Shih Tzu were bred to spend their days in palaces, cuddling up to their owners — meaning they’re not the most active dogs.
My Shih Tzu fits this criteria. He also has epilepsy, which has affected his energy levels and his ability to exercise. He can’t overheat, because that can trigger a seizure, so extensive activity is out of the question.
However, his medication causes him to need more sleep, so he tends to eat more than he can burn off.
Due to this, he ballooned in weight during the first few years of his life, eventually weighing in at about 18 pounds (which is 5 pounds overweight for his size, the equivalent of an extra 40 pounds on my 5’0 frame).
And he’s not alone.
Many Shih Tzu can have obesity problems, especially due to their sedentary lifestyle. And they aren’t the only ones.
In fact, around 55% of dogs are currently considered overweight. But since Shih Tzu aren’t considered active dogs, this could lead to a particular propensity for weight gain over time (if their food intake and calories exceed what they burn).
This means that the food you choose for them is important — you should purchase lower calorie and lower fat food that can help your Shih Tzu maintain their weight. Always checking, of course, to make sure that it also has enough vitamins and decent protein.
I’ve compiled the best dog food for Shih Tzu, so you can choose the best option for your dog.
While my personal pick is Whole Earth Farms Small Breed — as this is the food my dog has successfully lost weight on and maintained — I’ve also included reviews for nine other dog foods.
Our Best Dog Food for Shih Tzu
- Whole Earth Farms Small Breed Dog Food (Best for Adult Shih Tzu)
- Royal Canin Shih Tzu Puppy Dog Food (Best for Shih Tzu Puppies)
- Wellness Complete Small Breed Senior Dog Food (Best for Senior Shih Tzu)
- Eukanuba Small Breed Adult Dog Food (Best for Shih Tzu Needing More Protein)
- CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE Limited Ingredient Food (Best for Shih Tzu with Allergies)
- Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe Small Breed Canned Dog Food (Best Wet Food for Shih Tzu)
- Instinct Raw Boost Small Breed Dog Food (Best Freeze Dried Dog Food for Shih Tzu)
- Iams Proactive Health Minichunks Dry Dog Food (Best Budget Food for Shih Tzu)
- Purina Pro Plan Weight Management Dry Dog Food (Best for Weight Control)
- Wellness Simple Limited Ingredient Diet Grain-Free Dog Food (Best for Shih Tzu with Sensitive Stomachs)
10 Best Dog Foods for Shih Tzu Reviewed
All dog food options on this list meet the standard AAFCO nutrient profile guidelines for dogs. Before switching to any new dog food, consult with your veterinarian.
- First 5 Ingredients: Salmon Meal, Potatoes, Peas, Chickpeas, Chicken Meal
- Key Feature: Grain-free formula for small breeds
- Guaranteed Analysis: 26% Crude Protein, 14% Crude Fat, 3.5% Crude Fiber, 11% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 373 kcal/cup
- Type of Product: Gluten free; No Corn, Wheat, or Soy; Grain-Free
- Life Stage: Adult
- Best for: Overall
This dog food by Whole Earth Farms contains high-quality and fresh ingredients, such as salmon meal and chickpeas. With high levels of protein, but lower fat and calorie content, this food will satiate your Shih Tzu without overindulging them.
This formula is cooked in America and made with fresh ingredients.
The recipe includes apples, sweet potatoes, peas, and flaxseed for healthy fats, carbs, and protein, along with salmon and chicken meal. These ingredients also have fiber, which helps aid in digestion and can decrease gastrointestinal problems.
This dog food also has added vitamins, minerals, and probiotics to support healthy digestion, and the brand states that their food can help reduce shedding and promote a shiny coat.
The formula is free of wheat, grains, corn, soy, by-products, artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives.
This is a completely grain-free food recipe, so owners trying to avoid grains will be happy about this purchase. However, if your Shih Tzu does eat grains, there are other formulas on this list that will fit their needs better.
As a Shih Tzu owner myself, this is my top choice for my beloved. I’ve exclusively fed him this dog food for more than half of his life, and have no plans to switch any time soon. They also have a wet food version that I feed him as a treat.
- First 5 Ingredients: Brewers Rice, Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn, Chicken Fat, Wheat Gluten
- Key Feature: Breed-specific formula exclusively for Shih Tzu puppies
- Guaranteed Analysis: 26% Crude Protein, 16% Crude Fat, 3.6% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 355 kcal/cup
- Type of Product: High Protein; Includes Grains; Breed Specific
- Life Stage: Puppy
- Best for: Puppies
Shih Tzu are a toy breed, and so are extra small as puppies. Due to a smaller mouth, as well as potential health issues like kidney and heart problems, it’s important to feed a Shih Tzu puppy a well balanced and nutritious diet.
The Royal Canin formula was specifically formulated for a Shih Tzu puppy that’s 8 weeks to 10 months old. Because of their small size, Shih Tzu puppies can be transitioned to adult dog food as early as 9 months — if you neuter them, maybe even earlier.
Every Shih Tzu is different, so talk to your veterinarian to see when your dog can make the switch.
Because Shih Tzu have long hair with a dense undercoat, this formula is made with EPA, DHA, and vitamin A for both healthy skin and coat. Support your dog with this super oil blend.
The recipe also includes ingredients like beets, antioxidants, and probiotics to promote a healthy stomach and eyes.
This formula is smaller for kibble size, reducing choking hazards and giving Shih Tzu puppies the opportunity to chew their food without difficulty.
This formula also includes grains, as well as corn and rice.
- First 5 Ingredients: Deboned Turkey, Chicken Meal, Ground Brown Rice, Peas, Rice
- Key Feature: Affordable dog food for senior Shih Tzu
- Guaranteed Analysis: 25% Crude Protein, 12% Crude Fat, 5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 435 kcal/cup
- Type of Product: No Corn, Wheat, or Soy; Weight Control
- Life Stage: Adult
- Best for: Seniors
While this Wellness Complete dog food does have higher calories than others on our list, it is still a great option for senior Shih Tzu. Because many dogs eat less as they reach their later years, senior dog foods are usually higher in calories.
However, the lower fat content in this recipe will keep your senior Shih Tzu from gaining extra weight.
This formula is fortified with omega fatty acids, antioxidants, glucosamine, probiotics, and taurine.
Taurine is a key amino acid that many dogs create themselves. However, the older dogs get, the bigger the chance they will be taurine deficient. With this dog food formula, you won’t have to worry about your dog losing out on proper nutrients.
This food also includes pea fiber, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes to promote healthy bowel movements. And, due to its small kibble size, senior dogs can easily eat.
This formula also includes grains like oatmeal, and both brown and white rice.
- First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken By-Product Meal, Corn, Chicken Fat, Wheat
- Key Feature: High protein formula
- Guaranteed Analysis: 28% Crude Protein, 18% Crude Fat, 3.6% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 425 kcal/cup
- Type of Product: High protein
- Life Stage: Adult
- Best for: High-energy adult Shih Tzu
Have a Shih Tzu that’s more active or that needs to gain weight? Your best option will be Eukanuba Small Breed Adult dog food.
This formula is both high in protein (at 28%) and fat (at 18%), so it’s best for more active or underweight dogs that need to gain a few pounds.
It’s also higher in calories — which means measuring your dog’s food should be precise to avoid extreme weight gain.
High energy dog food can also be used to help dogs with chronic diseases, like cancer, prevent weight loss.
This recipe includes animal protein, glucosamine, and chondroitin sulfate to promote lean muscle development, with DHA and vitamin E to support healthy brain function and a healthy coat.
Chicken is the first ingredient in this dog food, but it also includes wheat.
- First 5 Ingredients: Salmon, Salmon Meal, Menhaden Fish Meal, Sweet Potatoes, Peas
- Key Feature: Best dog food for sensitive Shih Tzu
- Guaranteed Analysis: 32% Crude Protein, 18% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 496 kcal/cup
- Type of Product: Sensitive Digestion; Grain-Free; Limited Ingredient Diet
- Life Stage: Adult
- Best for: Shih Tzu with allergies
While Shih Tzu aren’t known to be more likely to have allergies or sensitivities, every pooch is different. If your Shih Tzu has allergies, issues with digestion, or is suffering from a skin condition, try this food.
CANIDAE Grain-Free PURE dog food is made with just 8 simple ingredients, plus vitamins and minerals.
Not only is it grain-free, but it is also free of soy, corn, and other fillers. Plus, it has no artificial colors or preservatives.
While the ingredient list is small, this food also packs in a lot of vitamins and minerals. A few being probiotics, antioxidants, Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids, and Vitamin E.
The food is made right in America at CANIDAE’s Texas facility.
- First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Broth, Carrots, Peas, Brown Rice
- Key Feature: Best wet dog food
- Guaranteed Analysis: 10% Crude Protein, 7.5% Crude Fat, 1.5% Crude Fiber, 78% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 214 kcal/cup
- Type of Product: No Corn, Wheat, or Soy
- Life Stage: Adult
- Best for: Wet food for Shih Tzu
For Shih Tzu that prefer wet food, Blue Buffalo Homestyle Recipe dog food is an easy choice.
The food is high in moisture content, which helps to keep your Shih Tzu hydrated — especially if they don’t drink much water.
Formulated with real ingredients like chicken, carrots, sweet potatoes, oatmeal, and blueberries, this wet food is a delicious, low calorie, and nutritious meal.
The recipe also includes vitamins and minerals like B-vitamins and Vitamin E for healthy digestion, skin, and energy.
Blue Buffalo also makes their wet dog food without by-product meals, corn, wheat, soy, artificial flavors, or preservatives.
If your Shih Tzu isn’t used to eating only wet food, switch gradually. Start with a few tablespoons of wet food in their regular kibble, and slowly increase the content over a few days, until they’re eating wet food only.
- First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Chicken Meal, Chickpeas, Tapioca, Chicken Fat
- Key Feature: Best raw-like dog food
- Guaranteed Analysis: 35% Crude Protein, 20% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 9% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 469 kcal/cup
- Type of Product: High Protein; Gluten Free; Raw
- Life Stage: Adult
- Best for: Dog owners who want quality raw-like food
Many dog owners choose a raw diet for their pup, but not only is it expensive, it also requires time and quality ingredients that must be prepared a certain way.
Instead of working with a veterinarian to formulate the perfect raw food diet for your Shih Tzu, get the benefits of raw food with the ease of this kibble.
Instinct Raw Boost Small Breed has the best of both worlds — part high protein dry food, part freeze dried food with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. This recipe is a great way to get more raw food in your Shih Tzu’s diet without the extra prep or money on your part.
Along with the first five ingredients, this formula also includes things like peas, freeze-dried turkey for protein, and salmon oil, blueberries, and carrots for Omega’s and antioxidants.
There are also other healthy freeze dried ingredients that provide raw food support that a growing pup needs. This includes chicken liver for iron and kelp for insulin regulation.
Instinct Raw Boost Small Breed is made in the USA. It also doesn’t include grains, potatoes, corn, wheat, soy, by-product meal, artificial colors, or preservatives.
- First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Ground Whole Grain Corn, Ground Whole Grain Sorghum, Chicken By-Product Meal, Dried Plain Beet Pulp
- Key Feature: Budget friendly dog food with whole ingredients
- Guaranteed Analysis: 25% Crude Protein, 14% Crude Fat, 4% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 380 kcal/cup
- Type of Product: High Protein; Farm-Raised Chicken
- Life Stage: Adult
- Best for: Dog owners on a budget
Feeding your dog doesn’t have to break the bank. In fact, Iams Proactive Health Minichunks is a great budget friendly option for Shih Tzu owners.
Nutritious dog food doesn’t have to be expensive, and one of these 30 pound bags can feed an average Shih Tzu over 60 cups of food, lasting a couple of months at least.
Made with chicken, corn, and beet, along with flaxseed and carrot, Iams has many of the quality ingredients that big name and expensive brands have — without the higher price tag.
Iams has smaller kibble to avoid choking hazards and make it easy for your Shih Tzu to eat. It’s high in fiber and includes prebiotics to promote a healthy digestive system.
This formula is also high in antioxidants from carrots and vitamin E to support your Shih Tzu’s immune system as well as their skin and fur.
- First 5 Ingredients: Chicken, Rice, Corn Gluten Meal, Poultry By-Product Meal, Whole Grain Corn
- Key Feature: High protein and low fat to aid weight loss
- Guaranteed Analysis: 30% Crude Protein, 10% Crude Fat, 4.5% Crude Fiber, 12% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 346 kcal/cup
- Type of Product: High Protein; Weight Control
- Life Stage: Adult
- Best for: Overweight or obese Shih Tzu
Purina Pro Plan Weight Management Adult Small Breed dog food is a complete and balanced dog food that was made with weight control in mind. This recipe was also fortified with both live probiotics and prebiotic fiber to promote digestion.
The formula is high in protein and fiber, but low in fat and calories, to help your Shih Tzu maintain their optimal body weight.
Antioxidants and vitamins, like phosphorus, and Omega-6 fatty acids are added to help support cellular and immune health. Plus, the addition of things like calcium helps support strong bones and healthy teeth.
With chicken as the first ingredient, this high protein but low fat dog food will help your Shih Tzu maintain their weight, without muscle loss.
- First 5 Ingredients: Salmon, Salmon Meal, Peas, Potatoes, Canola Oil
- Key Feature: Limited-ingredient recipe made for sensitive stomachs
- Guaranteed Analysis: 29% Crude Protein, 14% Crude Fat, 5% Crude Fiber, 10% Moisture
- Caloric Content: 450 kcal/cup
- Type of Product: Sensitive Digestion; Limited Ingredient Diet; Grain-Free; Chicken-Free
- Life Stage: Adult
- Best for: Shih Tzu with sensitive stomachs
This grain-free dry food for small breed dogs is specially formulated with just a single source of protein and carbohydrates that are easy to digest.
While it’s not the only grain-free option on this list, the company does state that they created this product to be a more holistic approach to dog food diets, as prescribed by veterinarians.
In other words, this dog food was created with sensitive tummies in mind, without needing a prescription by your Shih Tzu’s veterinarian.
Even though Shih Tzu are not prone to allergies, they have been known to have enteral diseases (like gastritis). So taking care of your Shih Tzu’s tummy is important.
It’s fortified with omega fatty acids, antioxidants, glucosamine, probiotics, and taurine to support digestion and immune function.
The formula is free of meat by-products, wheat, corn, dairy, artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors. It is also made in the USA, and has globally sourced ingredients.
Guide to Buying Dog Food for Shih Tzu
When selecting nutritious and balanced dog food for your Shih Tzu, there are several important nutritional needs to look at.
Nutrients Your Shih Tzu Needs
Eating a balanced diet is important for your Shih Tzu, as there are many common digestive and weight problems they can have. Because of these potential issues, it’s important to follow the proper dietary guidelines for dogs.
Although Shih Tzu aren’t considered highly active, they do still need at least 21% crude protein.
All of the dog foods on this list meet these requirements, and many are higher in protein than others. Because of their more sedentary lifestyle, too much protein can cause weight gain in Shih Tzu.
In dog food, the best protein comes from meat as the first ingredient. After that, focus on other protein sources like pea protein, meat “meals” (like chicken meal or salmon meal), and higher protein vegetables and grains such as peas and chickpeas.
Be sure that if you choose a food with more than 25% of protein you portion your Shih Tzu’s food correctly.
While dogs require at least 8% crude fat, Shih Tzu need food right at, or just slightly higher, than the recommended amount. Due to their potential weight problems, high fat content can enable a Shih Tzu to gain weight quickly.
While oils like canola oil or flaxseed oil can be great additions to dog food, be sure that they’re not the main ingredients. They should be lower on the list.
Another great option is fish oil. But, since Shih Tzu aren’t as active, they don’t need dog food with high crude fat levels.
Carbohydrates provide energy and are considered an important and essential part of your dog’s food. However, carbohydrates shouldn’t make up more than 20% of your canine’s diet.
Try to avoid dog foods that include “simple” carbohydrates that will be hard on your dog, like white rice.
Instead, focus on finding dog foods with carbohydrates like oatmeal, sweet potato, and brown rice. Because Shih Tzu can develop diabetes more easily, these complex carbs are preferable — they have a slower absorption rate, and so are less likely to cause hypoglycemia.
These carbs will help keep your dog satiated and energetic, without the potential digestive issues.
Vitamins & Minerals
Vitamins and minerals are essential in your dog’s health functions, as well as in their growth.
B-vitamins are important in aiding your Shih Tzu’s body in converting food into energy, creating new blood cells, and maintaining healthy skin; vitamins A and C support eye health and immunity; and minerals like iron help provide oxygen to cells.
Most commercial dog foods, including the options on this list, already have the necessary vitamins and minerals that your dog needs in their daily diet.
How to Choose Food For Your Shih Tzu
After finding a food that meets your Shih Tzu’s dietary needs, it’s also important to look at a few other specific needs your furry friend may have.
Your Shih Tzu’s Age
While your Shih Tzu is growing, they will need more fat and protein. After weaning, a puppy will need around 23% of crude protein daily. This will slowly decrease over time, as they reach adulthood and their senior years.
Once they reach adulthood, their diet should consist of a balance of carbs, fat, and protein that supports adults. They’ll need around 21% crude protein, 8% crude fat, and 4% crude fiber, with carbohydrates being limited to 20% or less of their food source (according to the Association of American Feed Control Officials).
And, when they’re a senior, they may need more moisture, so wet food may be a better option. Senior dogs are more prone to dehydration, due to their bodies not functioning as well as they did when they were puppies. Providing water is a necessity, and wet food can help them with their water consumption.
Because of their small size, Shih Tzu can choke on larger pieces of kibble. A large size could also cause tracheal collapse, although that’s the worst case scenario.
However, it’s still better to be safe. Choose a food that has smaller, bite sized pieces that your Shih Tzu can enjoy.
As an adult, a Shih tzu will need about 35 calories of food per pound of weight they have.
As an example, if your Shih Tzu is the average size of about 10 pounds, they will need 350 calories a day to sustain their energy levels — which you can split into two or three meals.
My Shih Tzu has epilepsy, and, due to his medication, he’s required to eat slightly fewer calories than the average Shih Tzu. If your dog has any medical conditions, extreme allergies, or is super active, talk to your veterinarian to figure out their caloric needs.
Common Shih Tzu Health Issues
Nutrition and the food you choose for your Shih Tzu can impact their health. Here are the most common health issues amongst this breed that diet can help manage.
Common amongst Shih Tzu, hypothyroidism is when their thyroid gland doesn’t produce adequate amounts of the thyroid hormone. Because of this, there is usually inflammation.
Due to hypothyroidism, excessive weight gain, ear infections, and lethargy are common. Managing your Shih Tzu’s food source and feeding them proper portions can help manage this condition with or without medication.
If they are still gaining weight, even with proper food portions, take them to your veterinarian to check their hormone levels.
One of the most common health issues with Shih Tzu is their susceptibility to becoming overweight or obese.
The average weight for a Shih Tzu shouldn’t exceed 16 pounds.
Using a weight control dog food, measuring the proper serving size, and feeding smaller portions more often can help your Shih Tzu avoid weight gain.
Tracheal collapse happens when there is an airway obstruction in dogs. This is common amongst many toy and small breeds, including Shih Tzu.
While the exact cause for tracheal collapse is unknown, eating food that isn’t the right size can trigger symptoms. This is why it’s important to find food specifically for small and toy breeds.
The cause of tracheal collapse is unclear, but symptoms can be provoked by eating the wrong size food. In obese dogs, these symptoms and problems can be worse.
FAQ About Shih Tzu Dog Food
Have any questions about your Shih Tzu? Here are some answers to questions you may have.
Can Shih Tzu puppies eat adult dog food?
Shih Tzu puppies should eat puppy food until they’re at least 7 months old, with the recommended age at 9 months or older.
Adult kibble can cause a choking hazard. Plus, adult food is usually lower in the fat content and nutrients that puppies need to grow.
How often should I feed my Shih Tzu?
Just like an adult human, a Shih Tzu does best with a more regular eating schedule. 2–3 feedings a day should be sufficient.
Just remember that all feedings should be equal to or less than the max feeding guidelines on the dog food you purchase.
What should I do if my Shih Tzu is a picky eater?
If your Shih Tzu is picky or becomes picky, choosing a wet food or mixing wet food in with their regular kibble can help.
This may depend on your budget and their dietary needs, but feeding them wet food can keep them from refusing food.
Can Shih Tzu eat grain-free diets?
Most Shih Tzu can thrive on a diet with grains and carbohydrates. But, if they have allergies, or if your veterinarian recommends a grain-free diet, follow those recommendations.
Can my Shih Tzu eat human food?
Of course, as long as it isn’t considered toxic to dogs. Also consider making dehydrated treats, like sweet potato, for your Shih Tzu to enjoy longer.
Just like all other dogs, Shih Tzu need a balanced diet with the vitamins and minerals that support their health. If their needs aren’t met, they can be subject to health issues and disorders, as well as lethargy.
Whole Earth Farms Small Breed dog food is my personal favorite choice for my sweet and cuddly pup, and is the best dog food for most Shih Tzu.
It is high in protein and lower in calories, which will help your Shih Tzu avoid weight gain without sacrificing muscle. Plus, it’s easy to find both in dry and wet food options, in multiple flavors (for picky Shih Tzus), and is made with simple ingredients.