Shih Tzu Food: 10 Common Mistakes Dog Owners Make
By Janice Jones |Last Updated 01-04-2024
Shih Tzu lovers want to provide the best Shih Tzu food for their fur babies, but often fall short for any of many reasons.
In this article, I am going to describe the unique needs of the breed, discuss why we may not feed the best and then look at the most common mistakes that dog owners make. I'm also going to talk about any advancements in the pet food industry that might affect your dog.
Each breed has its own idiosyncrasies that set them apart form other breeds. The Shih Tzu does share many of these traits with other breeds but it is worth noting that none should be overlooked when it comes to picking an appropriate diet.
These are: Brachycephalic Status, Long silky coat, High metabolic rate, and food allergies, especially those that affect the skin, chronically upset stomachs, and picky eaters. Let's look at each one individually.
What, I hear you asking does a flat face have to do with Shih Tzu Food. I'm glad you asked.
As a Shih Tzu owner, you may have experienced the noisy breathing, snorting and snoring that many Shih Tzu dogs experience, but this syndrome also may affect eating as well. If breathing is a problem then eating becomes an issue too because the dog is trying to do both at the same time. When this happens, he ingests not only his food but also extra air causing stomach upset.
They needs an easy food to chew and digest. If it is a kibble, the size and shape of the kibble make a difference. Since most Shih Tzu dogs also have an under-bite, choosing a food that is easy to pick up and chew is a must.
Shih Tzus has a unique coat that needs special dietary attention to keep it looking its best. As they have a long double coat, a diet high in quality proteins and fats is beneficial for maintaining their coat health.
At this point, you might be asking, why should I worry if I regularly keep my Shih Tzu's coat short? My answer is easy. Shih Tzu dogs kept in puppy cuts still need to look their best. Dry, brittle coats look poor and may indicate the dog is not in the best shape. No matter how many products and conditioners you put on the coat, the underlying hair is still unhealthy.
Protein is essential in a dog's diet for muscle development and tissue repair, but the amino acids in the proteins also feed the keratin, a type of protein that makes up the hair. Healthy fats, specifically Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, help keep the skin hydrated and the coat shiny.
In terms of what percentage of the diet these should make, it's generally recommended that for adult dogs, at least 18% of their diet comes from protein, while fats should make up at least 5% of their diet. Due to their growth, Puppies require more: around 22% protein and 8% fat. However, each dog is unique and may have different dietary needs, so it's always best to consult your vet before making significant changes to their diet.
Commercial dog foods are often formulated to provide balanced nutrition, addressing these needs. Look out for dog food that lists a specific type of meat (like chicken, beef, or fish) as the first ingredient. This is often an indication of a high protein content.
Additionally, foods or supplements that contain fish oils (such as salmon oil) or flaxseed oil can be excellent sources of necessary dietary fats. Please ensure the dog food is enriched with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.
Skinless chicken, turkey, fish like salmon, and eggs are excellent animal protein sources for fresh foods. Sweet potatoes, peas, carrots, blueberries, and cranberries are rich in vitamins and fiber.
Remember, when feeding fresh food, the diet must be balanced, so it's best to work with a vet or a pet nutrition expert to ensure your pup gets all the nutrients they need.
Maintaining a refreshing grooming routine with a balanced diet will ensure the health and beauty of your Shih Tzu's vibrant coat.
You can learn more about Canine Nutrition.
Shih Tzu dogs are classified as a toy breed and all small dogs have a faster metabolism than larger dogs. Food choices need to accommodate this fast metabolism. For example, small dogs do not eat as much as large dogs, but they may consume more calories per pound of body weight.
Shih Tzu dogs are often prone to skin problems such as itchy dry skin, redness and inflammation, infections, and other conditions that cause hair loss and severe scratching. There are few Shih Tzu dogs that escape those allergy problems that affect so many. Red paws on white dogs, face stains, itchy ears and constant scratching are all problematic for us humans to watch, but just imagine how they must feel for our furbaby.
Sometimes the food is to blame for these problems. Itching is due to many causes but one cannot rule out the food that is taken in daily.
Some Shih Tzu have chronic stomach problems – loose stools, vomiting, and poor appetite. While some of these problems can be attributed to other medical problems, parasites, food could be the culprit. Some of the allergies mentioned above could be associated with food while other dogs may have food intolerance such as to a specific protein source.
Chronic stomach upset in dogs can be a persistent issue and is often characterized by frequent vomiting, diarrhea, flatulence, loss of appetite, and overall digestive discomfort. In Shih Tzus, these issues may be triggered by certain foods or a general sensitivity to high-fat diets, fast changes in diets, or sometimes, underlying health conditions.
One potential solution to chronic stomach upset is a change in diet. Here are a few diet changes that may help alleviate these issues:
Grain-free diets have gained popularity among dog owners in recent years. This trend was driven by concerns over potential allergic reactions to grains, as well as an interest in providing a diet that more closely mirrors what dogs' wild ancestors would have eaten. Some dogs may be intolerant or allergic to grains, which can cause stomach upset. Switching to a grain-free diet can sometimes alleviate these symptoms.
Although it is important to note that grain-free diets are not for all dogs, anecdotal evidence suggest that it might help improve skin and coat health, reduce allergy symptoms, and lead to smaller stools.
However, recent investigations by the FDA have linked grain-free diets to a potentially increased risk of heart disease in dogs, which is why it is always crucial to consult with a vet before making any significant changes to your pet's diet.
However, it's important to ensure that the diet includes other quality sources of carbohydrates, such as sweet potatoes or peas, that can provide the necessary nutrients and energy.
A diet with a single type of protein can be useful in cases where the dog has a specific protein allergy. Common proteins in dog food include chicken, beef, lamb, fish, and more. If your dog is allergic to one type of protein (for example, chicken), a diet that uses a single different protein source (say, fish) may be beneficial.
It is also a way to help determine what is causing the allergy. If you give your dog a diet consisting of only one protein source and the allergy symptoms worsen, you may have solved your mystery. This happened to me personnally. I recently switched from a salmon and turkey formula to a lamb recipe. Not all, but a couple of my dogs started itching, their ears became red and inflamed and the white paws on my dog Dana turned red!
It's difficult to give each dog their own dog food formula when you have 8 dogs, so I switched to a fish diet and the allergy symptoms are subsiding and the dogs are no longer taking Benedryl.
Foods that are easy to digest can help soothe a dog's digestive system. Ingredients like white rice, pumpkin, and certain lean meats can be easier on a dog's stomach. Several commercial dog foods are marketed as being easy to digest and are specially formulated for dogs with sensitive stomachs.
One significant addition to dog food recently is probiotics. These beneficial bacteria can promote a healthy gut flora, improving digestion and boosting immunity. Some dog food manufacturers have begun including probiotics to keep dogs' digestive systems balanced and healthy, helping reduce problems like diarrhea and gas. While some dog foods include probiotics, you can also add them as a supplement to your dog's usual diet. I actually prefer adding them as I know exactly how much they are getting.
Dietary fiber can help regulate the digestive process, and can help with symptoms of diarrhea or constipation. You should be able to see the exact percentage of fiber in a food by viewing the Guaranteed Analysis Section of the food label. If this is something you think your dog might benefit from, ask your vet. Sometimes they can prescribe a prescription diet to meet your dog's needs.
Superfoods, such as berries, salmon, spinach, sweet potatoes, and others, have also entered the canine dietary world. Boasting high levels of antioxidants, that may help prevent cancer, healthy fats for cardiovascular health, vitamins, and minerals, these foods can provide numerous health benefits. They can help strengthen the immune system, facilitate digestion, promote joint health, and even improve mental acuity in dogs.
Some of the most common superfoods that dogs can have are:
You can purchase these foods as a dog food supplement, or just plan to pick some to give to your dog as a treat. My dogs love most of these foods, but the most surprising ones to me was how much they love to share my salad with me. Who Knew!
Organic food, like humans, can be an excellent option for Shih Tzus if chosen carefully. Organic pet foods are produced without artificial additives, preservatives, genetically modified ingredients, growth hormones, antibiotics, and pesticides, providing a clean source of nutrition. They rely on natural sources for protein, carbohydrates, and fats, leading to products generally free from unwanted chemicals and toxins.
There can be several benefits if Shih Tzus are fed organic food.
First, an organic diet can enhance a dog's overall health and energy level. The nutrient-rich food can contribute to better weight management, shinier coat, and healthier skin. It is often highly digestible and can lead to better nutrient absorption and elimination.
Second, it might reduce the risk of food-borne illnesses and allergies, as organic food is less likely to contain allergens, artificial additives, and manufactured fillers that many regular commercial foods contain. This can be important for Shih Tzus, as they are often prone to food allergies.
Lastly, organic foods can support a strong immune system, helping Shih Tzus to ward off diseases more effectively. With the emphasis on quality ingredients, organic pet food can deliver a balanced and wholesome diet.
Nevertheless, it’s important to note that not all organic food is created equal, and the term “organic” isn't a guarantee of nutritional adequacy or quality. Shih Tzu owners should review the product's ingredients and nutritional analysis to ensure it meets the breed's specific dietary needs. Consulting with a veterinarian or a pet nutrition expert is always a wise idea when it comes to changes in a pet's diet, especially when considering options like organic food.
Before making any significant changes in your dog's diet, it's best to consult with a veterinarian. Dogs with chronic stomach upset should also be seen by a vet to rule out serious conditions like pancreatitis, gastrointestinal obstruction, or certain metabolic diseases. Testing for specific food allergies or intolerances may also be recommended.
Feeding smaller, more frequent meals, rather than one or two large meals, can also help reduce the load on the digestive system. Fresh water should always be available to help keep your dogs' system flushed and hydrated.
Remember, the most suitable diet for your Shih Tzu will depend on their specific nutritional needs, overall health, and personal food preferences, and should be discussed with a professional. No one dog has problems that can be solved with these options.
Some Shih Tzu dogs are more picky than others when it comes to the types of food they eat. Just based on casual observations of mothers and puppies, I have noticed that if moms are picky, their pups will be also.
Choosing food for picky eaters is not always easy and many people will resort to a homemade diet which may not be the healthiest choice. Cooking for your Shih Tzu may seem like a loving act, but if the meals are not complete and balanced, the lack of proper nutrients can lead to additional health issues.
Here is my list of the 10 most common mistake that dog owners make when choosing a food and feeding their dog.
There are many reasons why people do not choose a good Shih Tzu Food for their dog. Most of these reasons fall into three broad categories: Knowledge, Cost, Attitudes.
People who read widely, surf the net frequently or pose questions to their vet regularly might not understand why anyone who has a dog would make this mistake. Even though we have facts at our fingertips, the truth is that making a choice on a healthy diet is not as easy as it sounds.
This is also a modern-day problem as very few people even cared about a healthy diet for their dogs even 50 years ago. But as people search for the right foods to fill their bellies, they also want what’s right for the beloved dogs.
What exactly does it mean to provide a healthy diet to Shih Tzu does. Since dogs are likely to be eating the same food for breakfast and dinner, day after day, perhaps for their entire life, you need to be sure that they are getting all the necessary nutrients in addition to the vitamins and minerals their body needs.
Sometimes cheap dog food does not provide that type of quality. Understanding what is in the food is very important, but so are other things found on the food label that will help you decide.
High quality food does not need to break the bank, but it goes without saying that you get what you pay for. Better ingredients sourced locally, processed appropriately and distributed fresh are some of the things to look for when evaluating higher quality foods.
Cheap Shih Tzu dog foods often have inferior ingredients such as artificial coloring, flavoring and preservatives. Unnamed meat or meal sources as well as unnamed meat byproducts are also common in inferior foods. By unnamed meat sources, I mean ingredients such as Poultry or Poultry byproducts. Poultry can mean anything from chicken to chicken feet.
Artificial colors are less common nowadays, but cheap foods still use them along with artificial flavorings and preservatives.
More about health ingredients below.
If your Shih Tzu is suffering from stomach upsets, soy or wheat products may be the problem.
Everyone has an opinion and our attitude about food is based on our opinions whether we can verbalize them aloud or they are within our unconscious minds. Some attitudes are based on facts, but many are fake news that spreads quickly around the web.
Take the notion that Shih Tzu dogs can’t have corn, wheat or soy. Many serve dogs a grain-free diet, but corn, wheat or soy are not harmful to some dogs. They may be the source of allergies, but don’t rule out other ingredients that might be equally problematic.
The reason many people shy away from them should do more with the quantities food manufacturers include in their blends.
Corn is a good source of protein and very cheap. Some dog foods will contain corn as the first ingredient producing a food high in protein. Corn is obviously a plant based protein and dogs require meat, eggs, and fish as their main source of protein
Conversely, the people who believe that dogs are carnivores feed only meat. A diet consisting solely of meat is just as harmful as one that relies on plants. The truth is that dogs are carnivores, but they are also omnivores like us.
It is often hard to tell how much food to feed a dog. Rather than rely only on a calorie count, body condition may be a better gauge for food consumption.
EMACIATED: All bony areas of the body (ribs, vertebrae, pelvic bones) are visible from a distance; No body fat, loss of muscle mass.
UNDERWEIGHT: Feel the ribs but no fat, can see the tops of the vertebrae, pelvic bones are prominent, see waist and abdominal tuck
IDEAL: can feel ribs without excess fat, waist tucked in, and see the waist if viewed from above belly tucked up
OVERWEIGHT: Can feel ribs with a fat covering; can see waist if viewed from above but not prominent; Can see abdominal tuck.
OBESE: Cannot feel ribs; Heavy fat deposits on vertebrae and base of tail, cannot see or feel waist, no abdominal tuck; may see abdominal distension.
Most larger breed dogs consume about 30 calories per pound of body weight, but small breed dogs can consume much more. Shih Tzu may consume as much as 40 to 50 calories per pound of bodyweight per day. The average is 35 calories per pound of bodyweight.
These numbers mean that a ten-pound shih Tzu should be eating about 400 to 500 calories each day just to maintain their weight.
Shih Tzu that are not extremely active will require less calories, but if your Shih Tzu is an agility star, they are likely to need about 50 calories per pound per day. That doesn’t sound like a lot to us, but that includes all the extras such as treats and bones that you give your dog.
There is a feeding chart on every dog food label, but that should only be a starting point. As a rule, an adult Shih Tzu will probably eat about one cup of food per day.
Many dog food companies will sell a wide assortment of food from which to choose depending on the dog’s life stage: Puppy, Adult, Active Adult, Senior, Pregnant and lactating are just a few of the formulas that are available.
Some dog foods are meant to be used throughout the lifespan and are certified appropriate for all life stages.
This is a more traditional way of feeding a dog as let’s face it, when our grandparents fed table scraps to their dogs long before commercial dog food became available, they did not worry about the age of the dog.
The benefits of these types of foods are that there is no need to change foods which means less gastrointestinal distress. The down side is that each life stage does have specific needs that may or may not be addressed by a one size fits all dog food.
Shih Tzu dogs do benefit from a diet rich in those nutrients that nourish skin and hair. They also do best with kibble that is smaller in size.
Puppies should be feed a food suitable for puppies or for all life stages until they reach 10 months of age. At that point they can eat adult food.
There are many different types of foods that are excellent for Shih Tzu dogs. Unless your dog is ill and needs a prescription diet from your vet, you have a wide variety of foods from which to choose.
If your Shih Tzu is suffering from stomach upsets, soy or wheat products may be the problem.
Corn is often used as the protein source in cheaper foods because it does provide a large amount of protein and is considered an energy source. Dogs are omnivores and meat is vital for their health.
Ingredients sourced out of the U.S.A. or Canada may be questionable. Some foods will claim to be made in the USA but the ingredients do not originate here. Some foods are made in other countries. Regulations in some countries are not as rigid as those in North America so foods may be inferior.
Dry kibble has a long shelf life; however, some companies make large runs that sit in container trucks or store shelves beyond the freshness date. Before purchasing a bag of kibble, check the freshness date. I was surprised to find out that many have already been expired.
When Choosing a Shih Tzu food, Look for:
Specifically, for Shih Tzu dogs, they will need a diet with a higher content of fats. Both Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids should be included. Good sources of fats include chicken fat, salmon or fish oil, sunflower oil. Coconut oil is another good source but it is not normally found in dog food.
Before one can find the ideal Shih Tzu food, you must know what is in the food. Some ingredients are far superior to others, but unless you know what to look for, you may be misled by fancy dog food manufacturers that claim what they can’t deliver. For a basic understanding of reading food labels, start here.
Good Ingredients in Healthy Foods
Ingredients in Unhealthy foods
Dogs thrive on a predictable schedule just like human children. They are less stressed when they know when and what is going to happen throughout the day.
If kibble is available all day while you are at work, they are less likely to get stressed if you get detained at work and cannot serve their meal at the usual time.
Shih Tzu are small dogs and have small stomachs. If feeding on a schedule, plan on two meals a day and more for the puppy stages. For most dogs, if you can maintain this schedule, housetraining is easier.
However, the smaller size Shih Tzu need access to food throughout the day as many are grazers who love to grab a small snack in between meals. If you are worried about weight gain, place the day’s rations in a clean bowl so that it is available all-day long.
You don’t need a fancy dog scale to keep track of your Shih Tzu’s weight. A simple bathroom scale will do. Weigh your Shih Tzu when you weigh yourself.
The most accurate way to do this is to weigh yourself, pick up and hold your Tzu on the scale to get a weight for both of you and then subtract your weight.
A typical Shih Tzu reaches his adult weight somewhere between 8 and 10 months of age. By the time he is 10 months old, you will be able to know what the correct weight for his body shape.
Unless he has already put on too much weight as a puppy, this initial adult weight is a good indicator as to how much he will weigh throughout his life span.
Just putting on one or more pounds for a 10-pound Shih Tzu can be like an adult adding 10 or more pounds. It is noticeable and once the weight is on, it is not so easy to remove, especially when the dog gets older and less active.
Alternately, many Shih Tzu dogs are very picky and will hold out until you give them what they want to eat. Getting a picky eater on a regular diet is just as challenging as dealing with an overweight dog.
Most human foods are safe for dogs but there are some exceptions such as grapes, chocolate and onions. There are others too. Check out this article on foods dogs should not eat.
Here is one area where our dogs’ eating habits differ from ours. If you do want to make a diet change, do it over the course of a week. By slowly substituting the current food for the new food, you will prevent stomach upsets that can lead to diarrhea or vomiting. A good rule of thumb when switching your Shih Tzu food is to use this formula to change foods.
Day One: Regular Diet
Day Two: ¾ Regular diet, ¼ new food
Day Three: ½ regular diet, ½ new food
Day Four: ¼ regular diet ¾ new food
Day Five: New Food
You can adjust this if your Shih Tzu has an exceptionally sensitive stomach.
Many people stick with the food recommended by the breeder and
that is fine. However, your lifestyle or
finances may not permit a continuation.
For example, if you have feed kibble to your dogs in the past and the
breeder expects you to prepare a raw diet, this may be difficult.
Some people hate the smell of canned dog food. Some people think that kibble is not healthy. Homecooked meals may be perfect for some but pose a hardship to others. As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, each person has his own bias when it comes to food.
More importantly, your lifestyle should dictate to some degree how you feed. Do you travel frequently? Do you have a busy life style? Are there other pets in the home? Find a diet that works for you. If it is healthy and meets the requirements that I have mentioned above, you will be fine.
It might seem like rocket science, but once you know what to look for, you’ll be able to pick a healthy food for your Shih Tzu.
Sustainable and environmentally-friendly pet food options are a growing trend as more pet owners become conscious of their pets' carbon pawprint. One prominent concept is "feed grade" which insists on using human-grade ingredients as opposed to traditional "feed grade" ingredients. The idea is to utilize quality byproducts of the human food industry, reducing waste and ensuring high-quality nutrition for our pets. Brands that follow this route offer balanced diets using ethical animal sources and naturally grown vegetables, leaving a much smaller environmental footprint.
1. The Honest Kitchen - Known for being the first pet food company to have its recipes approved by the FDA as human grade, The Honest Kitchen adheres strictly to making dehydrated pet foods sourced from human food suppliers, which means the ingredients could technically be eaten by humans.
2. Open Farm - This company is committed to raising the bar with ethically sourced, premium ingredients, and high-quality recipes, which they call "farm-to-bowl." They use only human-grade meat and vegetables, and all their food is prepared in a human-grade facility.
More companies are now focusing on eco-friendly packaging solutions for their products. From using recycled materials, biodegradable packaging, to recyclable containers, they work to lessen the amount of waste going into landfills. To me, this is a big deal.
Ten Common Mistakes that People Make When Choosing A Shih Tzu Food: Please pin for further reference.
Janice is the voice behind Miracle Shih Tzu. Having lived with dogs and cats most of her life, she served as a veterinary technician for ten years in Maryland and twelve years as a Shih Tzu dog breeder in Ohio.
Her education includes undergraduate degrees in Psychology with a minor in biology, Early Childhood Education, and Nursing, and a master's in Mental Health Counseling.
She is a lifelong learner, a dog lover, and passionate about the welfare of animals. Her favorite breed for over 50 years has been the Shih Tzu.
When not writing, reading, or researching dog-related topics, she likes to spend time with her eight Shih Tzu dogs, her husband, and her family, as well as knitting and crocheting. She is also the voice behind Small Dog Place and smart knit crocheting.