach or allergies because it’s grain-free and contains high levels of probiotics and omega fatty acids. It also includes plenty of other ingredients that are important for older pups’ joint, heart, immune, skin, and coat health.
We love that it has a high-protein content but moderate calories and fat to maintain healthy muscles and provide your pup energy without gaining weight. The small kibble size is perfect for toy breeds, and it has a crunchy texture to help reduce plaque and keep teeth clean.
- First 5 ingredients: deboned chicken, chicken meal, turkey meal, and sweet potatoes
- Formula highlights: salmon oil, flaxseed, taurine, glucosamine, chondroitin, chicory root, probiotics, and L-carnitine
- Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 30% (min), crude fat 12% (min), crude fiber 3.5% (max)
- Calories: 388 kcal/cup
- Starts at (4-lb bag): $23.98
Best Dog Food For Shih Tzus With Allergies
Unfortunately, this breed is predisposed to allergies and food intolerances, which can cause chronic itchy skin and/or digestive problems. If something in his current food is the culprit, switching to a limited-ingredient diet containing a novel protein (one he’s never eaten before) could help ease his symptoms. You may also want to consider a dog allergy supplement, as long as your vet gives you the green light.
If you suspect your Shih Tzu has a food intolerance or is allergic to environmental factors, such as pollens, dust mites, etc., you may want to consider an at-home dog allergy test to discover the source. All you have to do is send a saliva or hair sample to the company’s lab and get results within a few weeks. You can then share these results with your vet to help further narrow down possible causes.
Ollie Lamb Recipe (Grain-Inclusive)
Another of our favorite fresh-frozen dog food delivery services, Ollie is similar to The Farmer’s Dog (see review above) in that it uses only human-grade, whole-food ingredients carefully chosen by animal nutritionists for optimal health in all life stages. Ollie also personalizes your pup’s food based on his profile (age, gender, breed, weight, body shape, activity level, allergies, and other health issues).
For Shih Tzus with allergies, we recommend Ollie’s grain-inclusive lamb recipe, particularly if their other protein options (chicken, beef, and pork) don’t sit well with your pup. However, their other formulas are grain-free so one of those could be a good option if your pup has grain sensitivities. The limited ingredients and fresh whole foods in all their recipes could be the answer to your furry friend’s allergy problems.
- First 5 ingredients: lamb, butternut squash, lamb liver, chickpeas, and kale
- Formula highlights: human-grade & whole-food ingredients, limited ingredients, organ meat, salmon oil, chia seeds, and taurine
- Guaranteed analysis (wet food basis): crude protein 10% (min), crude fat 7% (min), crude fiber 2% (max)
- Calories: 1804 kcal ME/kg (note: this isn’t kcal/cup like our other reviews)
- Starts at $2.50 per day
Our readers can get 50% off their first order. Use this link to take advantage of this offer (no discount code needed).
Canidae Pure Petite Adult Small Breed With Salmon (Grain-Free)
This limited-ingredient adult formula by Canidae is an excellent choice for small breeds who suffer from allergies. Grain, corn, and soy-free, it features real salmon as the only animal protein source, which may be an excellent protein choice if your pup doesn’t tolerate beef, chicken, or other proteins well. The high levels of omega fatty acids are also terrific for itchy, irritated skin.
Coated with freeze-dried salmon, this small-sized kibble can make every mealtime tasty and nutritious for your Shih Tzu. However, it’s higher in calories than many other options, so you’ll want to ensure that your little buddy isn’t gaining weight on this food.
- First 5 ingredients: salmon, salmon meal, peas, lentils, and tapioca
- Formula highlights: Chicken-free, limited ingredients, flaxseed, and probiotics
- Guaranteed analysis: crude protein 24% (min), crude fat 12.5% (min), crude fiber 4% (max)
- Calories: 525 kcal/cup
- Starts at (4-lb bag): $19.99
Should I Consider Pet Insurance For My Shih Tzu?
Because Shih Tzus have the potential to develop several hereditary and other costly health problems throughout their lives, you may want to plan ahead in case you’re faced with expensive veterinary bills. One of the best things you can do to manage your finances and protect your pup’s health is to sign your Shih Tzu up for pet insurance.
It’s ideal to get your furry friend covered as early as possible before problems arise because most pet insurance providers don’t cover pre-existing conditions. Learn how pet insurance works and if it’s worth it for your pup. If you’re already familiar with it, be sure to see our reviews of the best pet insurance companies.Tagged With: Comparison, Food Delivery