What’s the Best Dog Food for Shih Tzus? 7 Top Picks

Updated: October 9, 2023

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well fed Shih Tzu pup

Shih Tzus are a unique little dog breed. Thanks to a lot of stereotyping, many people view these adorable pups as spoiled and pampered. While that may be true in many cases, it's only because these dogs are very loved by their owners.

Shih Tzus are incredibly affectionate and love to spend time playing. However, don't let their small stature and glossy locks fool you! They also have fierce attitudes that rival dogs that are several times their size!

To keep those fun attitudes going, you need to make sure that your precious Shih Tzu is eating the best food possible. 

well fed Shih Tzu pup

These dogs are considered to be a toy breed, so they won't need a ton of food to keep them healthy. For that reason, the food they are eating must meet all of their nutritional needs. Plus, Shih Tzus are prone to a series of health issues that could affect their everyday life.

There are a ton of dog food options that are targeted to small dog breeds. Unfortunately, not all of them make the cut. Here's a list of some of the best dog foods for Shih Tzus that are on the market

7 of the Best Dog Foods for Shih Tzus

1. Royal Canin Shih Tzu Adult Dry Dog Food

Royal Canin Shih Tzu Adult Dry Dog Food

This breed-specific formula from Royan Canin has all the nutrients your Shih Tzu would ever need. The dry kibble is made up of 22 percent protein and 18 percent fat. To help you prevent stomach issues, the dog food is filled with highly digestible proteins. There's also a healthy dose of fiber to keep things regular.

One of the biggest benefits this food has to offer is skin and coat protection. Fish oil is used to ensure that your pup is getting plenty of omega fatty acids. The food even has biotin to promote healthy hair growth throughout your dog's life.

2. Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Small Breed Salmon & Potato Formula

Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Small Breed Salmon & Potato Formula Dry Dog Food

If your pup suffers from debilitating allergies, this food from Wellness has you covered. It's a limited ingredient formula that's specifically made for small dog breeds. You're not going to find a ton of unnecessary extra in the ingredients list. Instead, there are healthy and wholesome foods that will benefit your dog's health.

In total, the food has 29 percent protein. Most of it comes from salmon and salmon meal. Because salmon is used, your dog is also getting some great omega fatty acids. As if that wasn't enough to keep your dog's fur in good shape, the formula also has flaxseeds. For vitamins and minerals, this food has peas, potatoes, and plenty of supplements.

3. Merrick Lil' Plates Grain-Free Real Chicken & Sweet Potato Dry Dog Food

Merrick Lil' Plates Grain-Free Real Chicken & Sweet Potato Dry Dog Food

The Lil' Plates recipe from Merrick is great for Shih Tzus. The tiny pieces of kibble are packed with calories and great nutrients. Protein makes up an impressive 38 percent of the recipe. That's more than enough to keep your dog's muscles toned for years to come. The food doesn't have any grains, so it's also a great option for dealing with allergies.

This food has a great collection of fruits and vegetables as well. You'll find everything from apples and blueberries to sweet potatoes and alfalfa. The latter two ingredients benefit your dog's digestive health. Plus, there's prebiotics to help your pooch avoid painful stomach issues.

4. Wellness CORE Grain-Free Small Breed Turkey & Chicken Recipe Dry Dog Food

Wellness Core Natural Grain Free Dry Dog Food Small Breed

The Wellness Core small breed formula contains 36 percent protein. It comes from deboned turkey, turkey meal, and chicken meal. There's about 16 percent fat in this food, which is a good number for healthy Shih Tzus. The fat comes in the form of flaxseed and salmon oil. If you're worried about vitamins and minerals, don't fret. This recipe has carrots, spinach, apples, and so much more.

We appreciate that this food has several supplementary ingredients as well. It has glucosamine and chondroitin to support your dog's joints. To tackle digestive problems, probiotics and natural botanicals are thrown into the mix, too.

5. Eukanuba Small Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food

Eukanuba Small Breed Puppy Dry Dog Food

With this food from Eukanuba, you can start your Shih Tzu puppy off on the right paw. It has an appropriate protein level at 32 percent. This is ideal for energetic pups with bodies that are constantly changing. There's also a significantly higher percentage of fat at 21 percent. The fat, which comes in the form of fish oil, provides plenty of energy.

Other puppy-specific ingredients are included to ensure that your dog grows up to be healthy. These include calcium, phosphorus, and DHA. There's even a higher dose of Vitamin E to kickstart your dog's immune system.

Wet Canned Dog Food for Shih Tzus

6. Hill's Science Diet Adult 7+ Small & Toy Breed Chicken & Vegetable Stew Canned Dog Food

Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Small Breed Chicken Dinner Canned Dog Food

Keep your dog looking and acting young with this canned food from Hill's Science. It's made for small breed dogs that are over the age of 7. Age-fighting ingredients are included to ensure that your pup is active and healthy for years to come. These include antioxidants, vitamins, and essential fatty acids.

The food itself is very simple. It has visible chunks of meat, rice, and vegetables. Serve this up to your dog and they'll think that you're feeding them your own meal. Each can has only 127 calories, so you can add this food in with standard kibble without going above and beyond the recommended calorie count.

7. Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Small Breed Chicken Dinner Canned Dog Food

Hill's Science Diet Adult 7+ Small & Mini Youthful Vitality Chicken & Vegetable Stew Canned Dog Food

The canned food from Blue Buffalo is a delicious treat your Shih Tzu will love. It's a homestyle recipe filled with identifiable ingredients. The main protein source is chicken. You can even see large chicken chunks in the food itself. Accompanying those chunks are a slew of healthy vegetables like peas, carrots, and sweet potato.

To help your dog stay healthy, there are several great extras. Vitamin B12 supplements are used to improve gut health. Meanwhile, chelated minerals enhance the immune system. Finally, there's L-Carnitine. It can increase your dog's metabolism to help them stay at a healthy weight.

How Much Food Does a Shih Tzu Need?

Choosing the right amount of food is crucial for a Shih Tzu. When they're fully grown, these dogs only weigh between 9 and 16 pounds. As a result, you have to be extra careful about weight fluctuations.

Larger dogs can get away with gaining a pound or two without any serious health ramifications. Small breeds, on the other hand, are more susceptible to lasting issues.

Shih Tzus, in particular, are at risk for weight gain.

They love to eat! Even with their small size, Shih Tzus have no problem scarfing down anything you put in front of them. These pups are also notorious for gobbling down treats. 

Unfortunately, many owners fail to count treats into their daily calorie requirements, which can lead to some surprise weight gain.

The issue with Shih Tzus gaining weight is that their bodies just aren't built to support it. Their skeletal systems are quite delicate. Any excess weight can put undue stress on the joints, causing arthritis. In serious cases, they may also suffer from hip dysplasia.

So, how many calories do they need?

Generally, Shih Tzus do just fine with about 35 calories per pound of body weight.

If your dog is getting a bit long in the tooth, you may want to decrease that allotment down to 30 calories per pound of body weight.

Of course, no dog is the same. Consult with your vet before you make any dietary changes. They'll help you analyze your dog's body condition and come up with an appropriate feeding plan.

Supporting Energy Levels

In addition to considering the raw calorie count, it's a good idea to think about how nutritionally dense the food is.

Because of their small size, you must avoid unnecessary filler. If you were to go with a low-calorie food, you'd have to feed your pooch a considerable amount of kibble to meet their nutritional needs.

Contrary to popular belief, Shih Tzus aren't always bundles of energy. They're not like Chihuahuas or other small breeds that spend their time running around the house.

Shih Tzus have a moderate amount of energy. They need plenty of exercises, but they're perfectly fine being lap dogs as well.

The key to keeping your dog healthy and energetic is to get food with a high kcal/cup figure.

Generally, adult Shih Tzus need food that has about 380 calories per cup to have a healthy supply of energy throughout the day.

Dealing with Allergies

One of the biggest issues that Shih Tzus face is allergic reactions. Their tiny stomachs are prone to digestive issues. This isn't the case with all dogs. However, food allergies are relatively common with this breed.

If you suspect that your dog is allergic to a certain ingredient, consult with your vet. You can also do your own investigating by narrowing down the ingredients to find the culprit.

The best way to address allergy issues is to choose a food with limited ingredients and a grain-free formula.

Grains are a common allergen that can cause hair loss, stomach pain, and more. Luckily, there's no shortage of grain-free foods these days.

Limited-ingredient formulas take things a step further. They don't contain any unnecessary fillers or additives. Some also use unconventional ingredients to give your pup all the nutrients they need without any risks.

Wet vs. Dry Dog Food for Shih Tzus

Both wet and dry foods have their merits. However, it's recommended that you stick to dry kibble as your dog's main food.

You see, Shih Tzus are notorious for experiencing dental problems.

The hard texture of kibble can help scrape plaque off the teeth and prevent issues like periodontal disease.

Chewing on kibble won't resolve those problems alone. You still need to invest in regular cleanings and daily brushing. However, chewing can make a noticeable difference.

With all that said, wet food can be beneficial as well. Older Shih Tzu dogs with existing dental conditions will have a harder time chewing kibble.

Wet food provides some much-needed nutrition without pain. You don't have to feed your pup wet food only. It's great for softening and supplementing the kibble.

If you do introduce some wet food in your furry friend's diet, make sure that you analyze its nutritional content and adjust accordingly. Canned food has significantly more water, which is great for hydration. But, it often has less protein as well.

Macronutrient Requirements for Shih Tzus

Picking the right dog food for your Shih Tzu is not as easy as choosing a product designed for small breeds. They need a balanced array of nutrients. Here are some things to look for when you're looking for the perfect dog food.


Like all dogs, Shih Tzus need plenty of protein. Protein should be the most prevalent macronutrient in the formula.

Typically adult Shih Tzus need between 22 and 25 percent protein. Slightly higher percentages may also be acceptable based on your dog's body condition and activity levels.

Protein is responsible for building and maintaining the muscles, so your dog needs plenty of it. Protein comes from real animal meat sources. Ingredients like chicken, turkey, beef, fish, and more are all great.

As long as the animal is listed, meat meals are also fine. However, you should avoid byproducts or any protein source that's not clearly identified.

Healthy Fats

Shih Tzus do best with a diet that consists of about 13 percent fat. While we humans try to avoid fat, it's a must-have for dogs. Fats help to provide energy. Plus, they make the food more palatable. Natural fat from the protein source is ideal.

Healthy fats, such as omega fatty acids, are also very good. Dog foods use ingredients like fish oil or flaxseed oil to add omega fatty acids. These fatty acids do more than just provide energy.

They also help to keep the skin and fur supple. Shih Tzus are known for their long glossy coats. An adequate amount of fatty acids will keep your pup's fur looking its best.

Vitamins and Minerals

While protein is the most important thing your dog needs, don't stray away from fruits and vegetables. A nice collection of plant-based ingredients is great for introducing important vitamins and minerals into your pup's body.

Antioxidant-rich fruits, such as blueberries and cranberries, are best because they can also support your dog's immune system. Some other great options include carrots, spinach, sweet potato, and more.

Probiotics and Fiber

As we mentioned earlier, digestive issues are relatively common due to allergies. You can reduce the chances of a stomach upset with food that contains probiotics and fiber.

Probiotics support the gut flora, which makes digestion a bit easier. High-fiber ingredients, such as pumpkin or alfalfa, work to keep your dog's system regular.

Joint Supplements

While they're not always necessary, your Shih Tzu can benefit from joint-strengthening ingredients like glucosamine and chondroitin. Nowadays, many dog foods contain these ingredients for peace of mind.

As always, check with your vet before you add any supplements or make major changes to your dog's food.

Wrap Up

Shih Tzus are a joy to have around the home. Whether it's only you and your canine companion or you have an entire family to keep your pup company, these dogs are just happy to spend time around the humans they love.

The least you could do to reciprocate that love is to provide them with a high-quality diet. With the best dog food for Shih Tzu available, your dog can live a long, healthy, and pampered life.

Category: best dog food by breed

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About the author 


Steve is a writer with over 10 years of experience in dog training and nutritiion.

His goal is to educate dog owners about the ins and outs of canine behavior as well as keeping up with the latest scientific research in the field.