When you think of a dog breed with a long, luxurious coat the Shih Tzu is probably one of the breeds that comes to mind. These little dogs are incredibly popular in the show ring because few other breeds can compare to their beauty. The Shih Tzu was originally bred as a companion dog to be kept by Chinese royalty but its popularity has spread throughout the world. With their sweet temperament and playful personality, Shih Tzus are a joy to keep. You should be aware, however, before you get one of these dogs that their long coats require a good deal of maintenance – you must brush and groom it frequently to prevent tangles and to keep the coat shiny and smooth.
Although the Shih Tzu breed does qualify as a high-maintenance dog due to its long coat, it is not an overly energetic dog and its small size makes it a good choice for apartment or condo life. The Shih Tzu is classified as a toy breed, standing just 8 to 11 inches tall and weighing 9 to 16 pounds at maturity. The average lifespan for these dogs is 10 to 18 years, though there are several hereditary health problems that can reduce the breed’s longevity. If you want to enjoy your Shih Tzu’s company for as long as possible, make sure to feed him a high-quality, nutritious diet. The best way to ensure that your Shih Tzu’s specific nutritional needs are met is to select a small-breed or toy-breed formula. Keep reading to learn more about the nutritional requirements for Shih Tzus and to receive recommendations for quality dog food brands for this lovely breed.
General Nutritional Recommendations for Shih Tzus
Before you can start shopping for a high-quality pet food for your Shih Tzu, you need to cultivate a basic understanding of his nutritional needs. Like all living things, dogs require a balance of certain nutrients in their diet – the main three nutrients are protein, fat, and carbohydrate. Protein is made up of 23 amino acids (often referred to as the building blocks of proteins) which make up your dog’s muscles and tissues – also known as his lean muscle mass. Fats provide a concentrated source of energy as well as support for your dog’s brain, immune system, and skin/coat. Carbohydrates provide dietary fiber to support your dog’s digestive system as well as key vitamins and minerals. All of these nutrients work together to create a complete and balanced diet for dogs.
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You probably already know that protein is the most important nutrient for dogs because they are largely carnivorous animals. What you may not realize, however, is that protein can come from both plant and animal sources. As carnivores, dogs have a very limited ability to process plant materials, so most of their nutrition needs to come from animal-based sources. For protein, that means things like meat, poultry, fish and eggs – these are all complete proteins which means that they contain all 10 essential amino acids (the amino acids your dog’s body isn’t able to synthesize on his own). A quality animal protein should always be the first ingredient in your dog’s food and it never hurts to have several supplementary proteins appear throughout the rest of the list. Plant proteins are not necessarily bad, but you want to be sure that they are not being used to increase the protein content of the product as a cheaper alternative to adding more meat.
After protein, fat is the next most important nutrient for dogs because it is the most highly concentrated source of energy available. Fat contains 9 calories of energy per gram while protein and carbohydrate only provide 4. Like protein, fats should come primarily from animal-based sources like chicken fat and salmon oil to ensure maximum bioavailability. Plant fats can be used as supplementary fat sources to balance out the omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acid content. Fats also help to keep your dog’s coat and skin in good condition while also supporting his immune system. Fat may also help your dog to utilize certain fat-soluble vitamins more efficiently.
The remaining components in your dog’s diet include carbohydrates and supplements. Dogs have a limited ability to digest plant products so any carbs in your dog’s diet should come from digestible sources like whole grains, starchy vegetables, beans, or legumes. Your dog needs no more than 5% crude fiber in his diet and the carbohydrate content should be limited as well, giving preference to animal-based proteins and fats. In terms of supplements, vitamins and minerals help to balance out your dog’s diet but they are more valuable when they come in natural form via fresh fruits and vegetables. Chelated minerals are a great addition because they are easier for your dog’s body to digest and absorb and probiotics like dried fermentation products will support your dog’s digestion.
Special Dietary and Nutritional Concerns
Having a general understanding of the nutritional needs for dogs will give you a foundation to build on when it comes to the specific dietary needs of small-breed dogs like the Shih Tzu. All dogs need a diet rich in protein to support their lean muscle mass (and to fuel their growth and development as puppies) but the ideal ratio of nutrients is a little different for small-breed dogs. To give their fast metabolisms the energy needed to maintain bodily processes, small-breed dogs need fairly high levels of fat in their diets because fat is the most concentrated source of calories (energy) available to dogs. You do need to be careful about going overboard on fat, however, because too much of it could cause your Shih Tzu to gain an unhealthy amount of weight which could contribute to other health problems.
In addition to choosing a diet that is rich in fat for your Shih Tzu, you also need to be intentional about how much you feed him. Many dog owners do not realize that different dog food products have different calorie contents – you need to read the information on the package to see how many calories the product has. That same portion of the package should also provide some general recommendations for how much to feed your Shih Tzu based on his weight. If you aren’t sure how much to feed your dog, this is a great place to start. Just follow the feeding recommendations for a few weeks while keeping an eye on your dog’s bodyweight and condition. If you notice that your Shih Tzu is gaining an unhealthy amount of weight you may need to scale back his portions. If he loses weight or becomes lethargic, he might need a little more food.
Another way to determine how much to feed your Shih Tzu is to calculate his total daily calorie needs. The average adult dog needs about 30 calories per pound of bodyweight but small-breed dogs often need as much as 40 or 50 calories per pound of bodyweight to fuel their fast metabolisms. This means that your Shih Tzu may require anywhere between 360 and 800 calories per day. Your veterinarian may be able to help you figure out how much to feed your dog. It is generally better to err on the side of caution and start off feeding your dog at the lower end of the range. It is easier to help your dog gain weight than to lose it, and even one extra pound can be significant for a toy breed like the Shih Tzu.
What is the Best Dog Food for my Shih Tzu?
Small-breed dogs like the Shih Tzu have very fast metabolisms which means that, while they may not consume as many calories as a larger dog, they need more calories per pound of bodyweight. In order to meet your Shih Tzu’s high energy needs you should select a product that is rich in protein with moderate to high fat content – the protein will support his lean muscle mass and the extra fat will provide a concentrated source of energy. An easy way to meet these needs is to choose a small-breed specific formula. Below you will find reviews for several high-quality dog food formulas that could be a good choice for your Shih Tzu:
Halo Spot’s Stew Chicken Recipe Toy & Small Breed Dog Food: The Halo Company follows the tagline, “Purely for Pets,” which speaks to their nutritional philosophy that fresh is best. This company produces high-quality, holistic pet food products that provide your dog with all the nutrients he needs and nothing he doesn’t – this Halo Spot’s Stew Chicken Recipe Toy & Small Breed Dog Food is a great example. This dry food recipe features fresh chicken and eggs as the primary sources of protein with digestible carbohydrates like oats, pearled barley, and whole peas. This formula is balanced with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids to keep your Shih Tzu’s skin and coat looking beautiful while also supporting his immune system. This recipe comes in a smaller kibble size for your Shih Tzu and it is supplemented with essential vitamins, chelated minerals, and dried fermentation products for digestive support.
Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed Dog Food: If you want to feed your Shih Tzu the best, you cannot do much better than this Taste of the Wild Appalachian Valley Small Breed Dog Food. This formula features premium proteins like venison and lamb, with grain-free carbohydrates such as garbanzo beans, peas, and lentils. It contains a whopping 32% protein to support your dog’s lean muscle mass with 18% fat to sustain his fast metabolism. Plus, with supplementary proteins like duck, egg, and ocean fish meal, this recipe is absolutely bursting with natural flavor. It also doesn’t hurt that it includes beneficial supplements like chelated minerals for maximum nutrient absorption and dried fermentation products for probiotic support. This recipe is not marketed as a limited ingredient diet, but the use of novel protein and carbohydrate sources means that this recipe has a low risk for triggering food allergies.
Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Small Breed Formula: The Nature’s Variety Company has made a name for itself in the natural pet food industry and this Nature’s Variety Instinct Raw Boost Small Breed Formula is a great example of the quality products they have to offer. This recipe is formulated specifically for dogs like the Shih Tzu who weigh less than 30 pounds at maturity and it is loaded with healthy protein at fat. Fresh duck, turkey meal, and salmon meal are the top three ingredients, offering natural sources of glucosamine and chondroitin for bone and joint support. For digestible carbohydrates, this recipe features peas, chickpeas, and tapioca with healthy fats like chicken fat and coconut oil included as well. All in all, this recipe is a protein-rich, grain-free diet formulated specifically for small-breed dogs. Not only will it meet your dog’s nutritional needs, but it will satisfy his cravings for natural flavor as well!
What is the Best Dog Food for Shih Tzu Puppies?
Because an adult Shih Tzu only weighs 9 to 16 pounds, I doesn’t take long for puppies to reach their maximum size. This being the case, you want to feed your Shih Tzu puppy a diet that will support his rapid growth and development. A small-breed puppy formula is a great place to start for feeding Shih Tzu puppies and you should also consider feeding your puppy freely so he is able to eat as much as he needs to fulfill his energy requirements. Below you will find reviews for several high-quality dog food formulas that could be a good choice to consider for your Shih Tzu puppy:
Wellness Small Breed Puppy Turkey & Salmon Dry Food: The Wellness pet food company follows a holistic approach to pet nutrition which means that recipes like their Wellness Small Breed Puppy Turkey & Salmon Dry Food are designed to nourish your Shih Tzu’s whole body from the inside out. This particular recipe features deboned turkey and chicken meal as the top two ingredients, followed by oatmeal, salmon meal, ground barley, and ground brown rice. This balance of protein and carbohydrate ensures that your dog’s energy needs are met while the fat content from the chicken fat and salmon oil provides a balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. In addition to supporting your dog’s digestion through the addition of probiotic supplements, this recipe also includes fresh fruits and vegetables for natural sources of key nutrients. Your Shih Tzu puppy would be lucky to receive this high-quality puppy food.
Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain-Free Small Breed Chicken Recipe: The Blue Buffalo company is well-known in the pet industry for providing high-quality diets made with fresh, wholesome ingredients. They offer four different lines of products including the Freedom line of grain-free products which includes the Blue Buffalo Freedom Grain-Free Small Breed Chicken Recipe. This recipe is a great choice for small-breed puppies like the Shih Tzu because it provides the optimal balance of protein and fat. With deboned chicken as the first ingredient and healthy fats like chicken at and fish oil, this recipe will support your puppy’s growth and development as well as his fast metabolism. With fatty acids like DHA and ARA available in abundance, this recipe supports your puppy’s eye and brain development as well as his healthy skin and coat. Nutritional supplements help to ensure balance and the inclusion of Blue Buffalo’s LifeSource Bits ensure healthy oxidative balance.
Now Fresh Small Breed Puppy Recipe Dry Food: Brought to you by Petcurean, this Now Fresh Small Breed Puppy Recipe Dry Food is a great option for small-breed puppies like the Shih Tzu. This recipe is naturally grain-free and designed specifically with the nutritional needs of small-breed puppies in mind – it also features a smaller kibble shape for easy chewing. This formula features premium proteins like deboned turkey and whole dried egg, as well as deboned salmon and duck. For digestible carbohydrates, this recipe relies on peas, potatoes flaxseed, and sweet potatoes, not to mention a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables which also provide natural sources for key vitamins and minerals. You will also be glad to know that this recipe contains a balance of fatty acids, including EPA and DHA for healthy brain and eye development as well as omega oils for healthy skin and coat. Simply put, this recipe provides your puppy with everything he needs to grow and thrive with nothing he doesn’t.
Now that you have a better understanding of your Shih Tzu’s nutritional needs, you are better equipped to choose a high-quality commercial dog food that will provide the nutrition and energy he needs. Shopping for dog food can be tricky because there are so many options to choose from, so narrowing down your choices to include just small-breed specific recipes is a great place to start. This type of product is uniquely formulated to provide small and toy breeds with the higher fat and calorie content they need to fuel their fast metabolisms. If you need help knowing where to start shopping, consider one of the top-rated brands of dog food reviewed above.